Bruce Davidson, Elliot Erwitt, Rebecca Lepkoff, Jill Freedman, Martha Cooper… these are just some of New York’s iconic street photographers. And Cheryl Dunn, another great New York street photographer brings their stories together through documentary Everybody Street.
An artist “who makes documentary films and photos as my creative outlet and career,” Cheryl Dunn has been out there since the 1990s. Having been documenting New York street life, Cheryl presents the urban lifestyle through her photographs. With several photo books out, Cheryl have also held various exhibits throughout the United States. With quite a handful on her plate, she decides to work on a documentary about New York’s most iconic street photographers entitled Everybody Street. Let’s know more about her work and her documentary below!
You are both a filmmaker and a photographer currently based in New York City. Can you tell us something about your career?
I started my career as a still photographer. Most of my pictures were infused with motion and energy so filmmaking was a natural progression. I studied art history in college not knowing what I really wanted to do. At 24, I worked on a still shoot and was totally engaged in every way that I decided to go in that direction. I quit my job and moved to Europe for two years to pursue photography as a way to make a living. After many years of working as an assistant and then getting my own assignments, I was commisioned to make a film for a snowboarding company in 1997. And since then I have really been doing both film and photography pretty equally. The two forms really inform each other and I usually combine the disiplines in what I do.
Why did you choose to focus on street photography?
I like the energy of the street, I like the chance of anything appearing before your eyes, I like the challenge because it is really hard to get a great street photo .
Cheryl shares to us some of her street photography work.
A flag as big as a house. Crossbay Expressway, New York. Shot after hurricane Sandy.
Boat on highway. Rockaway, New York.
Please tell us something about your documentary “Everybody Street.”
This film was initially a commission from the Seaport Museum of New York. it played during the duration of an Alfred Steiglitz exhibition. I wanted to make a film about the medium of street photography and the living masters who were the early pioneers as well as great artist that came after them.
With that said, you’ve worked with several awesome street photographers in this documentary! How was the experience?
Me and my team rolled into Bruce Davidson upper west side apartment at the end of summer. When I went to the bathroom, I discovered this awesome darkroom through another door. It was like peering through the wardrobe to Narnia, just then my phone flipped out of my hand and into the toilet. I was already nervous to start the interview and was running late and now this! I came out and his lovely wife got me a bag of rice to put the phone in. After the interview, we hit the streets through a subway stop that was right by his door and he agreed to be shot in the station. Little by little, I asked him for more, "how about getting on the train one more stop?” He saw me loading my difficult-to-load 16mm Beaulieu and sympathetically said, “don’t rush, we can ride more.” In the end, my phone came back to life and I am able to say that I dropped my phone in Bruce Davidson’s toilet.
Here are some photographs of featured street photographers in Everbody Street, sent to us by Cheryl.
So you’ve shot the film on 16mm! That’s just awesome but at the same time, quite costly and challenging! Why did you shoot in this format when digital filming is so accessible nowadays?
I like the quality and I was trying to present a filmic representation of the streets during the time when a lot of these photographers [featured in the film] were doing the bodies of work we were featuring. I try to shoot film as much as i can .
How was the process of making this film? Did it take you long?
Yes, it went on for three years. Very challenging! It is hard to make a film with this many characters and give the audience enough of each. I am still working on licensing and after completing the film, there is the job of getting it into the world in the best way [possible.]
Where did the film premiere? How was the audience’s reception to it?
The film premiered in Toronto in April at HotDocs. The audience seemed to love it. We sold-out screenings and were ranked by the audience in the top 20 at one point out of 200+ films in the festival. There were many photographers and with Instagram and the [convenience] of people to enjoy the act of taking pictures, I think the interest in photography is larger than before.
Are there more screenings for Everybody Street? Future plans for this project?
Yes we are doing more festivals and working on our distribution now.