Urban Race Project

2014 Urban Race – 126 Pages of New York Street Photography

Introduction by Dhivia Pillai

There are moments in life defined by blind faith, and this introduction is one of them.

Jimmy and I both like beautiful things: music, art, people.  When he asked me to write the foreword to this book, I balked. I am no photography expert. New York was several thousand miles too far to deliver a kick to his studly cankles. I thought I’d still have a look at his stuff. If I didn’t like it, I’d just tell him.

It occasionally feels as if photography is a diminished art. Tepid daily rituals are assiduously catalogued, filtered and shared in the same breath, booting it off its pedestal into plebeian ubiquity.  We look at images with scepticism and indifference.  The snaking azure of a fjord, shades of a sunrise, sheen on suntanned thighs all judged with the help of Artifice, that looming bedfellow of the digital era.

Fact is, we still look.

And why? The natural reaction of an audience is to find parallels in art within their own lives. The importance of art is in allowing these parallels to emerge by capturing something of lived experiences with a universal resonance.

And so three strangers sit in close proximity on a subway, touching, yet completely removed from the other’s sphere of existence. All tired; one sleeps, another yawns unrestrainedly, camera intruding into the folds of their bodies and limbs. The jowls of a weary vendor starkly outlined in one frame; in another, awash in colour, a young girl beams, unsullied by the cynicism in the silhouette of a Hell’s Kitchen cabbie.

Here, New York is the street preacher complacently acknowledging Miley Cyrus is God. Fingers weave through wire fencing outside a basketball court, the birthplace of borough dreams. The symmetry in bare Burton-esque tree limbs over Central Park; in tiny graffitied declarations of love for a space claimed as one’s own (Harlem) despite necessary acquiescence to a thousand others.

Turn the page, and New York is the unheeded illumination of streetlamps, passersby goose-stepping over potholes and the homeless on beaten paths, backs arched against the rain. Little Italy is a tattooed lumberjack and marauding children; SoHo a cheeky nod to the passing vanity of a maître d’. Pigeons assert their sidewalk dominance; a local stares at a sign proclaiming BEAUTY IN ESSEX as if neither belong in the Lower East Side. The American flag, looming large on buses, buildings and billboards, a composite of the people it obscures.

Manhattan’s in-joke, the extended shadows of sunset: I am taller than I am. Discounted food specials jostle for space with sidewalk angels, pedestrian warriors tracing and re-tracing their routes through the urban jungle in a race confined to the whims of the city. A smoke in a slant of sunlight; the orderliness of FedEx trucks in Chelsea, isolated in their berths, waiting to bridge connections.  Street artists, renegades who give New York it’s “trip-hammer vitality”, performing to an audience from the peripheries. A bird in flight between the glassy, unseeing facades of Wall Street. A succinct study of irony.

In Urban Race, Jimmy captures the pulse of Manhattan’s boroughs and bridges, parks and people and trees and skyline and early morning joggers with the hardened earnestness of an explorer. He “stalks”, as he describes it, people with “flair” (“Is that creepy?” Yes, Jimmy.) until he hammers the shutter home on the perfect moment.  He hunts, to use an apt and favoured term, for moments in which denizens of the world’s most famous megalopolis turn their isolation outward. And he eschews the instantaneity of digital photographs for film, recalling the tangible elements of captured moments, the prolonged anticipation of their emergence from the darkroom.

I hope you find what you are looking for.


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