E.B. White’s Here is New York has long been my favorite book about the city in which I live. Published in 1949,Here is New York is thought of as more of an essay because of its short length, a mere 56 pages, into which White packed such timeless observations about the island of Manhattan that this ‘essay book’ has a permanent place on my desk.
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 moved 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 would never really be allowed to call myself a San Franciscan no matter how long I lived there.
I would have to make a living in this city, 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, switch careers multiple times,and witness the city’s ever-changing skyscape for a long period of time before I could officially, say This is My New York.
There are those who will never leave New York—and 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 end-of-day 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 visiting New York off their bucket list. There are those who understand the city, its culture and its energy, and those who never understand it 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 who hate it, but I have yet to meet anyone who is ambivalent about New York City and those who proudly call themselves New Yorkers.
But neither those who love the city nor those who don’t have any impact on me whatsoever. I have my own relationship with New York and it is irrelevant to me what anyone else thinks or feels about the subject. My relationship with the city 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 with my father after they got married, which she 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 rather when the mood strikes me.
This is a slideshow of photos I have taken 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.