E.B. White’s Here is New York is my favorite book about my favorite American city. Published in 1949, it is considered an essay, most likely because of its short length, a mere 56 pages, into which White packed such timeless observations about the island of Manhattan that this ‘book’ has a permanent place on my desk in New York.
It had always been a dream of mine to live in the city where my father was born, and when CBS Records moved me to New York from San Francisco that dream became a reality. But the New York I came to was, in a sense, my Father’s New York. I somehow instinctively knew—long before reading E.B. White’s essay about those who were born here, those who move here, and those who are just passing through—that in order for the city to become my New York, I would have to earn the right to refer to it that way, quite unlike San Francisco, where I could never call myself a San Franciscan no matter how long I lived there.
I would have to make a living in New York, pay its taxes and vote for its Mayors, walk its streets, meet its denizens and frequent their hangouts. I would have to experience New York through the seasons and years, make and lose friends, watch people come and go, and witness the ever-changing skyscape for a long period of time before I could officially, honestly say This is My New York.
There are those who will never leave New York—I am most likely one of them—and there are those who cannot wait to get out. There are those who make their livings here and skedaddle to Connecticut or Long Island or New Jersey on the train as soon as the work bell rings. There are those who cannot wait to visit its museums, see its broadway musicals and eat in its restaurants, but will never return once they have crossed it off their bucket list. There are those who understand New York, its culture and its energy, and those who never will no matter how elegant, complete and monied their stay.
There are those who are fascinated, tolerant, empathic and entranced. There are those who are critical, unforgiving, mystified and frightened. There are those who love it and there are those hate it, but I have yet to meet anyone who is ambivalent about New York City and those who proudly call ourselves New Yorkers.
But neither those who love New York City or those who don’t have any impact on me whatsoever. I have my own relationship with New York and it’s irrelevant to me what anyone else thinks or feels about the subject. My relationship with the city no doubt has a great deal to do with my father having been born here. That, and the stories my mother would tell me about her own visits to the city, which she always called ‘thrilling.’
I imagine I will look for My Father’s New York for the rest of my life. But over the years I have discovered My New York, one that I photograph with affection—its residents, visitors, museums, landscapes and cityscapes—in every season, not with regularity, but when the mood strikes me.
This is a slideshow of some of my favorite photos I have taken during the past few years. Some are singular, some are of similar or related and timeless subjects, like the Statue of Liberty. I never tire of crisscrossing New York by foot. I would have loved to have gone on a walking tour of the city with E.B. White and my father. I would have wanted to have taken notes, recorded their voices, taken photos, talked to them, or just walked a few paces behind them, listening to them talk about the different neighborhoods, the architecture, the people, the madness of it all.
I know one thing for sure. My father and E.B. White would have dressed for the occasion, as was the habit of men in 1946.
Here is My New York.