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Working in the City

Updated: May 7, 2019

When the tourists come out at night, this street dancer goes to work.

On a recent trip to NYC I was enjoying the nightlife along with thousands of other tourists when I started noticing that we were not alone. As many tourists as there were in the city, there were also many people working. At that point I made it my mission to look for opportunities to photograph people working in the city. As one fascinated with people in general, I could think of no better place to people watch than the Big Apple.

I saw a crowd forming and went to see what all the hubbub was about. These street performers were energetic and entertaining, and pretty soon had a captive audience. They twisted, turned, and balanced in what appeared to be impossible positions. They seemed to be having fun. But make no mistake, although they were on the street and not in one of the fancy Broadway theaters, they were still working their stage. I was intrigued watching them.

Street performer defying gravity

This street performer wows tourists with his moves.

I saw some of New York's finest watching over the city. These men are NYPD Counterterrorism officers. It's their job to keep the city safe. Despite it being a tough job in an even tougher city, these men couldn't have been nicer to me. They were very friendly and even allowed me to take their photo. The city is fortunate to have men like this as protectors.

Sergeant Timothy Brown and his colleague helping keep the city safe at night

Transportation is big business in the city. There are an estimated 13,000+ yellow cabs alone in the NYC. And this doesn't account for Uber and Lyft drivers, black cars, livery cars, or commuter vans. The cab driver pictured above caught me taking his photo while waiting at a light and gave me a thumbs up. (I was thankful it wasn't a different finger)

I spoke to the driver pictured on the left. He is from Bangladesh and like so many other drivers, came to America hoping to create a better future for his family. Most can't afford to live in the city so they commute in and work long hours before heading back home to their families. The streets are always clogged and it's always a challenge, but they are grateful for the opportunity.

Another fun way for tourists to see the city is on a pedicab. Drivers earn an average of $25K per year, which is about half of what it costs for an individual to live in the city. A typical pedicab weighs 300 pounds empty and with passengers, can weigh an additional 300 pounds. Drivers need to be healthy enough to drive 6-8 hours a day.

This carriage driver came from Turkey to work in the big city.

His co-worker, Midnight is a native.

I spoke to this musician who shared with me that he'd been down on his luck. He got caught up using drugs and alcohol but says he's clean now and is looking to make a living playing music. He plays wherever he can.

These folks had traveled from Ukraine, Canada, and Montana just to be able to hold up these signs and spread the love of Jesus Christ. They were each headed back home the following day.

This couple was technically NOT working when I met them. But her skin was flawless and I just HAD to photograph her. It turns out she is a makeup artist who works in the city!

Among the many talented people in the city was this man - a sketch artist. He was sketching a tourist when I came upon him. The streets of NY serve as his studio.

Among the many talented people in the city was this man - a sketch artist. He was sketching a tourist when I came upon him. The streets of New York serve as his studio.

I spotted this stormtrooper in the city doing. . . well, I guess whatever it is that stormtroopers do!

With 8.6 million residents and another 60 million visitors every year, NYC couldn't be the city it is today without its many sanitation workers! This guy seemed content and focused on his job.

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