I was recently given this book by a retiring bookshop owner. I had popped in to the shop’s closing down sale and struck up a conversation with the owner about some of his photography books. After chatting to him for a while, he dug out this book and showed it to me. He told me how much he loved it and asked me to take it with me because he wanted it to go to someone who would really appreciate it. It was a very kind gesture, and although I thanked him at the time, having now really looked at the book, I wish I could go back to the shop and tell him just how much I loved it too.
The book contains a series of portraits taken of random New Yorkers, pulled in off the street and photographed with their eyes closed! Just looking at the portraits makes you wonder how many people were asked to pose and declined. I can’t imagine that it’s an easy thing to do, to close your eyes to a stranger like that.
The portraits are fascinating for a number of reasons but not least because of the subjects differing responses to the situation. Some subjects presented the utmost confidence and ease in their stance, whilst others, looked extremely uncomfortable. One portrait that particularly struck me, was the one of a mother with her adolescent daughter. The daughter stood completely at ease in her mother’s arms, whilst the mother, clutched her daughter tightly emphasising her anxiety and discomfort. It was this disparity between the two, that made for a really compelling image.
Thinking back on the series as a whole, I don’t think that there was even one portrait that wasn’t interesting in its own right. In fact, just writing this review now, makes me want to go back and look through the book all over again.
Hamann, H. (2006) Vertical New Yorkers. teNeues Publishing Ltd.