Regardless of whether you’ve been to New York City or not, most of us have a vague idea of what it’s like: bright lights, tall buildings, lots of people and bagels. Photographer Josh Cohen was commissioned to capture the quieter but no less important side of the iconic city for men’s fashion brand Jack Spade. “The brief came from art director Huy Vu at Jack Spade. It was straightforward; identify longstanding establishments and businesses whose roots were dug deep in the bedrock of New York City’s cultural landscape but at the same time are not completely in the public’s conscious,” explains Josh.
Avoiding the tourist traps everyone is already familiar with, Josh shot under-the-radar haunts like kid’s birthday party venue Buzz-a-Rama, family run smokehouse Acme Smoked Fish and six-storey bookstore Argosy Books. “Most of these places have been around for quite some time and they all serve a very specific function for city inhabitants,” says Josh who’s based in Brooklyn. “When you walk into these places you can feel the layered history and all of these spots had a certain lure and mystery to them that felt distinctly New York.”
A few shots from each spot tell the story by mixing portraits with images of the surrounding environment. “Most of these locations were crammed with stuff, so I was looking for either singular moments or objects that had some kind of historical narrative or embraced the overloaded, layered textures of the entire space,” says Josh. The nostalgia and history present in Josh’s well-observed photos conjure a strange familiarity with the locations and each image preserves the details at each venue as if on display at a museum.
“NYC has a rich history and these institutions serve as great visual and physical markers of it,” says Josh. “With so many characterless businesses taking root in the city, spots like these help keep it colourful and remind us of what New York City was and still can be: original and intriguing.”
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