My favorite street photography spots in New York City

To many, New York City is capital of street photography. Everything about the city – from the density and diversity people moving through it to the way the light hits the sidewalks – lends itself to street photography. It’s a photo-friendly place. Your camera is welcome almost everywhere.

I have been exploring New York for more than five years, walking through its many neighborhoods and taking it all in through my camera.

Here are my favorite spots for street photography.

 

MoMA

Like most people, I first went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to enjoy Picasso, Monet, Matisse, and other modern artists. It wasn’t long before I found another attraction: taking photos of the visitors interacting with the art. Now, MoMA is now a regular stop on my street photography route.

Taking photos at MoMA is like fishing. You may spend one or two hours looking for a photo to no avail, and then suddenly, you’ll see it. That one moment when a visitor not only looks at the art, but interacts with it . That moment, captured, makes your photo.

Is photography allowed in MoMA?

Unlike several other museums in New York, the MoMA allows – even encourages – photography, without a flash of course. One exception is special exhibits on the 6th floor, which sometimes prohibit photography.

The museum maintains an official Flickr group. Photos added to this official group may be displayed on MoMA.org and MoMAstore.org, with credit given to the Flickr member.

When should I go?

Visit MoMa early on a Sunday morning and you will feel transported into the Woody Allen movie Manhattan. When the museum gets busy, like on Friday evenings or Saturdays, it can be challenging to isolate subjects.

 

Times Square

If you live in New York, you’ve likely devised strategies for avoiding Times Square, at any cost. But, because it’s always crowded with camera-toting tourists, it’s actually a great place to practice street photography.

With so many people swarming through, you’ll never run out of subjects for your photographs. You’ll also have a chance to practice boldness. Because everyone has a camera in hand, no one will question your pointing yours in their direction.

The only challenge to navigate, besides the advances of determined characters, is the artificial light from the billboards. It may take some practice to find the right white balance and exposure.

When should I go?

Any time!

 

Subway

The subway offers a very unique street photography experience.

Your subjects in the subway have a destination. They are en route and typically a sort of suspended reality, where they are simply existing, not trying to enjoy anything or prove anything. They wait. And yet, everything is constantly moving. As a result, in the subway, you can capture an emotion that exists in few other places.

While rich in possibility, the subway also poses challenges for photographers. The light is low. People are close, creating an intimacy that can make it uncomfortable to raise a camera. And then there’s the movement: subjects appear and disappear in an instant.

Capturing these moments requires anticipation, quick movements, and practice trusting your gut.

My preferred approach is to move from train to train and station to station, never staying long among any particular set of riders. Majors hubs, like Union Square or Times Square, can offer great opportunities if you prefer to stay in one spot.

When should I go?

Almost any time. On a Sunday morning, you’re more likely to find people relaxed and open to cameras in their midst. If you’re looking to capture the flow of commuters, you may want to brave rush hour in Penn Station, Cortland, or Fulton Street.

 

SoHo

SoHo is New York City’s ode to fashion, Doing street photography in SoHo is like attending a fashion show in the streets. Here, you can capture the beauty, trends, and tasteful eccentricity that the rest of the city aspires to.

Because the streets in the neighborhood don’t numbering convention that dominates elsewhere, it’s much easier to lose yourself in SoHo and discover places that you didn’t set out to find.

When should I go?

Saturday late afternoon will show you SoHo at its liveliest. On a weekday, you can capture the heart of the neighborhood: the buzz of showrooms and luxury retailers at work. On weekends during peak tourist seasons, the main thoroughfares resemble those of Times Square.

 

China Town

China Town’s residents, food markets, and iconic small streets create a unique atmosphere.

Columbus park is one heart of the neighborhood. For decades, residents have gathered to play chess. Because of the intensity of their competition and camaraderie, the chess players are excellent street photography subjects.

However, taking photos requires a bit of patience and savvy. In recent years, Columbus Park has made it onto the tourist circuit. As a result, the chess players have become uncomfortable with the presence of cameras. If you want to take photos, spend some time observing the game and letting the players become familiar with you.

When should I go?

The neighborhood and its food markets are most vibrant early (around 8 a.m.) on Friday and Saturday mornings.

 

Central Park

Central Park doesn’t usually come to mind as a place for street photography, not least because it’s lacking in streets. Here, you won’t find the urban, grey, busy, stressful, concrete environment we often associate with street photography.

Instead, it’s green, peaceful, and open. People are more spread out, making them harder to capture than on a sidewalk.

That said, Central Park has helped me develop a new perspective on my street photos, for several reasons. First, it’s one of the few places in New Yorks where people from all backgrounds share the same space: young and old, rich and poor, tourists and natives. Central Park is everyone’s garden. In developing a series around people on Central Park’s benches, I came to see the many faces of people who find themselves at home here.

Second, Central Park encourages a rich enjoyment of the moment, this moment. I’m sure if I analyzed it statistically, I would find a disproportionate share of the joyful interactions I’ve captured in New York taking place here in Central Park. So, while not the ideal spot for candid photos, the photos that result can be ideal and refreshing.

Third, like Times Square, Central Park is perfect for beginners because everyone has a camera, so you’ll easily blend in.

When should I go?

Central Park and its visitors are photogenic every day of the year, but you’ll find the most interesting, active crowds on a warm Sunday afternoon.

 

All photos in this article are from Damien Derouene.
These photographs may not be reproduced, distributed, modified or re-posted to other websites without the express written permission of the author.

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3 Comments. Leave new

Fascinating. Enjoying NY through your lense……wish I were there ❤️

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I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading
very slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my
end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

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    Damien Derouene
    December 13, 2016 11:26 pm

    We were doing some maintenance on the website. Sorry for this inconvenience. We hope you will be back soon

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