My New York

New York, First Earth Day, April 22, 1970
New York, First Earth Day, April 22, 1970

I’ve had a long love affair with New York, starting in the 1950s when I was a high school kid and lived on Long Island. During summer vacations I worked in Manhattan as a messenger boy, buzzing around town and soaking up city life. It was in 1968 that I began to photograph the city with a passion that soon bordered on obsession. I found New York to be an extremely stimulating environment, a moveable feast (to borrow a phrase) of photogenic situations—a visual riot of people and activities.    
    Central Park proved to be an especially rich source of subjects, I think because it is there that people escape from the everyday hustle and bustle of city life to relax, let loose, have fun. Life on the streets also offered an endless parade of unexpected moments—sometimes strange, sometimes funny, sometimes mysterious, always fascinating.  

    My constant companion was a 35-mm camera loaded with black and white film, which I still love for its timeless quality that harks back to the origins of photography itself. Lenses were mostly short to medium focal lengths, mainly because those lenses are more compact and easy to carry, and because I like to be close to my subjects.

    In the mid-to-late 60’s, while a reporter at LIFE magazine, I had the good fortune to work with many top photographers who inspired me with their talents. It was then that I learned to print. In the late ‘60s I struck out on my own as a freelance photojournalist. One photographer friend, Rowland Scherman, let me use his upper West Side darkroom where I spent an ungodly amount of time developing and printing my pictures, both for assignments and for my own personal work. I later moved to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, as a base of operations and set up my own darkroom in the basement of an old house. In the mid-70’s, after moving to the town of Katonah, New York, north of Manhattan, I built another darkroom, which I used for a decade.
    In 1988 I moved to Washington, DC for an editing job at National Geographic, and for the next 22 years had no place to print. That changed in 2010, when my wife, Olwen, and my daughter, Wendy, pressed me to organize, reprint and digitize my best work. So I built another darkroom, this one in the lower level of an 1840s former dairy barn where Olwen and I have lived since 1998.
    Unpacking my old Omega enlarger after more than two decades was like reuninting with an old friend. For more than a year I spent countless happy hours poring over piles of contact sheets, segregating images according to themes, and printing hundreds of old negatives. The experience brought back a flood of memories. It enabled me, among other things, to reconnect with the city that had meant so much to me for such a long time, a period in my life when New York was my subject, my muse, my delight. 
    Since then I have had the great good fortune to see some of my New York photographs exhibited in galleries, and in 2015, was honored to have 18 prints selected by the Museum of the City of New York for their permanent collection.