Photographer James Emmerman Captures NYC Locals in Nostalgic Portrait Series


Summer isn’t over yet, but our friends at already hopping on the nostalgia train for a little reminiscing magic courtesy of photographer James Emmerman. Investigating what he calls “the liminal space between the inner and outer selves,” Emmerman photographed dozens of New York City locals—each dressed in their favorite clothing—in order to present one of the most sincere portraits of NYC we’ve ever seen. Hear from Emmerman himself on the vision behind the project:

I’ve spent the summer working on this series of character portraits: posed images that investigate the liminal space between the inner and outer selves, resulting in a visual characterization of each subject that straddles the line between documentary and fine art photography. My practice is heavily based on my infatuation with this relationship—whether images beautifully frame reality, or turn reality into a beautiful frame.  

Many of the subjects in this series I met while shooting nightlife in New York. Because of that, my process tends to be equal parts technical artistry and community based. I gave little direction to my subjects before the shoot, simply to bring some favorite clothing. After spending some time with them we then worked collaboratively through the styling, posing, and creative direction for each shoot. 

In general, much of my work exists within queer and non-binary culture, though no specific identity is the focus of this series. Instead, it’s my hope that any impulse to define the subjects of these portraits fades, and that a deeper impulse to simply see and feel them, as I did, takes hold. My subjects are presented as people; my series is an exploration of beauty in every form, nothing more or less. 


Subjects (alphabetically): Arta, Bailey Stiles, Ben Ross, Boy Radio, Davie Kaim, Emilio Martinez Poppe, Eric Roger Lemay, Gabe Morales, Graham Bailey, Grisha Basov, Hunter Speese, Issa Israel, Jack Meriwether, Ky Naylor, Lea Rios, Mariah Rine, Merlot, Mikhail Zalesky, Mitchell Harrison, Naomi Elizée, Niccolò Walsh and Sam Gamberg.

All images courtesy of James Emmerman; Creative Support from Davie Kaim and Emily Lipson

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