Down the Road: Modern New York Street Photography

On Sunday April 3rd 2011, I curated an event titled "Down the Road: Modern New York Street Photography" at UnionDocs, the documentary collaborative in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At the event, I presented a history of New York street photography, and moderated a discussion with three photographers - Jake Dobkin, Clayton Patterson and Matt Weber - who presented their own work and discussed modern street photography. More information on the event can be seen at the UnionDocs website.

The following is from my description of the event:

"New York City has a long history of street photography, tracing back to the 1800′s and early practitioners like Jacob Riis and Alfred Stieglitz. While rooted in Parisian traditions, New York street photography developed by its own rules. “New York was, in contrast to Paris, a tough graceless town,” according to Bystander: A History of Street Photography. “It demanded another kind of imagery." By the 1940′s, the work of street photographers like Weegee and Helen Levitt led to the “so-called ‘hard boiled’ strain of photography – cynical, gritty, raw – of post-war American photographers such as Robert Frank, William Klein, Garry Winogrand,” according to Street Photography: From Atget to Cartier-Bresson.

Faced with the challenge of capturing “The Greatest City in the World,” New York’s street photographers often labored obsessively, building massive bodies of work, while struggling to be published. Entire photo archives sometimes remained unseen, as in the case of Angelo Rizzuto, who died unknown in 1967 and left 60,000 unpublished images to the Library of Congress, which were only compiled into a retrospective book – Angel’s World – in 2006.

Today, however, the wide availability of digital cameras and computers has resulted in an explosion of new photographers roaming the streets of New York, who publish their work on photo blogs and photo networking websites like Flickr. Emerging street photographers no longer need to work in obscurity, and can immediately present new work to a large audience online or self-publish a book with a few clicks of the mouse. But it takes more than a camera and a computer to be a successful contemporary street photographer. This conversation with several practicing New York street photographers will discuss the current state of street photography, and consider what may lie ahead, down the road. – Nathan Kensinger, curator"

The Archives

March 17, 2011 -

This month marks the 4th anniversary of this website. Almost 100 photo essays have been published here since March 2007, including nearly 1000 photographs. These photo essays range across all five boroughs of New York City, telling the stories of dozens of neglected neighborhoods and endangered buildings. With a 100th photo essay approaching, several new pages have been created to help faciliate viewing this body of work, including a new Archives page, which lists each photo essay from 2007 to 2011. Other recently created pages include an Exhibits page, presenting a list of past exhibits, lectures and presentations, and a Press page, providing an overview of the interviews, reviews and publications that have featured these photographs. Each photo essay is also categorized by borough, year and subject in the sidebar to the right. Any other creative ideas for ways to organize this growing archive would be greatly appreciated!