Photographers' Blog

Summer in NYC

New York City, New York

By Gary Hershorn

I think it can be said, all of us can look back at ourselves and recall specific moments that shaped the direction our lives went in. For me I can remember two such moments that even now, years later, seem like they happened just yesterday.

The first was as a nine-year-old when I attended my first NHL hockey game in Toronto. I will never forget entering the temple of hockey called Maple Leaf Gardens, walking along corridors that were lined with large photographs of all the great players and then down a darkened hallway towards a bright light that opened up into the bowl of the arena and the view of the ice surface. I remember thinking this has to be the brightest place on earth as the TV lights shone on the white ice and my heroes, the players, as they warmed up for the game.

Looking back I can only think this one moment has, in some way, subconsciously influenced me in the choice I made for a career, that being, a professional photographer for the past 35 years.

The second happened in 1974 when as a 16 year old I made my first trip to New York City. Driving into the city from New Jersey, my first sight of the New York skyline has never left me. The “wow” factor of seeing the tall buildings in front of me instantly made me think this was a place I had to get to know and someday live in. It only took 31 years to make that happen.

Having now lived in the New York area for nine years I am not sure there is a more exciting, picturesque, photogenic or beautifully lit city to spend time in. New York is a city that begs you to carry a camera every minute of every day, which of course I do. When you walk the streets of New York, you never know what awaits you with every corner you turn.

A New York love story

A couple kiss while waiting for the subway in New York May 11, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York is consistently touted as a cold, aggressive, and hectic city with no personal connections possible. A populace of hyper-efficient and emotionally starved citizens, or at least that’s what I had heard before I moved here.

I arrived in New York almost 4 years ago and immediately found these preconceptions to be mostly untrue, with an exception of the hyper-efficiency. The city forces you to interact, albeit most often very briefly, with thousands of fellow New Yorkers on a daily basis – on the trains, sidewalks, buses, and bike paths that keep the city humming with activity year-round. I have used public transportation ever since arriving in New York to work as a staff photographer for Reuters. This most often means taking the infamous New York City subway.

A couple embraces as a subway train arrives in the station in New York May 24, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

This subterranean method of transportation probably forces the most intimacy with total strangers of any in modern society. A morning rush hour commute has you standing fully pressed up against half a dozen people. Hundreds of commuters per subway car struggle not to notice each other and keep their ‘game face’ of indifference and impatience on. It is in this most public of settings that I notice some people feeling no shame or embarrassment in kissing, snuggling, holding hands, fighting, or hugging in full view of dozens of strangers. This unabashed intimacy with a loved one within the public setting of a subway car seemed crazy. But it immediately struck me as something interesting to photograph.

Street photography is like falling in love…

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I was walking in downtown Los Angeles when I saw the two brothers sitting there. They were drinking soda by a hot dog stand. The symmetry struck me – their identical outfits, the two-tone wall they leaned against and the two bottles.

It was after a couple of days photographing Japanese baseball superstar Hideki Matsui’s home opener with the Los Angeles Angels. There were so many Japanese photographers that I had to leave for the stadium six hours before the start of the game in order to reserve the best shooting position.

Matsui-stalking was fun, but no-one gets into photography because they enjoy fighting for shooting positions or carrying heavy camera equipment up flights of stairs.