The Urban Photographers of New York City

Instagram has led to the rise and fame of many urban explores and photographers working in New York City, mainly in New York’s Manhattan area. Often not revealing their real names, they are only know by their Instagram headers, the most famous of these photographers are ‘Kostennn,’ ‘Demidism’ and James Lanning. They all explore the shut off areas of New York to produce stunning images of their findings, many of them have also been arrested due to the illegal nature of their actions.  In a Youtube documentary on why they explore Kostennn said ‘The reason why I explore is because these places are relatively easy to get to, and it amazes me that so many people don’t get to see these places, because they’re are hidden from the public.’


These photographers risk their lives to discover what people are not allowed to see and document that process, their photos are modern take on documentary photography, instead of photographing wars and news stories they are choosing to shoot things much closer to home that people are not even aware of. On multiple occasions these photographers have been arrested because of trespassing and reckless endangerment but instead of putting them off it has gained them more notoriety, and on-line attention and given them more of a reason to explore.


All of the Urban explorers put great effort into making their photographs technically as good as possible so they take the same care as a professional photographers in both shooting and editing. In a Youtube documentary on urban exploration Vic.invades says ‘Photography came first, Urban exploration came later.’ So at the core they are all photographers that have found something that they love to shoot, you can see this passion and dedication in their images as well as in their personal lives as many of them of have been arrested during shooting. The images these photographers produce are only touched up in Photoshop and not highly edited, in the on-line documentaries I have watched all of them are aware of the best ways to get the shot the desire, this is due to the intense use of their cameras with most of them using their cameras on a daily basis. Demidism said ‘At first I shot on auto, and eventually the people I met gave me tips and I started to shoot on manual and I learned how to use my camera to it’s full potential.’ This shows that they help to develop each others skills and develop each other ideas and what they’re able to shoot as a result, this is why their early images just show them climbing buildings, these images have developed to become more of an art as they incorporate things like long and multiple exposures.


The Work these photographers produce is more for their own fascination than anything else, when they first started they didn’t shoot to earn money they wanted to find out what hasn’t been seen before and they still work like this now. Social media has revolutionised how these photographers work it now means that anyone can see their images and interact with the photographers themselves, instead of the images been exclusively seen at a gallery by a few hundred people their work can been seen at any time by anyone opening them up to new audiences. Instagram is the platform that has been the most successful in promoting their work and they have even risen to fame on the site, I believe that a real trend is showing where photographers are beginning to move online with their work and photographers like Kostennn and Demidism are examples of how successful this can be.


I love the work of these photographers as their work is very unique, from the way that they have to shoot the images to the final image I love the way these photographers work. They way it exposes the public to photography as a whole is one of the best things about their work, its so easy to find on social media meaning anyone can see their work and exposes the public to the photographic community. My favourite images by these photographers involve their long exposures, it adds a surreal theme to photos that if they were shot normally would be quite standard and boring. The best use of long exposures are the ones shot in New York’s underground subway system, they’ve used the lights of passing trains to give of light trails which works really well in the confined spaces of the subway systems.


It’s not only the populated buildings these photographers visit, they also visit the abandoned buildings with in New York. This is where some of there best images are taken, unlike the images taken in areas of New York where they can get caught they have the time to make the images perfect. The images taken in the abandoned sections of New York are the most technically perfect in terms of photographic techniques such as framing. Often these photographs have more meaning than their other work, I feel that the other photos are taken to show what cant usually be seen in New York but these images show their connection to not only the buildings but photography as a whole. The images below of James Lanning Below really shows my point as the way it is shot feels as we looking in on him during one of his shoots.