New York City is hectic. The constant movement can make it hard to appreciate the smaller things – a charming brownstone stoop, the subtle differences in each yellow cab, the stranger en route to their own important destination. In this ode to the city, Ynon Lan captures all of that and more by searching out the details of every day movement and pausing it. If only for a moment.
We spent some time talking to Ynon and learned that his trip to New York came as a result of love – for both a place and a person.
What is your favorite aspect of traveling and experiencing a new place?
My favorite part of traveling is staying at a new place for long enough that it feels like home.
If I visit a place for just few days, I rush tourist attractions. But when I stay somewhere for two weeks or more, I become familiar with my surroundings and I don’t need a map anymore. I get to know all the streets and little shortcuts. Like a local, I find a favorite coffee place and my go-to restaurant. I just love that feeling of really getting to know a new place.
Sometimes when I’m back home I close my eyes and, in my mind, travel through the streets of a place I’ve traveled to. I can only do this once I’ve made it feel like home.
What made you decide to make New York a part of your travel itinerary?
In one word, it was LOVE that made me decide to go to New York.
While at art school in Israel, I was a part of a student exchange program that brought me to America to study abroad for a term. I could have studied abroad in Europe, but I chose to study in America because my girlfriend at the time (who is now my fiancée) was living in New York. It was an opportunity for us to be in one place instead of being long-distance. Despite ultimately studying in California, I visited NYC for three amazing months.
What were some of the most compelling places you visited while you were in New York City?
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge by foot gave me a new perspective of the hectic city, as I got to take a step back and see the city’s skyline. The view is uniquely breathtaking both during the day and at night.
Another extraordinary experience was walking through Central Park in the fall when all the leaves change to beautiful tones of yellows, oranges and reds.
What inspired you to create this film from your trip to New York?
This was my first time in the United States and also my first time in New York, so everything was new and exciting for me – the amazing architecture, the yellow cabs on every street corner, the beautiful brownstones, the crazy amount of people walking the streets. I wanted to bring together all the visually stimulating pieces of the city into a short film showing the overwhelming diversity and also to juxtapose the clear patterns that define the city.
What recurring challenges did you face while traveling while capturing the things you saw?
Some subjects in the city were easier to photograph than others; the brownstones don’t move, so they were an easy target for me. But capturing people and yellow cabs in the middle of the frame in an exact spot proved to be a seriously tedious task.
For example, Seinfeld is my favorite show, so I waited a very long time at the street corner of the famous Seinfeld diner for a taxi to pass. In the end, I had to give it up because no taxis passed and it was extremely cold. A construction worker actually came by and asked me if someone famous was coming by; he thought I was paparazzi. I was embarrassed to tell him that I was just waiting to get a photo of a yellow taxi.
How did this specific trip differ from your other travels?
I had my fiancée as my tour guide, so after we ran through our checklist of all the famous must-see places, I got to experience the city through her eyes as a local resident of New York.
All the small day-to-day experiences, from getting a cup of coffee, doing laundry at the laundromat, to running like crazy so we wouldn’t miss the subway, made this trip more personal than a typical tourist experience for me.
What is your editing process?
My editing process is experimental. In this case, I initially thought I might create a video of one continuous walk from many photos of different people walking. So I did a test and made a quick edit with a few photos of my fingers pretending to walk on different surfaces around my house to see if the idea would actually work. And it did!
Then I went out and shot as many photos as I could of the walking subjects. I edited all the images together on the computer, tweaking the scale and position, so the subjects would transition as smoothly as possible from one image to the next. Finally I added sound effects and ambient sounds that I recorded on location for the finishing touch.
Approximately how many cabs do you think you chased after?
I chased a lot more cabs than the final video shows. I took more than 3,000 photos for this entire project, but ended up using a little over 300 photos in the final video. I must have chased over a hundred cabs altogether.
This film is all about precision – what was your process for making sure you got the shot?
After my early tests, I established a set of rules for the shooting process – things such as what lens to use, how far the camera was from the subject and the most effective shutter speed. Then I roamed the streets, stood on corners that caught my eye, and waited for the perfect moment to get the shot I dreamed of.