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Manhattan: An Experience through My Lens


Manhattan, a city that never sleeps, recently became a backdrop for a truly inspiring experience. As someone who’s spent years behind the lens, this adventure to New York City was more than just a getaway—it was a solid return to my roots in street photography. The first love of photography I experienced over 25 years ago!


My days were filled with the simple love of walking MILES through the city streets, my camera in hand, ready to capture every moment. At first, I was nervous, just trying to figure out what to photograph. But once I started, the feeling of street photography came flooding back to me. Each step I took on those iconic sidewalks reminded me of why I fell in love with photography in the first place: the thrill of everyday scenes and the beauty found in seemingly ordinary moments.


Capturing the Rythm of the City

One of the most rewarding parts of my journey was connecting with the regular people who keep Manhattan humming. From the cafe worker making espresso drinks to the ice cream vendor on the street, each person I met had a story worth telling. There was a certain magic in asking strangers if I could take their photo—and boy, did that take a lot of courage on my part. I’m not super outgoing, so I just had to push through my fear of rejection.


To my surprise, everyone I asked said yes! Initially, they were skeptical, but when I genuinely expressed that I wanted to take their photo just as they are, they felt seen and flattered. Like they’ve never had someone ask if they could take their photo. I saw their faces light up, feeling recognized and valued, and those moments became the highlights of my trip.  There is a sense of connection, and how a simple act of kindness can break down walls.


Faces and Stories

The Tourist from Sweden: A fellow traveler, eager to explore, she appreciated the city's energy and marveled at its vastness. I loved getting to know her as I felt like we were both in the same boat, having personal experiences in New York. We met on the Brooklyn Bridge, asking each other if the other person could take our portrait. We walked and talked the rest of the way.

The Tourist from Switzerland: A fellow traveler, eager to explore, she appreciated the city's energy and marveled at its vastness. I loved getting to know her as I felt like we were both in the same boat, having personal experiences in New York. We met on the Brooklyn Bridge, asking each other if the other person could take our portrait. We walked and talked the rest of the way.


The Ice Cream Vendor: He was the most skeptical, almost to the point where I wondered if he had some dirty laundry he didn’t want aired. But he said yes, after believing that this was just for the art of it. He was the only New Yorker I met who told me not to move to the city. He’s been an ice cream vendor for 7 years, posting up next to a school so when kids get out they buy ice cream.

The Ice Cream Vendor: He was the most skeptical, almost to the point where I wondered if he had some dirty laundry he didn’t want aired. But he said yes, after believing that this was just for the art of it. He was the only New Yorker I met who told me not to move to the city. He’s been an ice cream vendor for 7 years, posting up next to a school so when kids get out they buy ice cream.


Churches among Skyscrapers: One of my unexpected favorite things to see...old churches butted up against high skyscrapers. A visual mix of old and new. Past and present. I loved stepping into churches for a serine change of pace. The candles being carefully placed into each holder is a gift for someone's prayer.

Churches among Skyscrapers: One of my unexpected favorite things to see...old churches butted up against high skyscrapers. A visual mix of old and new. Past and present. I loved stepping into churches for a serine change of pace. The candles being carefully placed into each holder is a gift for someone's prayer.


The Mayor of the Meatpacking District: Not an actual mayor, but a local character known for his passion for saving the Meatpacking District from building super tall highrises. He came with such a spirit and love for the city.

The Mayor of the Meatpacking District: Not an actual mayor, but a local character known for his passion for saving the Meatpacking District from building super tall highrises. He came with such a spirit and love for the city.


Dancing at Washington Square Park: This woman was giving her performanc her all. People would nonchalantly pass by, this way and that way. While in the midst, this performer was pouring her heart and soul in the middle of Washington Square Park. There are so many little pockets of talent and passions in the city. It's easy to miss them.

Dancing at Washington Square Park: This woman was giving her performanc her all. People would nonchalantly pass by, this way and that way. While in the midst, this performer was pouring her heart and soul in the middle of Washington Square Park. There are so many little pockets of talent and passions in the city. It's easy to miss them.


