Daniel Arnold may just be one of the most important names in contemporary street photography. Known for his raw takes on New York City life, he leaves no detail glamorized and allows himself to get into their personal space -- a task only for the fearless shooters in the concrete jungle.
There's something distinct in his rich oeuvre. Many among his photographs are curious encounters and odd coincidences, though not too odd to be larger than reality. The way a lady uses a store front to retouch her make-up, or a group of kids trying to be 'cool' in the subway, a kid strangely trying to fit himself in a column down at the platform... headscratchers yet smirk-makers, they are.
Allow Daniel himself to welcome you into his world.
Hi Daniel, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, describe your own version of New York for us. What's it like for a street photographer?
It's like a Fuddruckers.
Share us your favorite spot to photograph. Which place/s are your most frequented for the best street shoots?
There's no good answer to this question. If the sun is in your eyes, turn around.
Do you believe in Henri Cartier-Bresson's 'decisive moment'? If yes, what makes a moment worth an image?
Yeah I believe in his decisive moment, but for the sake of conversation, I saw an exhibition of his India pictures recently. They're beautiful. Very impressive, high difficulty, crazy unheard-of access, etc. etc. I had an out of town guest along and it was dark and raining, so after India we take a cab up to Stephen Shore's show at the MoMA. And after all those impossible shots of Gandhi dying and the elephants and all that well-lit fabric, we come into dead silent Stephen Shore where I end up crying at an action-less photo of a movie marquee, because it tells the heart of a sad, sweet guy.
So on this particular day, SS's stony romance struck deeper than HCB's swashbuckling, but both ways work. And a photographer makes a moment worth an image.
There are so many interesting people you've surely encountered as proven by your oeuvre. Do you have any memorable experience/s while on the field?
Sure, you want me to think of one? Uhhh... The other day I was following these three high school kids walking alongside Union Square because I was on a Valentine's Day-themed scavenger hunt, and one of these kids was carrying a dozen red roses and two pink balloons the size of therapy balls. Wait, this story has lots of bad language. Hmm... I believed in God for about 7 minutes on a motorcycle in Africa, very Midwestern of me, but that story is really long. I have a good Bill Clinton story. Oh and a -- oh wait, I know. OK.
So this is before I was working as a photographer. I was probably like 28 and I was writing bios and blogs and that kinda thing for MTV.com. Little articles. And one day I was hungover splashing water on my face and that whole routine in the bathroom, grumbling around all irritated, and I come out into the hallway after where a cluster of anxious people is blocking the door and I can't get past them without being touched.
So I surrender and turn in the direction they're all facing and there's this entourage coming toward us down a long hall divided by an elevator bank. I squint at a tall guy in the middle and realize that it's Snoop Dogg, and just as that registers, he breaks into this like smooth cartoon wolf strut, locks eyes with me, and sings "Owner of a lonely heart," in a falsetto like Yes, "much better than a..." still looking me in the eye, presumably because I look miserable, pausing only to grab the door handle, "owner of a broken heeeeeeeeart," which he trails off long enough to get himself through the door to the elevator bank, and disappears.
It was incredible. And then I looked down and found a hundred dollar bill.
If you can liken New York to anything (whether thing, place, or person, fictitious or not), what would it be, and why?
New York is like Los Angeles but a lot lot better. Just kidding I love Los Angeles, but only because I live in New York.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Whom are your muses?
The apocalypse, my family.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, who would it be?
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
In my downtime I work. Work work work. That's it. Very cool guy.