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.
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.
Ivan, my brother, came to visit New York City (and me) back in January of this year. Ivan is 21 years old and is a photographer, climber, adventurer, and filmmaker. He lives in Southern California. Although I definitely take my role of being an older sibling seriously, I admire him a lot on a creative level.
His photography focuses on some lifestyle, occasional portraits, and mostly outdoor travel. For his age, he's definitely traveled a lot more than most of his peers. This is obviously a privilege and it's all thanks to my parents who've encouraged us to go out into the world and explore.
Considering the fact that he's usually at national parks and outdoor landscapes, New York City was outside of his element. He shared these photos with me at just now December 2017, nearly a year after his visit:
It's so nice to see New York through his fresh eyes and lens again.
This first morning of Writeshop Wednesday's Surge Week was just what I needed. It's a real fulfilling experience when you can get things done alongside lovely people.
What's Surge Week?
For an entire work week, our #writeshopweds crew got together every morning from 7am until 9am the week of December 4th. Typically, we meet once a week on Wednesdays to write for an hour. Surge Week was special because we got to see each other every day and commit to getting more work done together. It was organized by Kyle (the COO of CreativeMornings, my partnerships team partner in crime, and good friend). Kyle is also the human responsible for the wonderful creation of Writeshop Wednesdays.
What We Worked On
I felt a majority of us worked on what I'd categorize as website management. Some people needed to create their website from scratch, others wanted to get a newsletter related to their work sent out... I worked on just journaling and thinking about how I could get myself to commit to blogging and writing again more.
It was during the middle of the week that I realized I needed a newsletter and even just a small audience of readers to force myself to get back into the groove. Brain, no more resistance please.
Progress I made
An email I wrote to the group after Surge Week:
Hi everyone :)
This is a tad late, but thought I'd share what I worked on during Surge Week! I actually didn't do too much literal writing, but on the frameworks and foundations that'll house my future writings.
Before Surge Week: All the ideas were in my head, but nothing documented or written out.
After Surge Week
1. Worked with designer to get monogram idea from mood board to conception
2. Came up with format and concept for monthly personal newsletter
3. Fleshed out and organized website pages
4. Continuing to aggregate and bring all my content from other places into one place
It felt really good to share proof of what I'd worked on to the group. I didn't get to get my website (the one you're now currently reading *cries out of joy*) to the point I wanted to finish during Surge Week.
I learned to be patient and forgiving of myself. It wasn't the end of the world and Surge Week wasn't wasted. Strategy and getting important pieces of a project just right takes time.
Rushing and finishing it on time wasn't the real underlying lesson that I found at the end of the week. It was that I showed up and proved it to myself that my side projects were still valuable and worth doing.
If you saw the second season of Master of None, you'll recognize Storm King. Unless... unless, you have terrible memory like me. I watched both seasons of Master of None in one sitting and have a vague recollection of Storm King in the show.
The reason I ended up going to Storm King wasn't actually because of the show, but because my squad (Esther, Katherine, and I) were in a conversation one night about wanting to rent a car and leave the city. Storm King came up as an option and we made the arrangements earlier this month to go together.
Storm King Art Center is an outdoor sculpture park in Mountainville, New York. It covers about 500 acres of wide open land and is only about an hour driving from the city. We were lucky enough to pick a day with gorgeous weather.
Personally, this was a special day for me. I'd spent the past week recovering from a minor concussion. A fall in the shower and a bump to the back of my head on a Friday morning gave me nearly a week and a half of unwanted slowness, dizziness, and feelings of sleepiness. It was a really humbling and frustrating experience to run out of mental energy. This was the first day I felt more like myself.
Going to Storm King with Esther and Katherine made the day all the more crazy and full of antics. We behaved like 12 year old girls and then would switch to being like three little grandmas. There were a lot of couples and families there this day, but we had so much fun being our millennial selves all throughout the park.
I love art pieces that are placed and contextualized in a way where you can do more than just look at them. Art that I can participate in and use as an obvious starting point for conversation is the kind of art that I find most memorable.
I'm a little bit embarrassed to say that I wouldn't have appreciated Storm King as much as I did if it weren't for the concussion experience... but it's true. You really don't know how precious the smallest things are until you have them taken away from you. Words can't describe how grateful I am that my experience was temporary. I hope to find ways to keep this refreshed awareness of privilege as a permanent part of my life.
Anyways, enough serious talk. Storm King was beautiful and I recommend it to anyone who can go again in the fall time.