Ex-MTA Employee-Turned-Photographer Highlights New York’s Overlooked Daily Treasures
This week’s Brooklyn Business Owners Spotlight Series features Joe Raskin, a retired Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations at MTA New York City Transit, who picked up a camera and began capturing the once-overlooked streets of Brooklyn.
We’ve all seen them. Tourist-hyped photos of the New York City skyline, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Central Park.
Ask any New Yorker and they’ll tell you these popular landmarks certainly have meaning, but they don’t tell the whole story of what New York is all about.
That’s why Wandering New York, a photoblog run by hobbyist photographer Joe Raskin, aims to reveal New York’s not-so-hidden gems — neighborhoods that are easily accessible by public transit but aren’t highlighted often enough.
“It’s strictly a matter of improvisation,” Raskin says about choosing a photo location. “My usual plan is to start from Point A and get to an undetermined point B. I’m always curious to see what’s a block or two over and don’t want to plan that much. If I have to think about an image too much beforehand, it won’t be worth the effort.”
The ex-MTA employee’s source of photo inspiration are – you guessed it – the subways, along with “everyday life, the buildings, the neighborhoods.”
Raskin retired from the MTA in 2015 and then pursued photography as a full-time hobby.
Upon picking up a camera and setting out on daily explorations, he “gained a new appreciation” for Crown Heights, the neighborhood he grew up in.
“My aim is to take photographs from a tourist's viewpoint, although where I go to take pictures aren’t necessarily tourist spots,” Raskin told BBO.
“Sometimes it seems as if most of the people who are walking over the Brooklyn Bridge are doing it to walk halfway across, take pictures and go back to Manhattan. Not as many people seem to be walking across the bridge to get someplace. It’s the exact opposite on the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges (and, truth be told, the view is better).”
Raskin’s ultimate goal is to find meaning in the mundane and highlight it on Wandering New York.
“I’ll see something, and a photograph comes to mind,” Raskin says. “What people see… because it’s there everyday, and take for granted as a result is what I see as a photographic subject.”
“A lot of the feedback that I get from the photographs are memories that people have of the subject. I didn't expect that, but it's great.”
Raskin is the author of a book, The Routes Not Taken, A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System, published by the Fordham University Press.
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