Two months, an iPhone and the right frame of photographic mind were the ingredients of Hemingway’s great granddaughter giving visuals to the story of the New York City streets. We met in Strand Book Store as I was looking for a collection of short stories, which led to this story and discovering her exhibition at Think Coffee in Union Square. Now this Woman and her City.
c: You identify as a writer. But, you are also a photographer. How did these street captures begin?
Cristen Hemingway Jaynes: I got lucky. I walked down the street and I think I was in the right frame of mind and so this began happening all of the time.
c: What specifically was happening?
CHJ: I realized there was so much beauty in the city. When I saw Vivian Maier here in New York, I was in a way, like, paying tribute to all of these things. There’s no other place that has made me feel like this before.
c: With so much life on the streets, how did you determine which images you would capture and then curate for the exhibit?
CHJ: Brighton beach inspired me. I’m not sure why, but getting off the Q train and being on the beach in New York with people there, is a very beautiful image to me. The beach, its whitewashed and its like being in black and white, which is what most of the series is in.
c: I love that it is mostly in black and white, that’s how I feel I see- it’s like my default color.
CHJ: I like black and white. And, really bright colors. But black and white is kind of uncomplicated. It’s like stripping a photograph of everything else, its complexity.
c: There are thirteen images in your exhibition. Are there favorites?
CHJ: I love the one with the couple on the beach. And the one of the street performer – its in color – she’s always here in the area. For certain reasons, I knew that some had to be in there. It was about which were the strongest images, which were a balance of emotion.
c: Speaking of emotion, it feels like the photos are all taking around the same time period, in the day, with the exception of a couple.
CHJ: Yes. I usually took them between 2-4 p.m. The light is really good. And, should I say this? I took them all on iPhone.
c: Yes you should. There is no shame in that. I love that. And, look where they are now, on exhibit, at Think Coffee. Are you a coffee drinker at all?
CHJ: I started making espresso in Seattle, at 15. I learned how to make every traditional espresso drink from a man in a little room and that’s how I fell in love with espresso. But, I’ve developed a sensitive stomach so I had to quit.
c: Sorry. Well, it seems you still like the culture of being in a coffee shop. What do you think the value of art to coffee shops is?
CHJ: It’s like a neighborhood museum, they’re community centers. People go to coffee shops to study, to be with friends, to feel relaxed and to feel at home. Art helps to do that. And, I go to places like this one and Molasses Books well, because it makes me feel comfortable.
For more of Cristen’s work, visit her here.