DANIELLE L GOLDSTEIN
New York City based street photographer Danielle L. Goldstein, began photographing out her window when quarantine lockdown due to Covid-19 began in New York in March. Because shooting in the street felt both irresponsible and unsafe, Danielle started photographing the life she could observe from her eighth-floor apartment. The need to document what was happening in her home city was overwhelming. The project became unexpectedly poignant as she observed her fellow New Yorkers navigating their way through the concurrent crises of the pandemic and the BLM movement, just as she was. For her, it was heartening to see how people around her, still found ways to connect with one another, even during isolation. "It speaks to New Yorkers' resilience and how much we care for and look after one another, even if from a distance."
Tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
I don’t come from an art background at all. I was a history major in college and then went on to law school. I practiced law for a few years, and then devoted myself to raising my two daughters full time. I had dabbled in photography for years, but never in any serious way until I took an introduction to photography class at the International Center for Photography in NYC about 11 years ago. From that moment on I was completely hooked. Photography became my passion and my way of expressing myself. It has become a very large part of who I am.
Tell us a bit more about your project observing life from your apartment?
I’m primarily a street photographer. When Covid-19 hit in mid March and I quarantined in my apartment, there were days that I never left. I initially panicked that I wouldn’t be able to go out to shoot, since it’s my source of solace and one of my greatest joys. I spent a good deal of time staring out the window, and it wasn’t long before I realized there was life in NYC that I could document without leaving my home. I began shooting every day at 7 pm when my neighbors would emerge at their windows and balconies to applaud our essential workers. Some of my neighbors caught on to me and would look for me and my camera at 7 pm. One family would wave and blow kisses every night, my most favorite moment. I also began shooting at other points during the day, often capturing everyday mundane moments and expressions. What I learned most from this project is that you don’t have to go far to make work. In fact, sometimes the best work comes from staying close to home and just being invested in your subject matter.
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that resonates with you the best?
Susan Sontag said that “every style is a means of insisting on something.” Over the years I have had so many wonderful photography teachers who’ve inspired me and helped me grow tremendously. But through it all I’ve stayed true to myself and my vision in my work, despite an occasional push back.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In the streets, architecture and people of NYC. I enjoy shooting all over the world, and hope to be able to return to travel when the world normalizes. But NYC is my first love and my greatest inspiration, and I feel I do my best, most meaningful work right here at home.
Is there anything you want to express through your photography? And what are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?
I’m interested in the juxtaposition of the structures of the city and the individuals who inhabit it. It’s rare that I don’t have a human form in my images. I’m also very drawn to composition and order. I would say most of my images are carefully composed.
Do you prefer to shoot alone or with friends?
Who are your favourite artists/photographers? Who has mostly influenced your style?
There are so many! The greats in classic street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Saul Leiter, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Vivian Maier, and Ray Metzker. And some contemporary photographers like Alex and Rebecca Webb, Matthew Pillsbury, Alan Schaller, Clarissa Bonet. Edward Hopper is also a huge inspiration. And Harvey Stein, Margarita Mavromichalis and Nina Welch Kling, all friends and fabulous photographers.
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
I hope that I have and will continue to improve my craft. But my basic style of shooting has remained remarkably consistent.
How does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length? What would you say to someone wanting to start out in your genre of photography?
I think I am in the minority of street photographers in that I prefer zoom lenses to fixed. My preferred focal length is 24-70, but for this project I used a 70-200. It had been sitting unused on my shelf for a year before the pandemic hit and I found really good use for it! For someone just starting out in photography, my best advice is to go out and shoot, experiment, take a lot of pictures, see what feels right to you and don’t worry about the gear. The camera is just a tool, and it takes some time to figure out how you want to express your vision and what camera and lenses will best accomplish that. Allow yourself some time before you invest in expensive gear.
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
John Szarkowski’s “The Photographer’s Eye” and Robert Frank “The Americans” are classics. The Photographer’s Playbook is great for inspiration and ideas. And Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb’s new book, “Brooklyn, The City Within” is just gorgeous.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
Only in terms of appreciating art. I have always loved the arts....books, music, museums, galleries, dance. But I never believed I could create art myself. It has been a true revelation and gift.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?
I have been making self portraits in hotel rooms for many years now. With Covid, and diminished travel, that project is a bit on hold. But it is one I hope to continue in the future. Now that quarantine restrictions have eased a bit here in New York, I’ve been back out on the street. I often back into projects, and I’m hoping that happens again in the coming weeks and months. I hope the images I am making now will ultimately coalesce into a coherent project that I can develop and work on mindfully.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
I hope to continue shooting, and to improve , always. But mostly, I hope to continue feeling joy when I shoot and to make work that I am proud of.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)...
Spend time with my family and friends, read, exercise, eat out. With Covid, I thought that it was travel that I missed the most. But once things opened up and I could go to the gym, go to museums and meet friends for dinner I realized it is the small things in life that we take for granted that are most precious and most missed when they are gone."
Thank you Danielle!
All photos © Danielle L. Goldstein
Interview by Melanie Meggs