In an era when a camera can be at the ready within seconds and an image can be posted on Instagram with just a few taps on a cell phone, photography has become an “everyman’s pastime.”
That being said, the ability to truly capture the essence of a subject beyond taking a close-up of your quinoa salad requires skill and discipline and to capture the essence of an entire neighborhood requires a natural gift.
“I had lived in L.A. and developed this missing and longing of New York while I was there,” Michael Huhn, who just published his first landscape book of Long Island City. “When I returned in 2008, I really wanted to do a homage to New York City. I had lost my soulmate and truly missed being here, so it felt like the right thing to do.”
Despite the sad origins of the project, Huhn was able to take one of the more rapidly changing neighborhoods, Long Island City, and create a work of art.
In a glossy, black-and-white photobook, Huhn shows the uniqueness of LIC, where it is not uncommon to see a factory a block away from a luxury apartment building.
The photos are dark, darker than most modern day black-and-white photos, but the beauty of such an urban environment is not lost in the absence of color. If anything, the darkness makes you really notice the strange architecture of LIC.
“In Long Island City you’ll have this beautiful brick building and then here’s this luxury high-rise and I just thought it was important to photograph the marriage of these two buildings, the time passing,” Huhn, originally from Richmond Hill, said. “I have to photograph what’s here, the old and the new.”
But while LIC is becoming more of a tourist destination, it is nice to see Huhn did not take the easy approach and photograph hotspots like 5Pointz.
“When I put this together I had a few people ask me why I didn’t put 5Pointz in, but I’m not making a tourist guidebook to the area,” he said.
Although there are a few shots of the Pepsi-Cola and Silvercup signs, the fact that a majority of the photos are of typical LIC streets and the elevated No. 7 train line makes each page even more satisfying.
One commonality that appears on almost every page is the Queensboro Bridge.
The most memorable shot features the bridge emerging from the fog. It is hauntingly beautiful and portrays the span in a way rarely seen.
“Growing up in Richmond Hill, that bridge meant a lot to me,” Huhn said. “When I was in Long Island City, it meant I was close to something big. When I was 17 and I moved to Manhattan, it was a big deal and going over that bridge was very emotional. It’s very personal and to me, that bridge is a gateway.”
Though the book is so well done, Huhn has had more experience taking portraits, nudes and photos of celebrities.
“I do think I have been kind of typecast as this one-trick pony but I think anyone can take a look at the book and see that I have other interests as well,” Huhn said. “I’m not saying I’m going to stop photographing people but I do enjoy taking other types of photos as well.
Long Island City is still a big part of Huhn’s life. He lives and works in the area.
The Z Hotel, featured in Huhn’s book, has two of his photos on display and he is in negotiations to have a larger, solo show.
The book is only printed limitedly but Huhn hopes to mass-print copies as buzz for the book develops.
He will also be featured next year at the LIC Arts Festival, where some of his shots from “Long Island City New York” will be shown.