Newsletter Issue 11: I Was Interviewed For This One!

Introduction

About a month ago, I was interviewed by Elizabeth Martin, a rising student at Emory University. Elizabeth is exploring the world of journalism, and reached out to me to discuss my photography and living in NYC. The interview format was a live zoom call.

With my camera, I walked from Gowanus through Park Slope up to Prospect Park West via 3rd Street in Brooklyn. During this stretch, I talked about how the houses become more and more elaborate as you approach the park, and how each avenue presents a different vibe and scene.

After reaching the park entrance, I looped back around down Carroll Street, and discussed NYC, the subway system, and photography in general.

Elizabeth did a phenomenal job drafting a feature piece based on our conversation. You can find it below!

Did you Capture That? Limited Edition NYC Cityscape Views Going Once, Going Twice…

By Elizabeth Martin

You’ve heard of nature photographers, often exoticized with their journeys into vast, isolated thickly wooded jungles, full of lush ecosystems bustling with rare species. I interviewed an artist who navigates a similarly thickly settled landscape, just his landscape doesn’t require plane trips around the world and nor does it house nearly the same type of flora and fauna. He is what we call a city photographer; he navigates a different biome: the concrete jungle.

A constantly evolving, bustling, densely-packed maze of buildings, avenues, and train tracks. New skyscrapers, train cars, people, and multi unit buildings popping up left and right remind these artists that a perfect shot is never guaranteed forever; however, perhaps, to capture that limited-edition scene in that chapter of the city’s history is exactly the beauty of a city photographer’s work.

Self-described city photographer, Michael Silverstone, led a virtual walking tour focused on his neighborhood, Park Slope, in Brooklyn, New York. His sandy red backwards cap ensured that at any given moment, he could quickly pick up a camera and snap a photo without the barrier of a cap brim in the way. His blue and red patterned cloth mask layered over a surgical mask let me know that he prioritized health and safety while still remaining mobile and taking advantage of the city. A genuine, upbeat, casual yet informative voice painted the characteristics of a self-assured, confident, and charismatic man in his mid 20s.

Born, raised, and now settled in New York City, Michael spent most of his life in New York City. His postgraduate years predominantly concentrated in Bushwick and, more recently, Park Slope. His current art work focuses primarily on landscape, subway, architecture, and skyline imagery.

Though indoctrinated with the subway from a young age, thus naturally fueling a love for the subject of many of his works since adolescence, his passion for photography heavily originated more recently from a trip taken to the Banff and Jasper National Parks in 2017. Though different from the breathtaking alpine scenes of the Canadian Rockies, New York’s cityscapes hold bounties of artistic potential.

Displaying that even outside one’s door there can be a plethora of beautiful scenes amidst a bustling city, Michael led me on a “Park Slope Brownstone Tour” from the bottom of the hill, where 3rd Street intersects with 4th Avenue up to one of the west entrances to Prospect Park.

Auto body shops to the south stuck out featuring glaring signs with chipped paint and a font size which seemed just a little too big for the signs. On the opposing side of the street, the rows of brownstones indicated the beginning of the Park Slope neighborhood.

At the base of the hill, the staircases leading up to the homes spilled directly onto the busy sidewalks. First floor residences displayed window bars only feet away from the sidewalks, and the front yard equated to less than fifteen square feet of mulch and maybe a few shrubs if that space were not occupied by a staircase down to the basement unit. Still, the simple, primarily uniform set of maroon buildings flaunted a taste of what sophisticated city living could look like.

Briefly intersecting 5th Ave, the primary commercial drag of Park Slope, pale yellow and royal blue umbrellas spread out onto what was formerly metered parking, providing outdoor seating in hopes of maintaining business during the pandemic — a tangible example of the city’s recent adaptations.

Hiking up past 6th and 7th Ave, the brownstones gained more front yard real estate. Trees, benches, rows of flowers, or small sitting areas lay behind hip height metal fences. The buildings’ dramatic staircases sat removed from the sidewalks. Compared to the uniform blocks of brownstones further down the hill, most likely constructed as a larger unit together, these homes, closer to the park, showed more signs of individual customization. The variation of building colors, window designs, entryways, and roofing, are most likely customizable due to the monetary flexibility a wealthy owner may have. A few brownstones displayed less classical city building features like larger glass windows or brightly colored doors — what will these homes look like twenty, fifty years down the road?

Not only the blocks of residential neighborhoods but also the city’s skylines present a continually changing canvas for photographers.

Growing up, Michael says “there was one tall building in Queens, I think it was a Citi Bank office building.” Nowadays, Michael explained the astounding volume of large modern, “futuristic” complexes sprouting up there.

Regarding one of his frequently visited spots, Michael says, “If I go to get a shot in New Jersey of the skyline… a year, or not even, six months a new building will pop up.”

For a city photographer, the ever-evolving architectural scenes and skyline aren’t the only areas one seeks to capture as a snippet in a moment in time. Michael admires a station’s aesthetic, the views it may provide, and how the station presents the character of a neighborhood.

Subway content never seems run thin. With variations on lighting, seasons, and the train cars themselves. Photographers focusing on transportation are presented with so many fluctuating variables. The train cars and train models specifically, are unique in the way they can circulate around the system for several decades or even just a few weeks. One example Michael recalls was the brief return of the “tin can” looking R-32 train cars from the 50s and 60s after several new subway cars failed, he says, “everyone was losing their minds photographing them, now, they are gone and probably never gonna be back again.”

The ultimate reality for a city photographer is documenting art in an ever-changing setting. What may be captured one day could be blocked by the newest, tallest, swankiest apartment complex the next.

These artists capture moments in history, documenting the scenes of the city through time. So, the next time you get off the subway, visit a neighboring borough, or stroll down a commercial stretch, take a look back… it may be the last time you see that version of the city.

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About Michael

Michael Silverstone is a photographer based in New York City. He specializes in train, landscape, and city photography. Michael currently shoots with a Sony Alpha A7RII, alternating between four lenses. On any given day or night, you can find him capturing one of NYC’s iconic landmarks, or shooting from a subway platform deep in Brooklyn.

A hiking trip to the Canadian Rockies in June 2017 (specifically a starry night over Pyramid and Patricia Lakes in Jasper, Alberta) was the inspiration for Michael’s photography journey. Upon returning to NYC, he purchased his first camera the very next day.

Michael’s work has been shared by the marketing organization NYC & Company, and has been featured on multiple local cable news outlets, including Spectrum News NY1, FOX 5 New York, and ABC7 Eyewitness News. He also serves as a mod for the popular Instagram photography hubs @NYCPrimeshot and @USAPrimeshot. These hubs feature the work of local and national creators, and organize and run photography meet-ups/networking events around NYC in collaboration with other hubs, and with the participation of sponsors.

Michael enjoys playing guitar, attending concerts, and studying New York City’s bizarre and captivating history.

Equipment

Sony Alpha A7RII

Tamron 17–28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD

Tamron 28–75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6 G OSS

Sony FE 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 G-Master

michaelsilverstonephotography@gmail.com

Website | Shop | Instagram

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Michael is a photographer based in New York City, specializing in train, landscape, and city photography.

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Michael Silverstone Photography

Michael Silverstone Photography

Michael is a photographer based in New York City, specializing in train, landscape, and city photography.

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