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This is the thirty fourth blog in a series on COVID-19 and lockdown, edited by Avijit.Datta@rps.org and email@example.com
I am a photographer based in New York City. I live with my wife and three children in Manhattan. When I am not busy taking analogue photographs (which is most of the time), I practice corporate tax planning as a senior executive of one of the largest financial institutions in the world. I have a fully-fledged dual-career, which allows me to afford unlimited film and test prints!
My photography is unique among the masses as I use an exclusively analogue workflow, shooting only meter-less analogue cameras of all formats, primarily Leica, Hasselblad and my late father’s Linhof Technika Press. I am an avid street photographer, for which I have received numerous awards and accolades around the world, particularly for my 9-year series capturing New Yorkers in a candid fashion as they brave their harsh snow blizzards. My real passion, however, lies in my cityscape work. As a die-hard New Yorker through and through, my love for the Big Apple is channeled through cityscapes. I choose my cameras and film stock carefully for each scene. I generally choose to shoot in low light levels of the surreal lighting conditions of sunrises and sunsets. Nothing is ever just a “snap,” but rather the execution of a pre-visualized scene, doing most of the work to make my photographs “in the camera” rather than in front of my computer.
I am completely self-taught via a few books, trial and error and the burning of thousands of dollars worth of film.
The effects of the pandemic on NYC were clearly felt on the streets. The usual hustle and bustle was replaced with emptiness - and then eventually “mask nation.” Despite the solemn mood, there were plenty of occasions to photograph. Major tourist attractions, such as Grand Central Station and the Oculus, were often complete empty, which in many cases made for great photography.
I feel that we in NYC were spared from some of the ridiculous police-enforced lockdowns that many countries imposed. We were never really forced to stay indoors or to wear masks on the street. Eventually, “mask nation” took full form and people generally have their masks permanently affixed to their face. And many sport multiple masks. It’s all personal choice and I fully respect all opinions. My own opinion is that the health guidance was in many cases misguided and the prolonged closure of schools, gyms, indoor dining and the restrictions imposed on other business establishments were way overboard and unfortunately politicized to the detriment of the mental health and livelihood of millions of people.
In addition, for a number of months during the roughest part of the year the City was overtaken with social injustice protests and riots. This, too, presented many photographic opportunities that motivated me to get out and immersed in the ‘super spreader’ events and capture the emotions of New Yorkers as they took down their ‘covid guard’ in order to join the chorus of protests against police brutality and racial injustice. I love photographing in these situations because of the heightened level of human interest that is involved. The emotion and expression of convictions are fun to capture, especially close up, which I had no problem doing as I had a high-tech Israeli-made mask constructed with 5 layers of micro-fabric that provided strong protection from the virus. In my personal view, the protests and riots were filled largely with misguided anger, frustration and politicization, which the covid lockdowns only exacerbated. There was a feeling of lawlessness for a 2-3 month period in New York City. It was a very scary time. And then – the murder rate shot up to a near all-time high. As did the number of shootings. Black-on-black crime sky-rocketed last year. And this level of horror continues until today. The defunding, disarming and demoralization of the police – all being preached nonstop in the protests and riots – are widely viewed as the main drivers of this. As much as I wish people would have been more targeted and rational in their public grievances, I still joined the masses in order to capture their raw emotions and the historic fault lines being created in our society.
I used my Leica gear (typically my M-A and the 4th pre-aspherical version of the 28mm Elmarit) and a range of films. I shot Kodak Portra 400, which I both pushed (for more speed) and pulled (for a pastel color palette). I also shot a very special Italian-made black and white film called Ferrania P30, which is a super high contrast 80 ISO film that is terrific for reportage. Lastly, I shot Ilford Delta 400, which is somewhat the opposite of the Ferrania in that it is very rich in the mid-tones. Shooting these different film stocks in this context was incredible fun!
Then, later in the year, we had a few harsh snow blizzards, which for me is “the” photographic candy store of all candy stores. Finding the usual swarm of subjects in the snow was very difficult due to curfews and the fact that few of us were commuting to work. But I persisted nonetheless and managed to find some cold and soggy souls to shoot, masks and all!
Instagram: @adammiller.nyc and @adammiller.nyc_street
Other blogs in this series:
A photobook project in 80 days
Through Our Lens COVID-19 Project
Photography and Personal Development
Photography as a tool against depression
Emotions and photography during a year of pandemic
A Buddhist Perspective on the Pandemic
Inside Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust ICUs
Hope. Struggle. Change. March 2020 - A Lockdown Diary
‘MentalCollodion’: Supporting Mental Health with Wet Plate Photography during a Pandemic
Together we are stronger – Inside an NHS Hospital during COVID-19
Celebrating NHS Healthcare Staff in a Pandemic
Unplanned London Lockdown and Jugaad
The Covid Pandemic in Hong Kong
Fighting against stigma during COVID-19
Protesting Human Rights in a Pandemic
Go Home: Mental Stability and Collaboration in a Pandemic
Getting Through This – it’s OK not to feel OK
The New Normal and the COVID-19 Fight in India for the world