It’s understandably difficult to think of Manhattan as a cluster of neighborhoods, almost villages, given the city’s monolithic landscape of steel and glass. Manhattan photography of those distinct neighborhoods is another opportunity, however, to capture their historical significance and ever-evolving lifestyles. They are as varied, multi-layered and uniquely integrated as the people who live there and will provide you with the subject matter and action that should be a part of the photographic record of your time in the city.
Just north of the financial district and south of midtown is a classic collection of neighborhoods that welcomes your visit and your camera. Chelsea, Greenwich Village and TriBeCa to the west lead to SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown in the lower center of the island, with the East Village and the Lower East Side to the east. Here is a marvelous area of Manhattan to explore, with its historic, artistic, architectural and cultural ambience that defines in great measure what it means to be a New Yorker, or more specifically a citizen of Manhattan. You can approach your Manhattan photography of these neighborhoods like a hiking trip. Dress for walking, bring water and snacks and fill a backpack with your camera, lenses and other equipment. You can also travel by cab or subway from neighborhood to neighborhood, or join one of the city’s many walking and photo tours.
Chelsea has transformed itself from a rough-and-tumble neighborhood that was the haunt of burgeoning artists who had to live cheaply to a collection of some of the city’s finest art galleries, wonderful eateries and trendy nightspots. It only makes sense that Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas lived and created at the Chelsea Hotel, which was also the choice of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Walk and photograph from the High Line, a pedestrian walkway, with an unobstructed view of Chelsea streets.
A stroll of Canal Street that bisects TriBeCa from west to east and the intersecting byways will reveal a neighborhood of cast-iron architecture and cobblestone streets. Quiet and family-friendly by day, TriBeCa is home to art studios, such as Color Me Mine on Franklin Street that invites children to create ceramic pieces they can take home. Photographs of your children, as part of a hip, New York art community, are pictures to treasure. At night, TriBeCa throbs with a more adult and artistic energy. Famous restaurants, theaters and galleries generate a special kind of excitement that you must be quick to capture for your Manhattan photography.
SoHo borders TriBeCa on the east, and includes some of most ornate 19t-century, cast-iron buildings in the world. That architecture is also a unique artistic expression, and worthy subject matter for your photos. Don’t forget to take close-ups of the flamboyant designs in the columns and railings. SoHo is just as eclectic as any Manhattan neighborhood. It’s where many famous fashion designers weave their magic and the location of the stores that first introduce those designs. All that modern style contrasts with the lives that the loft artists of an earlier era still lead here.
Little Italy and Chinatown are famous Manhattan ethnic communities. Thankfully, the people there protect, celebrate and share their cultural origins openly. Schedule your Manhattan photography trip to these neighborhoods during their festivals and fairs to capture more of the authenticity, color and excitement of these neighborhoods. Visit the large marketplaces to photograph both the people and the foods and wares that are distinct to their cultures.
Millions may live there, but Manhattan is defined by the individual lives of the people who thrive, create and build community. Take to the streets of the neighborhoods with your digital camera to experience and record all the wonderful life.