by Alison Zavos for Feature Shoot
Originally from Lima, Peru, photographer Chris Zedano has been living and working in New York since 2002. For his project, “Staple Street,” he photographed some of New York’s most interesting characters on the eponymous street dating back to at least the early 19th century in lower Manhattan .
Who are your subjects, where did you find them and how did you initially approach them about being part of the project?
My subjects are performers and interesting characters from New York City. It’s people that I’ve always been curious about. I found them through extensive research. I’d go through periodicals and look for articles about people that I find interesting for the project or sometimes articles on events in NYC. I would follow my sitters to their shows and meet more performers at venues. Also, I used to walk around the city and talk to people that I believed would be great subjects for the project.
I started working with sideshow performers. Once I had a site with some images, it was a lot easier to get more people involved. I’ve been lucky to work with so many amazing people that were excited about the project. In a lot of the shoots, people came with great ideas, which made it easy.
When did you first come across Staple Street and what is it about the street that makes it so special to you?
Continue reading and see more images after the jump.
I used to do a lot of outdoor shoots in TriBeCa and one day I ended up by mistake in this little alley (Staple Street). There was something magical about it. It was a feeling. There’s something about Staple Street that I can’t explain with words. Maybe it’s the narrowness of the street, which makes me feel protected, cut off from the rest of the city; or maybe it’s the arched bridge between the buildings, a sort of monument to urban connection; or maybe it’s the dilapidated sidewalk that always seems on the verge of repair but never quite makes it. No doubt it’s a combination of all of these qualities that drew me there.
I kept returning to this street because for me it captured the essence of New York: a small, quiet sliver of a big, crazy pie, a place both distinctly urban yet oddly homey. I decided it was a great background and thought it would be a great idea to connect with different characters and performers from all over the city to this narrow, interesting space that provided me with so much inspiration.
You’ve been working on this project for two years. What were some of the challenges you faced during this time when shooting in this location?
It’s been two exciting years. The biggest challenge was the change of parking regulation. At the end of my first year working on the project, parking rules changed and people were allowed to park on that street. It was almost impossible to get a photograph without a car showing up. After some trial and error, I found the best times, location and camera setup to avoid the cars in the images. Another challenge was working solo, especially when you’re working for eight hours straight and you have to trust your expensive equipment to a total stranger while you run to the nearest coffee shop to take a restroom break. Definitely kept the adrenaline high!
What are your plans now for this series?
I’m at the stage of looking for exposure. I’m in talks with different galleries. Hopefully something will come out of it.