In 2010 and 2011 I was lucky enough to make several trips to New York City – seven in total over a period of 18 months. These being business trips time for photography was somewhat limited however I was able to get out and about with my camera in the evenings as well as a couple of weekend stay overs. Some of my attempts at capturing this vibrant, hectic, noisy, non-stop place can be viewed here. Even though I was able to spend quite a bit of time getting a feel for the city, as well as meeting residents of NYC (and beyond) through the work I was doing, there is inevitably only so much you can capture as a visitor rather than a resident.
The photographer Vivienne Gucwa does not have this problem. Vivienne grew up in Queens, New York and spent many a long hour walking around the city, often to and from work. Even though she was a New York resident her fascination for the place was never dulled by over familiarity and she eventually bought a cheap point and shoot camera for under $100 (all she could afford) to “capture the moments and experiences on my walks that made my heart swell”. In 2009 she began posting her photographs online (on Tumblr, this being the first thing that came up when Vivienne googled the word “blog”) and within a few months had amassed 70,000 followers! Clearly she was onto something. Today she’s one of the Sony Artisans of Imagery and has just published her first book, NY Through The Lens, which documents her love affair with the city she grew up in.
Vivienne’s photographs are more cityscapes rather than traditional street photographs in the style of William Klein or Joel Meyerowitz. Although people appear in her photographs, they are nearly always subsumed by the surrounding buildings and streets of which they are apart. Nothing wrong with that of course. In many ways this helps with the story telling Vivienne is so good at. When we think of cities, especially ones as bold and brassy as New York, we naturally think of the buildings, the streets and walkways and maybe the parks and open spaces. However it’s the people going about their daily business, part of the cityscape, that add the missing ingredient, that really brings the place alive. Vivienne often spots a scene then waits until the right person comes along to complete the image she has in her head and tells the story she wants to tell.
Here are some of my favourite images from the book which also appear on her blog. All images are copyright Vivienne Gucwa and used with kind permission of the photographer.
Vivienne was recently interviewed for Glamour magazine by her childhood friend Danica Lo. When asked “what advice do you have for people looking to take their creative passions and make careers out of them”, Vivienne responded thus which I think should be inspiration for us all in the coming year.
“Be humble and fearless. Art is a never-ending process of discovery and learning. Everyone at some point was new in their field, artistic pursuit, or career. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to people you would like to work with especially if you are just starting out. You can learn so much from people in your respective artistic field. At the same time, remember to be grateful for the opportunities that come your way. Sincerity, humility, and gratitude go a long way in fostering great relationships with mentors and potential collaborators.”
NY Through The Lens is a wonderful and inspirational book and a testament to what you can do as a photographer whether you have a cheap point and shoot, a smart phone (quite a few images in the book are taken with an iPhone) or a top end compact system camera (CSC) like the Sony’s Vivienne now uses. Whatever imaging equipment you own why not spend some time in 2015 going out and shooting with it? That’s what I intend to do. Happy New Year!