Armed with an iPhone and the power of observation, Ditmas Park resident Andrew B. White has been prolifically documenting his wanderings through Brooklyn via Instagram. His photos reveal the unique yet ubiquitous characters of southern Brooklyn through honest, vignette-like portraits and landscape shots that capture both the neighborhoods’ respective characters and their familiar storefronts.
Today we got a chance to talk with White, who recently completed a showing of some of his photos at Windsor Terrace’s Dub Pies, about his photography, Brooklyn, and what got him into shooting pictures in the first place.
Tell me about the photo of the two men sitting on crates in front of the lemonade sign.
They were just sitting there, watching the world go by.
What’s your favorite part about photographing southern Brooklyn?
It’s really discovering the neighborhoods. As you walk through those areas, you’ll find you have little pockets of residents who live in each area and as you move through things change a little bit but there’s also a consistency. Everyone is interacting. I find that a great thing to see.
Being in the city, a lot of people walk, or they walk to the subway, or to the bus, so we’re often walking through our neighborhoods. If you’re in an area in a different part of the country where everyone drives, you often miss out on seeing your own neighborhood and other neighborhoods. You don’t stop, you just keep going and you miss out on a lot of what’s going on.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to photograph?
That’s a real tough one. I do love Coney Island, for many obvious reasons, and I try to photograph it at different times of the year as well, so it’s not just the summer. I’ve taken a few photos in the dead of winter, in snowstorms down there, when the whole beach is covered in snow. A lot of people don’t believe you when you say it’s Coney Island, because they picture it as a summer place.
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How did you get started taking photos?
I’ve always been interested in taking photos. I’ve been a graphic designer for most of my life and I’ve had the opportunity to work with photographers, so I’ve always had a visual thing going on. It was really with the advent of the iPhone around 2008 that I found I always had a camera with me and that basically allowed me to take photos without having to think, did I remember to bring a camera with me?
Even though the quality wasn’t that great to start with, you still get some interesting results. So I’ve continued down that track; the iPhone is pretty much all I shoot with these days. The good thing about iPhones is people are less intimidated because everybody has one. If you have a big camera, you have to carry it around with you, so just using a cameraphone gives you less to worry about and you just concentrate on getting the photo.
How’d you end up in Brooklyn?
I’m originally from New Zealand. My wife and I and our son relocated here about three years ago for some work opportunities.
What’s the best picture you didn’t take?
There’s been quite a few. I was recently in the city and there was a woman who was spectacularly dressed in a fantastic costume. I don’t know if she was a performer or just extravagantly dressed, and I walked back and tried to get a shot and looked back later and saw that it was completely blurry.
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Brooklyn has been photographed so many times over, what tips do you have on capturing the borough in a unique way?
While taking a photo with a camera may not be a new thing, the way you take those photos and put yourself into those photos can make the results seem if not new than different from other photographers. I think that especially when you’re photographing street photography it’s so easy to walk past things that you walk past everyday and ignore them or not think they’re very special, so it’s a matter, as a photographer, to find a new way of looking at things and showing them. Something that can make you a better photographer is knowing what’s around you and trying to take a photo of it that expresses where you are, or show people something new about a place that they live, or just reinforce that the place they live is what it is.