Viewfinder | Everyday Icons

Roey Ahram on finding picture-taking opportunities in unlikely places.

Car and Mural

“From a photographic perspective, New York City is like a few other places I’ve been. The photographic icons have already been established — the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge. But what I love about taking pictures in New York, particularly in the East Village and Lower East Side is the richness and beauty in the parking lots, storefronts, sidewalks, and people — each are icons in their own right.”

Houston Car Care

“William Eggleston is famous for saying that he is “at war with the obvious.” I think I try to carry that sentiment into a lot of my images. I sometimes think that the “obvious” of New York City is not like the “obvious” of anywhere else — it’s slightly grittier and grander — but there is beauty and intrigue in those parts of New York that some might think of as obvious. “

Painted Over

“New York is a city of layers. Century-old building banks, factories, and storefronts are constantly being refurbished and re-purposed, but the underneath layers seem to find a way to show through.”

Window Shopping

“This may have been the first photo I took in New York City where I felt like I was really photographing New York rather than just taking pictures of things in New York. The people on the street can seem as permanent as the building — fixtures and icons unto themselves.”

Mars Bar Morning

“I took this picture with a plastic camera film (a Blackbird Fly); it just seemed fitting to given the subject. I use plastic cameras and plastic lens a lot — they lend to the image another layer of emotion and level of imprecision that draws me into an image, oftentimes making them more realistic than images taken with the highest quality glass lenses.”

5th Avenue

“I remember I was in the Village one day, after having lived city a few months, and I was walking up Thompson Street when I looked up and saw the Empire State Building. It struck me at that moment that I see this amazing building everyday, and while it was still an awesome sight, I realized that this building and this perspective of the city was becoming part of me. Still, when I look up Fifth Avenue from below Washington Square, I think it about that moment years ago when, for me, the Empire State Building became melded into the city rather than standing as a building unto itself.”

Mister Softee

“Sometimes you get happy accidents, and sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes there is nothing more than that. I loved the lighting above truck, so I set myself to take the picture, and just before I pressed the shutter button the man in the window turned toward me with this half smile, then I just took the picture — I would have been a throwaway shot if he had not turned.”

Roey Ahram is community contributor to The Local East Village and senior project associate at New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. His photography can be seen here.