Viewfinder | Portraits From the Past

Ross Bennett Lewis on capturing neighborhood creatives.

“Tompkins Square Park with the surrounding avenues and streets offer an endless milieu of unexpected finds. Photographing people is most challenging yet very rewarding. I admire people with creative energy and their endeavors. After losing so many people to AIDS in the 1980s, I was disappointed in not having taken wonderful black and white images of them, so by the early 1990s I resumed shooting in black and white, using analog cameras and film. Years later these photographs become historical, as they have a different texture than digital. New York City has an abundance of material to shoot, whether it be people, architecture or just recording the quality of light and city life.”

Willem Dafoe, Saint Marks Place, NYC 1997 Ross Bennett Lewis ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDSilver Print / St. Mark’s Place, 1997

“Stage and screen actor Willem Dafoe, charming as ever with a great face. We had crossed paths a few times prior to the shoot. At that time he was on Broadway performing in ‘The Naked Ape’.”

Taylor Meade NYC, 1999Silver Print / Tompkin’s Square Park, 1999

“Taylor Meade, a performance artist that I have crossed paths with on several occasions.”

Paxton Hart, NYC 1996 Ross Bennett LewisSilver Print / 1st Avenue, 1996

“Friend and artist Paxton Hart. We were walking up the avenue.”

“Man delivering party balloons via subway.”

ALAN CUMMING, NYC 2006Silver Print / Tompkin’s Square Park, 2006

“Alan Cumming, stage and film actor and writer. We wandered around a bit. This was a planned shoot. Some teens on Avenue B recognized him as Nightcrawler from ‘X-Men’.”

“First met Joanna in London’s Victoria Station. She eventually relocated to NYC. This was taken as we were headed to Tompkins Square Park for Wigstock.”

RAY ALVAREZ, NYC 2010Silver Print / Avenue A between 7 & 8 Street, 2010

“Ray Alvarez, shopkeeper for years. The best egg cream in NYC.”

Ross Bennett Lewis is a local contributor. He relocated from Florida in 1980, and has lived in the East Village ever since. His work can be seen here. Look out for his upcoming book of prints.