New York City Through the Lens

Anyone can photograph New York City, but few can capture its true essence—the souls of people living here. These five photographers picked up the camera and turned it on people from all kinds of backgrounds, each one telling a different story about the city that never sleeps.

1. Jamel Shabazz

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Jamel Shabazz was one of the foremost street photographers of the 70’s and 80’s. Focusing his lens on the people of his Red Hook neighborhood, Shabazz captured the beginnings of hip-hop culture and fashion. He stood out from other street photographers of the time in his treatment of the subjects. Shabazz rejected the typical candid style and instead posed New Yorkers in deliberate ways. In doing so, Shabazz captured the attitude and pride of Black and Latino New Yorkers across the boroughs.

New York City Photography by Jamel Shabazz
Photo: Courtesy of Jamel Shabazz

2. Nan Goldin

Through her gritty, intimate images, Nan Goldin showed the world a darker side to the city. Her work throughout the 80’s and 90’s focused on drug addiction, love, abuse, sex, and friendship. She perfected a documentary style that didn’t gloss over raw subject matter. Goldin depicts New York as the backdrop for real life, bringing the city’s anonymous denizens to life in the backseats of a cab or shoebox apartments. Her most profound work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, was an ongoing project that resulted in a 45-minute slideshow of over 700 photographs, now showing at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art until February 2017.

New York City Photography by Nan Goldin
Photo: Courtesy of Nan Goldin

3. Bill Cunningham

There’s no name more synonymous with New York fashion photography than Bill Cunningham. He originated of the mode of street style photography still practiced today. During his career with the Times, Bill Cunningham captured New York’s most fashionable—whether they were a random passerby or Anna Wintour herself. Known for his blue workman’s jacket and bike, Cunningham could be easily spotted in his blue suit jacket, biking through the streets to document New York’s ever-changing style and scenery. Although Cunningham passed away earlier this year, his penchant for capturing a certain je-ne-sai-quois in his subjects created an unforgettable legacy.

New York City Photography of Bill Cunningham by Carlo Allegri
Bill Cunningham. Photo: Courtesy of Carlo Allegri

4. Diane Arbus

New York native Diane Arbus’ work brought some of the city’s most unseen residents to the forefront.  Born in NYC in 1923, Arbus focused on those whom society at the time would have shunned. People with deformities or birth defects, transgender people, circus performers, and the generally weird were her favorite subjects. Despite ending her own life at age 48, Arbus created a transformative body of work that set a prec

New York City Photography by Arbus
Photo: Courtesy of Diane Arbus

edent for photographers to come, documenting the beauty that often comes out of the odd or marginalized.

5. Marcia Resnik

Marcia Resnik is known for photographing New York’s most famous faces, including Andy Warhol, John Belushi, and Anthony Bourdain. Resnik frequented classic venues like CBGB’s, Max’s, and the Mudd Club during their prime, staging shots of influential stalwarts of the New York music scene in the 70’s, portraying the likes of Johnny Thunders, Iggy Pop, and John Lyndon. The photographer documented a pivotal time in the city’s art scene, immortalizing these antihero revolutionaries in her photos and most, recently in her book Punks, Poets, and Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys 1977-1982.

New York City Photography by Marcia Resnik
Photo: Courtesy of Marcia Resnik

Edited by Brianna Arrighi

Julia Purcell

Julia is a freelance writer living in NYC, covering music, fashion and art. She's most likely found digging through faux fur coats at a thrift store or wandering around downtown, always caffeinated. "My favorite thing about New York are the people that the city attracts, all driven, hard-working and inspiring."

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