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Watch a mini-documentary about James’ work here:
Watch James talk about his work on Fox 5 News:
It all started with fake IDs.
As a lost college student studying math and computer science at the University of Madison, stuck in a particularly brutal Wisconsin winter my sophomore year, I decided I needed to finally figure out what to do with my life. Growing up in New York, I was used to the cold, but not like this. Those Wisconsin winters really make you question your life.
I had recently started making fake IDs for friends, downloading an early bootleg copy of Photoshop to create the template and collaborating with my engineer roommates on what papers and glue to use. The result was a near identical copy.
Well, they blew up, and suddenly everyone was asking for IDs. I made them most nights for six months until I’d had enough and figured it was time to stop or get arrested. But Photoshop stuck with me, and I used the shoebox of cash under my bed to purchase my first digital camera and some lenses. I still use the Canon EF 24-70 F2.8 lens to this day.
While I finished my degree, I spent my summers and the few years after graduation studying at the International Center for Photography and assisting for commercial photographers – until I decided to start my own photography business in 2006.
My inspiration in photography has always come from the people and history of New York. When I began with photography, I would walk the streets of 5th Avenue for fun and people watch. I didn’t know that it was called street photography. Over time, I grew a portrait and event business, began to photograph and learn more about the unique neighborhoods and incredible architecture of New York, and just went exploring as much as I possibly could. I read up on the history of New York when I could and became a certified tour and workshop guide.
Now my business is split between running a print business, a portrait photography business working with companies and people around New York, and a photography tour and street photography workshop business, helping photographers from all over the world capture the best of New York.
Over the years, I’ve worked with the Daily News, with businesses of all sizes and types around New York and the world, and with many websites. I have written three books as well as for many magazines and websites covering photography and New York. My prints have been sold and licensed to people and companies around the world, including Tiffany & Co. and G-Star Raw.
I also work on documentary projects. My recently completed 7-year project, Luxe City, captures the changing spirit of New York in the post-9/11 world. The project, East Village Stories, consists of nearly 150 portraits and in-depth interviews from 2012-2017 with long-time residents, business owners, and employees in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. The project has become a historical account of the mid-to-late 20th Century of one of the most vibrant and lively neighborhoods in the city. I completed a project with the Manny Cantor Community Center in 2017 on the Lower East Side called Storytelling in our Immigrant City, with interviews and portraits of 25 people whose lives have been touched by immigration on the LES. And I’m currently working on a recipe book with the MCC, covering family dishes and the stories behind them from the diverse community of the Lower East Side.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to be doing what I do, and I try to share my passion for photography and the city with everyone that I work with. If you would like to consider working together, I would love to speak with you. Please email me directly at [email protected].