Tourists on a Boat Tour: So. Many. Selfies! were taken during this boat tour. It really is amazing that now that everyone has a camera because of their phone they take photos of everything. I know, I'm not one to talk, but my lord, what do people do with all the photos they take of themselves. Almost as like a stamp with the main goal of just showing others where you are. It's interesting to sit back and observe. This moment was heading back. I like this moment, because it reminds me of when everyone is done taking selfies and just taking in the sights.

Tourists on a Boat: So. Many. Selfies! were taken during this boat tour. It really is amazing that now that everyone has a camera because of their phone, they take photos of everything. I know, I'm not one to talk, but my lord, what do people do with all the photos they take of themselves?! Almost as like a stamp with the main goal of just showing others where you are. It's interesting to sit back and observe. This moment was taken while heading back to the dock. I like this moment, because it reminds me of when everyone is done taking selfies and just taking in the sights.


Store Owner: I went into a random store for a soda, and felt drawn to the person working behind the counter. He was juggling about 4 different tasks at once and just reminded me of the hustle of the city. No frills, real life. He seemed like an interesting person.

Store Owner: I went into a random store for a soda, and felt drawn to the person working behind the counter. He was juggling about 4 different jobs at once and just reminded me of the hustle of the city. No frills, real life. He seemed like an interesting person.


Cafe Menu: Am I in France? This is legit food!

Cafe Menu: Am I in France? This is legit food!


Central Park: One of my favorite places to get lost in Manhatten. Central Park is enormous! I was blown away by rainbow of tulips, blossom trees, large rocks and grassy places to lay down and lounge. You could get lost in all the trails, and I definitely did. If you have ever been, then you know that a horse drawn carrage is a quintessential Central Park experience. This is more of an in between moment, with the horse resting while the New York City pigeons snack on whatever has fallen from the horse's mouth.

Central Park: One of my favorite places to get lost in Manhatten. Central Park is enormous! I was blown away by rainbow of tulips, blossom trees, large rocks and grassy places to lay down and soak up some sun. You could get lost in all the trails, and I definitely did. If you have ever been, then you know that a horse drawn carrage is a quintessential Central Park experience. This is more of an in between moment, with the horse resting while the New York City pigeons snack on whatever has fallen from the horse's mouth.


Living Rectangles: I wonder what life would be like if you lived in one of these apartments. I bet you would have stories of all kinds of events and neighbors. You are all so close but then sectioned off in your own private world. The architecture and the play on shapes gave me pause.

Living Rectangles: I wonder what life would be like if you lived in one of these apartments. I bet you would have stories of all kinds and interesting neighbors. You are all so close but then sectioned off in your own private world. The architecture and the play on shapes gave me pause.


Fashion on Madison Ave: I could feel the stanard of living change right before my eyes the further up I went on Madison Ave. Shops looked more and more by elite appointment only, a specific Madison Ave cop walked up and down the street, and the fashion was definitely changing into more expensive tastes.

Fashion on Madison Ave: I could feel the standard of living change right before my eyes the farther up I went on Madison Ave. Shops looked more and more by "by appointment only", a cop, JUST for Madison Ave. walked up and down the street, and the fashion was definitely changing into more expensive tastes.


Steamy Streets: Does anyone know why steam pours out of the street? What is going on underground?? I didn't even realize that this guy was walking across the street until I started editing the photo. I love how he adds a bit of grit to the image.

Steamy Streets: Does anyone know why steam pours out of the street? What is going on underground?? I didn't even realize that this guy was walking across the street until I started editing the photo. I love how he adds a bit of grit to the image.


Christian Dior and Pals: You should see this image in color too! Oh, the colors, textures and patterns, this lady has some serious style. What struck me is how this is probably how she dresses all day everyday. Easily wearing the most fashionable brands and has no problem affording it.

Christian Dior and Pals: You should see this image in color too! Oh, the colors, textures and patterns, this lady has some serious style. What struck me is how this is probably how she dresses all day, everyday. Easily wearing the most fashionable brands and has no problem affording it.


