by Tracy Kaler
|Children throwing rose petals at the Figment Festival on Governor's Island|
Joann Jovinelly is a freelance photographer and writer whose work has been featured in many print/digital publications. She lives in downtown New York City where she travels the concrete landscape daily, camera in hand.
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|Brooklyn Bridge at Night|
How did you get started in photography and how long have you been taking photos?
My late father was a photographer and he allowed my to use his gear when I was a child, so I've been taking photos for about 30 years, only more seriously for the last decade.
What kind of camera do you shoot with?
I've been using a Canon 60D with a 28-135mm zoom lately, but I have a few film cameras and I sometimes use the digital to shoot TTV (through the viewfinder) shots with an old twin-lens reflex. I don't use a smart phone, so I cannot benefit from Instagram like everyone else; TTV shots offer the same square trim size and "antique" filter effect.
What are your favorite subjects to photograph and why?
For a long time I enjoyed shooting spectacle, which in NYC often means parades and protests. These days, I have a few subjects that I pursue regularly: street art, anonymous written communications between New Yorkers that I blog, and odd things that are disappearing quickly like public telephones, street memorials, gumball machines, and found objects and collections. I also shoot a lot of portraits.
|Graffiti in the East Village|
Since living in NYC you've probably shot some cool and interesting stuff---what has been the most shocking photo to date?
I've shot some cabaret performances that were rather X-rated. I also shot an image of a man urinating on the street once in broad daylight while scores of people were walking by. I never publish those images, however.
Are people the most challenging to photograph?
These days, most people almost expect to be photographed in the street because cameras are everywhere. I rarely encounter any problems. In most cases I will ask before I shoot someone's portrait. Most people are obliging. In cases when they're not, I respectfully move on.
Has your writing career influenced your photography?
Sure. I think both disciplines can lend to each other. Both force you to look at the big picture and the little details. I found that being a decent photographer has helped me secure more writing work and a steadier income.
Do you use any special techniques?
Not really. I do sometimes use what I call a fish-eye lens "cheat" because it's just a glass adapter that offers a fish-eye distortion, not an actual fish-eye lens. Usually, I only use it to shoot the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, though.
Where can people see or purchase your photos if they’re interested?
At this time, I'm still assembling a website where I will hopefully have information about selling my images. If someone is genuinely interested in a print, they can contact me directly via Flickr or Facebook.
NYC is so photogenic. Which photo of the city are you most proud of?
There is so much. We have some amazing and majestic architecture, some of it the result of private Gilded Age contributions that gave New Yorkers some of the city's most prized institutions, such as the NYPL (New York Public Library) and the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Those places give me hope that compassion and security for all can still be the foundation of our Democracy, even in light of our growing economic divide. Whenever I'm feeling awful, all I have to do is walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or spend the afternoon in the Rose Reading Room for inspiration.
There are so many! I adore the work of Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, Peter Hujar, and lesser known artists like Vivian Maier, all of whom have shot extensively in New York. And I adore Bill Cunningham, the New York Times photographer, and more transgressive contemporary artists like Nan Goldin and Lucas Samaras.
You’ve been in NYC for years now. You’ve seen the city change and grow. What can you say is the one thing that hasn’t changed about New York?
It's still filthy! No matter how much more luxurious or gentrified the neighborhoods become, there are some aspects of city life that will never change, like dealing with pests and vermin, which I find comforting to some degree because it's a baseline that every New Yorker shares. Every New Yorker has a rat or roach story and they're
typically hysterical. You can almost measure how long you've been here by your speed and ability to kill both.
|11 Spring Street, NoLIta before the building went condo|
Favorite New York moment?
Exchanging smiles with the one and only Fran Lebowitz after running into her on the street. It was perfect because I respected her privacy and she appreciated the moment as much as I did. Years later, she signed my first edition of Metropolitan Life, which I treasure. I have been very fortunate to have met many, many accomplished New Yorkers in my time here, and those meetings, whether by chance or planned, make up my favorite memories.
What’s the one activity that you could do every day in New York and yet never get bored with it?
Taking photos just by walking the streets and taking it all in, especially to an outer borough neighborhood where I've never been. It's the little discoveries that make New York special. It's never boring. I mean, if you're bored here, it's really a personal problem. It's impossible to remain unaffected by the energy of the street.
Digital photography is wonderful in that it made the medium so autonomous. Even when I'm broke (and I'm often broke) I always have my camera. There are always images to record.
|Dogs playing at Washington Square Park|
Advice for new artists moving to NYC or considering a move?
New York City is nothing like the city you see on television or in films. And New Yorkers often have three or four simultaneous careers. You need more than a plan B here; you need moxie, strength, and courage to have staying power. Networking is everything.
Take risks. Learn your strengths and weaknesses (and how to maximize or minimize them to your advantage) before you get here. Know that, unlike many gated suburban communities, New York is based in real community. To insulate yourself from the chance to be a part of that is to not experience the true wealth of New York, which are its people and diversity. On a lighter note, sell your car before you get here and know that it is totally possible to furnish your apartment with street finds.
Number one survival tip in NYC?
One thing often leads to something else, something better, so don't ignore opportunities that at the time seem small. When New York smiles upon you, it often pays off big, but when the chips are down, this city can also kick you in the teeth. This isn't a place for the timid. You have to really want to be here, it's such a physical place. The city can be downright unwelcoming and cold, but New Yorkers have the greatest hearts; they impress me daily. New Yorkers pull together – we have each other's backs.
|Two people kissing on East 9th Street|
|Mural at Mars Bar in the Village--now closed|