My Favorite Photographer, in My Favorite City

A few years ago, I was treated to my own informal showing of Matthew Pillsbury’s work by the artist himself. We had met at a party the week before and I had heard a few things about him from our mutual friends. Once I was in front of these large-scale prints of his work and really took the time to take them in, I was absolutely speechless. Anyone who knows me even for a little while knows that that is a rarely occurring feat unto itself! You’ll see why.

Sitting on the High Line

In these frames were images of beautiful architecture and interiors from around the world, bold and unapologetic, and were juxtaposed with the fleeting ghostly images of people occupying the spaces. Some exposures are longer (he produced a whole series of “Hours”) and some are only a few minutes. What remains constant is that Matthew visually captures not only a beautiful place, but a few moments of the ephemeral human experience in and of that place.

Top of the Standard

With THAT being said, I also had the pleasure the other night to attend the opening of Matthew’s new show, “City Stages,” at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery. This selection of new work focuses on the literal and figurative Stages of New York City. Some of the images are photographed staged performances, some are parades, some are street scenes. Some places are iconic because of what they are: The main reading room of the New York Public Library, some are iconic because of when they are: the Tribute of Light on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and some are iconic because of what happened there: the Occupy Wall Street movement at Zuccotti Park.

New York Public Library, Main Reading Room

Tribute of Light, Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Zuccotti Park

While at the gallery, everyone was talking about all the different focal points in each piece, the sense of movement, the sense – in some cases- of raising up a more mundane subject matter to an artistic one, and the overall strong feeling evoked through each image. If you think about it, these are also topics that could be describing New York, couldn’t they? An ever-changing place where the everyday and the elevated live side-by side, sometimes in the same place… or in the same person. There’s a lot of gray in the black-and white.

Fausto, Washington Square Park

Contortionist, Big Apple Circus

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Matthew presents the New York that he knows and loves from his own individual perspective. He is able to heighten, lift, and hold dear the big and the small, and give them an equal playing field. There is a joy there that is almost child-like in it’s approach. It gives you that glisten in your eye, like the first time you sailed in the Harbor and saw the skyline from the water, or your first glimpse of a new vista in Central Park. As a lifelong New Yorker, one of my favorite things is when I am shown something new in the City, or something in the City in a new way.

Thanks, M, for that. Well done.

Jing Fong Dim Sum

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