I love and have always loved New York City. I am one of that rare breed lucky enough to have been born and raised here. My parents were immigrants and when I was still very little, my father made it his business to share with me the adventure of discovering our city. I still remember my first ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Wow – that was incredible! I imagined we were going off to a foreign land in search of I don’t know what but who cared – I was going across the bay on a real ship; as a kid from Brooklyn, that was manna from heaven!
Those magic times gave rise to my vast postcard collection showing all facets of the city. And it was those first postcards that gave me my introduction and taste for bright, sharp color. I would not see color like those postcards for another twenty years when I started to make color pictures in the early 1970’s. And how excited I was! It never failed to take me back to my days with my father seeing New York through, not only my eyes, but his as well!
The photographs in this journal are an homage to my early days with my father and my city–that city of lights, color, drabness and concrete; the city of steam, sun, night and day. A time of extraordinary sunrises and sunsets and above all, of the intensity that is its signature. These pictures are visual notes jotted down in my journal to keep my eyes “seeing” and my mind “searching” for personal expression.
I normally do not work in this spontaneous manner. For those who know my work with groups, each photograph is a tableau whose narrative is revealed within a formal frame. Not so with these pictures. They are the result of the “stuff” that spontaneously triggers my eye. I love the process and have not worked this freely since my days in Portugal using a 35mm camera. Freedom is a wonderful thing but in photography the challenge is to be as selective as you can, given the morass of information that surrounds you, and to press the shutter only when the subject lights up your eye.
These images hold great significance for me. They are about the formal elements of light, shadow, color, structure and composition. Their content is a story of New York in all its forms – the jazz, the craziness and the somberness all rolled into something that cannot be found in any other city on earth.
These are the most colorful and intensely, playful photographs I’ve ever made. I have fun when I take these pictures and I hope the viewer has fun looking at them.
– Neal Slavin