Jonathan Higbee’s ongoing series Coincidences represents street photography through and through. A “love letter” to New York City, it is a documentation of the city’s surroundings, its people and the serendipitous moments that occur when these two things coincide. Throughout the fascinating series, road markings, reflections, shoelaces, balloons and other ephemera perfectly align producing a host of too-good-to-be-true images astutely captured by Jonathan’s camera.
Born and raised in a small town in Missouri, Jonathan moved around a lot as a child. This nomadic lifestyle continued into his adult life where he periodically called Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle home. “About ten years ago, I came to New York for my job and for the first time in my whole life I haven’t felt the urge to move on ‘the next place’,” Jonathan tells It’s Nice That.
Ever since receiving his first camera (a Polaroid) for his eighth birthday, Jonathan has pursued photography as a hobby but “the unyielding passion to spend my life doing nothing but was unexpected,” he explains. After studying communication and media studies in Los Angeles, he pursued a career as a writer, getting his first job as an editorial assistant at Instinct magazine. His place on the editorial staff quickly evolved and he found himself travelling the world and reporting back with copy and photos as the publication’s travel correspondent. “It wasn’t long before the photography part of my gig overshadowed my interest in writing,” Jonathan recalls. “Travel photography had me hooked on the art form but it was moving to New York and exploring my new neighbourhood with my camera that really sealed my fate.”
Coincidences is so successful because of the way Jonathan intrinsically links the photographic medium and his chosen city. The series began when he first moved to New York as an attempt to “calm the chaos of the city.” This process produced a selection of interesting photographs featuring moments of serendipity every now and then but it wasn’t until around 2013 that Jonathan began to shape the project and actively seek out such moments. Dealing with a panic disorder at the time, he took the chance to “stop, breathe and be as mindful as possible” when exploring the city’s streets. “This produced more work for the series, helped me be more present in the moment, and endowed within me a hard-to-describe appreciation for the random but absolutely beautiful moments that can be found throughout life if you just look closely,” he explains.
Although often seeming constructed, the photos in Coincidences are the result of Jonathan’s trained eye and patience. “Over the years I have been able to develop my eye and sense of anticipation to more easily spot uncanny coincidences but every once in a while my gut will tell me that some element I’ve come across on the street has potential to become a successful image, even if it’s nothing special just yet,” he explains. When this happens, Jonathan will return to the same spot, sometimes for several months, until he finally achieves the shot he was looking for.
Although describing the project as a “battle against the ephemeral nature of this special city” at times, the series is a fitting portrait of New York’s uncompromising pace of change, making the fateful instances in Coincidences all the more meaningful.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.