Perspectives Profile: Walter Wlodarczyk Captures NY's Dynamic Art Scene
If you need proof that New York’s underground art scene is not merely surviving but thriving—the photographs by Walter Wlodarczyk are sure to be it. For the past decade, the Brooklyn-based documentarian has been chronicling the independent art communities of New York, capturing the creative spirit that pulsates through the city’s five boroughs and, in effect, challenging the notion that New York’s DIY art scene is a thing of the past. Of course, much has changed since the ’70s when low rents saw artists taking up residency in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Yet, the need for artistic expression lives on, and, as Wlodarczyk’s work demonstrates, is as vibrant, experimental, and diverse as ever.
What do you enjoy most about taking photographs of your local environment?
Walter Wlodarczyk: Photography provides me with endless opportunities to explore the city and grow as a person. Whether I’m photographing on assignment or working on a personal project, I meet new people and learn so much every time I go out to shoot. The camera is a fantastic tool for engaging with the world, and fostering your curiosity and creativity. And it allows me to give something back, by preserving a bit of the life and work of everyone I photograph.
What influence does living in NYC have on your creative output?
WW: My creative output reflects the fact that there is so much going on in the city at all times. I shoot every single day if I can, but still know that I’m just scratching the surface of documenting life in the city. Being a photographer in New York requires lots of tough decisions about where to focus one’s time and energy. There are never enough hours to do all the work and tell all of the stories that I wish I could.
In what ways does your photography challenge perspectives in the literal and/or theoretical sense?
WW: I hope my work challenges the idea that New York City is no longer a magical place. It’s certainly more difficult to exist here than in the past, and the city has lost a great deal due to gentrification and inequity. But there is still so much magic in the city, especially if you’re open to exploring. I hope my photographs convey this, and make people excited about what’s happening in the city today. We can have reverence for the past while appreciating the present, and putting our support behind the people and places that still make New York City special.
Do you have a favorite photograph of New York taken by you or someone else?
WW: It’s so difficult to pick just one. Peter Hujar’s work was probably the single biggest inspiration behind my deciding to be a photographer, especially his photographs of the city and life at night. There’s a photo of Bruce Davidson’s Subway in which a teenager is riding between cars out over the water—all blues and grays—which is just magical. Of course, the entire book is incredible. I also love Peter Sutherland’s photograph of the graffiti writer REVS in his book Autograf. REVS is one of my favorite artists, and besides it being a great photograph, I don’t know of any other photographs of REVS period. It’s special on multiple levels.
What do you do when you’re not taking photographs?
WW: When I’m not making photographs, I’m probably out exploring the city, but even then, I’m still looking for photographs to make.
See more of Walter’s work—here.