This New York Street Photographer Took 30,000 Images in a Decade

Richard Bram’s new book, Richard Bram New York, published by Peanut Press,contains 51 photographs that were edited down from an astonishing 30,000 frames.

“This is not an exaggeration,” Bram wrote via email. “Editing is the other half of the skill equation. This is the hardest task for any photographer. … This is a very painful process.”

When Bram started thinking about putting together a book, he said it became clear that it should be like a greatest-hits album. He pulled images from 2005–15, with the majority coming from the latter five years. He feels it’s a summary of his time living in New York; he is currently preparing to return to London, where he has worked and taught off and on since the 1990s.

New York and London offer strong settings for street photography because they are both dense, with sidewalks teaming with people almost all of the time, Bram says. “In some ways, it is easier to work on the streets in New York,” he wrote. “It is so crowded that no one notices another guy with a camera in a city swarming with tourists. … There are more neuroses on view per square meter than any place I’ve ever been.”

Before moving to New York in 2008, Bram said most of his personal work had been shot in black and white. In 2010 he bought a Leica M9—“their first really practical digital rangefinder camera,” he says—and made a conscious decision to work in color.

“Color is much harder to do well,” he wrote. “Because we are swimming in a sea of color images, to make something that stands out, that has something to say, that handles the color within the frame, as well as the subject of the photo, is really difficult.”

Bram says he’s looking for scenes that are “wry and sharp,” which takes a lot of patience. Bram feels that a lot of street photography “is watching, seeing, and anticipating, not shooting everything that goes by. That’s like firing a shotgun up into the air and hoping that a bird flies by.”

“What I’m looking for in a photograph today is a ‘significant gesture.’ This for me is what can make a photo alive,” he says.

See more of Bram’s work in Slate: “The Glory Days of Big Hair in Kentucky