Following Coney Island 40 Years (2011) and Harlem Street Portraits (2013), BRIEFLY SEEN is the last in Harvey Stein’s trilogy of books capturing, in stills, New Yorkers’ renown energy in their natural setting, the city. In this final work Stein’s attention focuses on midtown and downtown Manhattan.
Walking down a busy street in the heart of New York City surrounded by a sea of people in constant motion is a unique, sometimes daunting experience, for both a native New Yorker and a visitor. The walker must merge into a stream of humanity and become one with the crowd whose members forge ahead, engrossed in the daily rituals of getting to work, rushing to a meeting, grabbing lunch, catching a passing parade, or returning home to start the routine over again the next day. The great paradox of New York City, one of the most unequal cities on this planet, is that its streets are known to be an equalizer where for a moment people of all walks of life, ages, and ethnicities walk together as a unifying force before branching off to different destinations, dreams, hopes and objectives.
Stein, photographs the packed and pulsating streets of midtown and downtown Manhattan during peak hours of activity, day and night, including rush hour, to capture up close the theater of the everyday as it plays out on the streets. Stein walks with the crowd, melting into it with his camera, capturing the choreography of the singular density in black and white exclusively.
« As individuals in New York City, when we become part of the crowd, we lose our individuality if only for a few minutes and become part of the fabric and mosaic of the city. We are the city, we belong and are beholden to the city, our identity is expressed through and of the city. We can say that we are New York. » — Harvey Stein
To heighten the feeling of the movement, anxiety, and vigor of the streets, Stein employs a myriad of photographic techniques that bring to the work a complexity and gravitas that makes BRIEFLY SEEN an instant classic. He uses grain, blur, low-angle flash, skewed perspectives, tight cropping, and wide-angle views, to sweep the viewer into the experience and feel of walking the streets of New York. The book captures the spirit of the city where anything can happen and opportunity abounds.
Stein describes his work as « my response to the rough, raw, charged and even magical energy of New York City street life. I am attracted to the nuances of behavior and body language in public places, characteristic of the ‘walker in the city.’ »
Stein’s photographs and portfolios have been published in such periodicals as The New Yorker, Time, Life, Esquire, American Heritage, Forbes, Smithsonian, and all the major photography magazines. His photographs have been widely exhibited in the United States and Europe.