Ivan's New York Photos

Spontaneously asked Ivan, my brother, a few questions about his New York photos that he took while he was here visiting me back in December last year. He usually photographs lifestyle and landscape images, so I was curious about how he felt in an entirely urban environment.


What was your experience like taking photos in New York? 

It was new. It felt new because it was the first time taking photos walking around on the streets rather than taking photos mostly of landscapes and lifestyle shots. Nature is usually consistent whereas the city felt really sporadic. Street photography itself is sporadic since things are constantly changing and the city is constantly moving. 

One second later, it can be a completely different photo. Thankfully I wasn't overwhelmed. I think my mentality wanted to focus more on the people and not so much the architecture or fashion. I was walking around by myself asking myself, "What can I do?" I wanted to capture images more of the every day life perspective. Things that you would see every day. I wanted to practice doing a little more than the few iconic photos that people tend to take. 

How did you go about taking these photos? 

Obviously, nothing was staged or directed. They were moment-to-moment shots. People based. Each day I was in New York, I walked anywhere from 5 to 10 miles at a time — Grand Central... and all the way to the bottom. I would snap photos as I got some momentum going. I took a total of about 800 photos during my time there. I only selected 180 of those to revisit and edit. I don't like getting held up too long on each photo I take. I went through them quickly. 

Why did you choose to do a lot of these in black and white? 

It made me just focus on the composition. It was also my way of trying to think about the element of storytelling. New York was just so fast paced for me to be thinking about color on top of the other two things.

I remember there was this one moment walking by another Starbucks coffee shop. There was this homeless man who was just sitting in front of this Starbucks with a lot of commotion going on. He had a Starbucks bag with him too. It felt... it just felt so American. 


It was a similar experience for me at Grand Central Station — they were very stationary compared to everybody else. It seemed the most dramatic way for me to focus on the reality of how fabricated society can feel for a lot of people. I guess I just found myself looking more at someone carrying groceries more than hunting for the scenic spot of the Manhattan skyline. 

What were your expectations before coming to New York? If any?

I didn’t glamorize New York. I felt like I was a part of the city. I liked that nobody cares about you... in a good way. It helped that I've been to Seoul and have experienced using public transportation in a large city. What I expected is what I got.

Did you have a favorite thing or moment taking the photos? 

I didn't really have a favorite moment. The thing I liked about my trip was being able to walk a lot of Manhattan. I went from the Midtown area all the way to Wall Street. I didn't have an itinerary. If I were to go back, I think I would do the same thing. Naturally, I came across a lot of the tourist spots. The next time I'm back I want to explore Brooklyn more. 

Any challenges?

Nature is pretty mellow and what you see is what you get. New York City... it's very fast paced compared to nature. That in it of itself was a challenge for me. 

When you think of NYC creatively, as a photographer, what do you think about it? 

I looked a lot at the photos of this photographer with the Instagram handle @visualmemories_. She has a lot of dark work. I think I might've done black and white also because of what I felt based off of skimming her images. 

I tend to learn from other photographers based on where they live. It’s impossible to do exactly what other people do since the setting is going to be different, but it helps to look at the work of people who are native to the new place I'm at. 

Would you change anything the next time you come back? 

I'll probably focus on people again. That’s the most interesting subject point anyway. The mundane stuff. The things that happens everyday but people who live there don't regularly think about or notice. 

Describe New York City in three words. 

Raw. Fast. Small.


I felt small.