Brooklyn Bridge: Feels like a cage from this angle, but actually it's a very open and comfortable walk. If you don't mind crowds...so many tourists walking across!

Brooklyn Bridge: Feels like a cage from this angle, but actually it's a very open and comfortable walk. If you don't mind crowds...so many tourists walking across!


Waiter in the Greenwich: He was so nervous to get his photo taken, he didn't even want to look at it after I took it. I loved the whole vibe of this place, you could tell that they really cared about service, food and how it's presented.

Waiter in the Greenwich: He was so nervous to get his photo taken, he didn't even want to look at it after I took it. I loved the whole vibe of this place, you could tell that they really cared about service, food and how it's presented.


Grand Central Station: You'll hear some of the best music here, if you just stop and listen. Black and white photo of guy playing guitar.

Grand Central Station: You'll hear some of the best music here, if you just stop and listen.


Skateboarding in Washington Square Park: These skaters would wait until the crowds parted just enough for them to get by and practice some moves. Looked like a local hangout.

Skateboarding in Washington Square Park: These skaters would wait until the crowds parted just enough for them to get by and practice some moves. Looked like a local hangout.


Highline Views: If you are looking for some really gorgeous views of city streets, definitely walk the Highline! You can comfortable people watch from up above as the world below passes you by.

Highline Views: If you are looking for some really gorgeous views of city streets, definitely walk the Highline! You can comfortably people watch from up above as the world below passes you by.


One World Trade Center: This was personal for me. I remember exactly where I was and how I felt as I heard about the tragedy of the World Trade Center.  Even being all the way in Northern California, seeing the footage over and over engrained something in my mind that will part of our generation's history. I wanted to where it happened and reflect. Almost like some sort of healing for a part of me.

One World Trade Center: This was personal for me. I remember exactly where I was and how I felt as I heard about the tragedy of the Twin Towers. Even being all the way in Northern California, seeing the footage over and over engrained something in my mind that will part of our generation's history. I wanted to go where it happened and reflect. Almost like I needed something in me to heal.


The Café Worker: He had a warm smile that radiated kindness. This was the first person I asked and I was so thankful he said yes. He was kind of my gateway to the rest of these portraits, and so to him, I am thankful.

The Café Worker: He had a warm smile that radiated kindness. This was the first person I asked and I was so thankful he said yes. He was kind of my gateway to the rest of these portraits, and so to him, I am thankful.


People in the Park: Pick a park, any park and you will find the BEST people watching. New York City park in black and white. Two guys sitting on a fountain.

People in the Park: Pick a park, any park and you will find the BEST people watching.


Art: At the Whitney museum. I just love this piece so much.

Art: At the Whitney museum. I just love this piece so much.


Virtual Man: 'Nuf said.

Virtual Man: 'Nuf said.





Rediscovering My Passion

Meeting these unique individuals and photographing authentic moments brought me back to my love for street photography. It felt relatable and real. It reminded me why I’m naturally drawn to capturing candid, unposed moments that tell a story of their own. Each interaction was a beautiful reminder of the power of human connection and the importance of cherishing the moments that make up your life.


Gratitude

Everyone I met in Manhattan was incredibly giving with their time and stories. Their openness to let me photograph them was not just a personal victory but a testament to the kindness that still thrives in the hustle and bustle of the big city. Their warmth turned what could have been an intimidating experience into an experience I will never forget.

My trip to Manhattan was not just a journey through the city; it was a journey back to the essence of what makes photography so special to me. It relit my passion for capturing the authentic moments that often go unnoticed and deepened my appreciation for the people who make the city come alive.


For those who love photography, especially street and black-and-white photography, or anyone who simply loves New York City, I hope this story inspires you to take your camera, step onto the streets, and capture the world around you. You never know what beautiful moments and incredible people you’ll discover.





Diana Jex specializes in portrait photography including maternity photography, newborn photography, children and family photography. Diana Jex Photography primarily serves families located in Sonoma County, Marin County and Napa County : Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Novato, Marin, San Rafael, Windsor, Rohnert Park, Napa, Cotati, Sonoma and other surrounding areas.

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