20 PHOTOS

New York City, My Cut

Photographer Ian Gittler wandered in search of the unexpected details that add up to the world's greatest city.

By , Monday, Jul 7, 2008, 11:10 AM

About the Photographer
Ian Gittler is an author, photographer, and designer living in New York City. He is currently working on two new long-form books, one about youth culture and another comprised of detailed still lifes of vintage motors. You can catch him online at iangittler.com.

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Photo Captions
1 New York City, home of the 24-hour everything. A wave of alarm swept through Greenwich Village recently when workers dismantled the Waverly Restaurant's legendary neon sign. But about a week later, the sign, missing T intact, was back in place. Many New Yorkers are thankful for the few neighborhood landmarks that resist change. Photo

2 In New York, there's constant street-level proximity to people from all walks of life—a mix of ages, races, cultures, and social strata. The social strata part can be tough. Some people are living large around here, and when a glimpse into that alternate universe catches you off guard, it can leave you with a kind of "what am I doing wrong?" feeling. Photo

3 In the moment, I admit I was tickled by the visual of Asian teens poring over travel books in Chinatown. The picture turned out to be about more: the contrast between the "Walk" and "Don't Walk" signs, the symmetry of opposite reds and blues, and a quiet reminder not to lose our sense of curiosity about the city. Photo

4 Doing the SoHo march. The couple that shops together stays together. Photo

5 One more guy with style taking in the city. Personal cool is so ubiquitous around here it practically disappears. Photo

6 Is it graffiti, or is it art? And does it matter? This wall on West 22nd Street stands opposite a row of galleries that firmly believe it does matter and whose business it is to make sure we can tell the difference. Photo

7 Have you heard the one about the three Hasidic Jews standing under the Manhattan Bridge laughing at a picture on an iPhone? The first one says to the second.... Photo

8 The relic of the 1870s Tobacco Warehouse beneath the Brooklyn Bridge captures the appeal of Dumbo to the wave of artists who homesteaded the area in the 1990s. They inadvertently promoted the neighborhood's potential for full-on gentrification, which at this point is nearly complete. Photo

9 There's been a major lag—compared to the rest of the country and the world—in New York City's architectural innovation and evolution. But corner by corner, that's beginning to change. This glass structure on Houston Street is home to an Adidas store, and I was struck by how it reflects those water towers, details from another era. Photo

10 Yeah, yeah, yeah: long waits, crowds, summer underground temperatures in the 120s, and those incomprehensible public-address speakers.... It's all true, and I say stop your bellyaching. New York's subway system is a feat of vision and human labor, by and for the people who ride it every day. Tip: If you happen to make eye contact with a stranger, may I suggest a smile? Photo

11 What can I say? Gray's Papaya is an institution. I haven't given in to one of its hot dogs in years, but I won't deny it: I experience a serious twinge of temptation every time I pass those "Recession Special" signs and catch a waft of the grill—and that's daily. Photo

12 Madison Avenue. Generations of kids hanging on to their moms' hands have learned about the finer things in life simply by strolling (or being dragged) along the mile between 60th and 80th streets. And generations of moms have had to say no to skimpy $300 bikinis like these. Photo

13 One of New York's classic urban mysteries: Why and how do shoes like these get up there? And who lost them? You'd better double knot your Puma Clydes. Photo

14 An artist photographs an artist looking at art that questions the meaning of art by artists being photographed by artists...or something like that. At this particular Chelsea opening, people were as pleased about a tin basin filled with ice-cold bottles of Budweiser as they were about anything having to do with high culture. Photo

15 There are all kinds of laws prohibiting this kind of thing, but if you can hold a tune, New Yorkers will get behind you in a heartbeat. These guys received applause on an F train, which is pretty darn improbable. Photo

16 I happened upon a late-night emergency crew welding near 12th Avenue as the Empire State Building hovered a universe away. I was struck by the contrast between the glittery surface of New York and the gritty—but in its own way also romantic—reality of its everyday business. Photo

17 I never find the punch lines that readers submit to the New Yorker's weekly cartoon caption contest funny, but when I stumbled across the tail end of this scene, I was convinced there's a joke buried here. Might it have something to do with the letters not being big enough? Photo

18 You'll hear a lot about the city's hustle and bustle, but not so much about the peace and tranquility. It's here, if you're willing to find it or, maybe more important, if you're willing to let it in. Photo

19 There's something timeless about the scene around the sailboat pond in Central Park (in the 70s, closer to the Fifth Avenue side). Maybe it's all the classic old-timers, like this guy. People just don't dress like this anymore, and that's too bad. Photo

20 The Alice In Wonderland statue in Central Park is major. Major. If you're a New York kid, you know. If you're raising kids here, you know. Visiting this busy-as-ever spot always brings it all back like nothing else. Childhood. Makes ya chuckle. Photo

A HELLUVA TOWN