Urban Images through a Native Eye

Photographing NYC with Joe Raskin

By Jack Raplee

When one thinks of New York City photography, the mind typically envisions depictions of Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building etc. While such imagery is fine for tourist brochures and websites, it hardly captures the vast dynamic of the five borough metropolis that makes the Big Apple unique among American cities. As with any cultural experience, New York is best understood by the people who live here. This is the true spirit of Joe Raskin's photography.

Joe Raskin as about as authentic a New Yorker as you can get. Born in Brooklyn, Raskin lived in Queens for a few years and now calls Chelsea (Manhattan) home. He spent his career working for the MTA and has even authored a book (Routes Not Taken; Joseph B. Raskin) documenting the extensive plans for the NYC Subway System that never ultimately materialized. Apart from these things, a conversation with Raskin yields an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the city, something undeniably present in his urban photography.

He traces his photographic interest to his time at York College in Jamaica, Queens when, while working on the school newspaper, he received a book featuring photographs of New York City in the 1930's with works by noted photographer, Berenice Abbott. "She captured the city as it was at the time," says Raskin. "That's essentially what I try to do with my photography."

While Abbott was a photographic inspiration for Raskin, he also cites the paintings of Edward Hopper as influential, and there is an undeniable element of that in his photographs. Raskin's work captures simple houses and buildings in all five New York City boroughs bringing exposure to the larger city to a wider audience.

Raskin's work has been featured at the New York City Transit museum and he has appeared himself on BronxNet television. His work can be seen extensively at http//:wanderingnewyork.tumblr.com