creative and inspiring photography from around the globe

Ross Willsher: On the Streets of New York

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Ross Willsher is a talented photographer based in Chelmsford, UK. Ross enjoys shooting family portraits, weddings, and commercial work and runs a successful photography business.  Ross was previously featured on atlas back in October 2015 with his magnificent street scenes of London.  Ross talks to atlas this week about his recent trip to New York City and his experience photographing people in New York City versus photographing people back in the UK. (Editor’s Note: We hope you enjoy these fantastic street scenes from the Big Apple as we highlight some of our favorite photographers of the week this month.)

You are based in the UK. What inspired you to travel to New York City?

Ross Willsher: This was my second visit to New York. I loved the first visit, but wanted to go again and see a bit more of the real New York and not the typical tourist trail of sightseeing and “must-do” activities. We strayed a little bit further this time and went to places like Hoboken and Williamsburg which offered glimpses into different ways of life in the city. It was great to visit the city a second time and slow down a little and take in the vibrancy of the city both in central areas and the outer suburbs.

How would you describe your experience photographing people in New York City? How is it different from photographing people back in the UK?

I found New Yorkers a lot more confident than British people or at least less apologetic regarding who they are what they believe in, which I think is great. I did not approach many New Yorkers for street portraits — something which I had planned on and regret not doing. However, as the trip was also a personal holiday with my partner, it was easier to simply observe and react to what was happening around me. In the UK, I know which areas are great for street portraits and the reactions I am likely to get. I also have to be in the right frame of mind to approach strangers and ask to photograph them and to be totally honest, I found this hard when in New York.  This might be due to the afore-mentioned confidence of New Yorkers but also as I was on a personal holiday and was in a more relaxed and laid back frame of mind.

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Can you tell us a little bit about these brilliant street scenes you captured on your trip?

These images were about capturing who and what I saw around me at the time. I did not try to deliberately capture a certain demographic or focus on native New Yorkers or tourists exclusively. I did not want images that were stereotypical of New York street scenes, but at the same time I tried not to go out of my way to photograph an “alternative” New York. I think it is easy to omit photos or even crop individual images to tell the story you want to tell. However, by keeping an open mind, it helped the images to be honest and reflective of what I saw around me during my visit.

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Did you face any challenges while shooting in New York City?

The main challenge was taking photos that have not been taken thousands of times already by tourists, while at the same time not taking images that could have been taken in any city in any country. Not knowing the locations and layouts of different areas was also challenging.  In London, I can wander around for hours and wherever I end up I know where I am and how to get back to where I want to be. In New York, I did not have this luxury. While this is a great way to explore a city, it meant I had half a mind on keeping tabs of where I was.

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What did you enjoy the most about shooting in the Big Apple? What did you like the least?

I liked seeing things from an outsider’s perspective, of blending in as just another person with a camera, and taking in new scenes and surroundings. I did not like the pressure I put on myself to come home with a strong set of images and still have time to switch off and enjoy my personal holiday.

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What did you take away from your trip?

Without sounding cliched, I think shooting in New York highlighted how world-over humans are humans with the same basic emotions, gestures and expressions. Anticipating when a person is about to laugh, smile or make an expressive gesture is the same process for us photographers the world over.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Ross!

For more information about Ross, visit his website.  All images © Ross Willsher.

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