From the students of Greenwich Village to the bankers of Wall Street, the thrill-seekers of Coney Island to the night owls dancing through life on the Upper East Side, New York City calls itself home to incredible people from all walks of life. Chasing the pavements of this beautiful, bizarre and bewildering city, camera in hand, street photographer Pedro Almeida captures city life in motion. Take a look at his amazing analogue snaps, and read more about his adventures in the Big Apple.
Hello, Pedro! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Please tell us a bit about yourself. What got you into photography?
I was born and raised in Portugal. When I got to my 20s, I started to travel extensively around Europe, eventually moving abroad. In 2015, I had the opportunity to work and live in the United States, where I’ve been travelling and working in different states, and eventually in 2016 I ended up moving to NYC for work. I was always into photography, but NYC was the big inspiration and what got me really into film and its different forms. The need to document the city and its life is what makes me pick up a camera wander every corner of this city.
You take the most amazing, vibrant shots of New York City. Has this spectacular city always been your home? What is it that makes you stay?
New York City is a place for everyone. No matter who you are, where you come from, you will fit here – and that’s something you can see on a daily basis. There’s a sense of freedom that allows you to be whatever you feel like, and consequently there coexists an immense diversity of people, all sharing the same subway bench. This is certainly something that I appreciate and I find very rich for any form of art, including photography.
What’s going through your head when you compose a frame? What is it that draws you to a particular person, or specific scene?
The subject, and the best position and camera settings to capture the scene, if I have time to do so. I don’t have many rules when comes to photographing. I tend naturally to follow my instinct. There're few moves that are taken into consideration when shooting, but most of the times I act intuitively. I’m into street photography – people’s lives and their natural behaviour. I search for their genuineness. I believe that’s a combination of the context I am living in and my personality. Certainly, it would have been different in another context and time of my life. And that’s also something that I really appreciate about photography – its variables and inconstancy. The photographer, context, camera, film, the whole process of film, scanning, etc. – there are many steps to creating a photo, and I let the variable nature of them have a role in the result.
From Coney Island to the streets of Manhattan, you’ve taken incredible images in every corner of New York City. Where is your favourite place to take pictures, and why?
I don’t have a favourite place to take pictures. I choose the places according to my mood to photograph. I usually go with the flow, and depending on how I’m feeling, I choose the place and get lost wandering around that area. The idea is to document the city and show the different sides of it, from the quiet remote neighbourhoods to the bustling main streets of Manhattan. Other than that, places with crowds of people and a lot of distractions are always good places to photograph without being noticed.
What does a typical day look like for Pedro Almeida? Where do you go, and what do you take with you?
I work from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm on weekdays. During the week, I am busy with work and I don’t have much time for photography. I usually have a camera with me, though, and when something interesting catches my attention I am always ready to capture it. After work, I always do something related to photography – developing film, scanning photos, retouching photos, organizing negatives, and so on.
Do you have a favourite shot that you’ve taken? Could you tell us a little about the story behind it, please, and why you like it so much?
This was taken in Astor Place/East Village, New York City.
The dichotomy of this picture and some of its elements represent the human life in different times and phases of life, and this is an example of a wide range of all sort of things that can be seen in NYC. An old man sits close to a newsstand that no longer serves its purpose but instead is being used as a pantry for this man’s belongings. His surroundings and his action of untying a rope throw us back to the basics and simplicity of being human. In the background, a young person leans on this newsstand and checks his phone – one of the things that caused newsstand decline and represents actual times. This happened in a busy street crowded with all kind of people walking by. These two people are so close to each other but seem so unaware of each other’s presence, and yet they are both wearing All Stars… There are certainly different possible interpretations for this photo, but I look at it as a representation of human-to-human connection, and the unconscious indifference that we assume towards this connection.
Some of your pictures have been compared to the work of incredible filmmakers including Wes Anderson. Is there anyone in particular that has inspired you along your photographic journey?
There are several photographers whose work I really appreciate and find inspiring, but I believe it's just on a spectator perspective – I don't know if their work interferes with my photographic journey and if it does, I don’t know how. Most of my captures are spontaneous and rarely pre-planned, meaning that I don’t try to imitate or follow other photographers’ steps. It sometimes happens that a few of my photographs remind me of others photographers’ work, but I guess that happens with many other people.
All of these beautiful pictures are taken on 35 mm film. Why do you shoot analogue? What do you think it brings to your work?
I enjoy the whole process of shooting analogue. It makes me feel more connected to the craft in general. The camera, type of film, development, scanning – each has its own singularity, but they also complement each other. I find analogue photography more sensorial, and therefore more engaging. I appreciate the dreamy, nostalgic feel that I can get with film tone and grain. I think it matches my photographic style.
We see from your @analogear Instagram account that you’re quite the camera expert! What’s the wildest camera you’ve ever come across, and why has it stuck in your memory?
I’ve always had a passion for analogue cameras and antique stuff in general. I started photographing on film because I was curious to know how analogue cameras are operated, and I wanted to get to know film and the whole process of creating a film image. Trying new types of cameras, lenses, settings, etc. was part of the learning process and continues to be.
Right now I'm looking at the cameras on my shelves and trying to come up with an answer for the wildest camera I've ever come across, and honestly, I do not know. I've seen and tried all kinds of film cameras. They are all unique in their own way, and all have something in common – their purpose. I enjoy and shoot with all of them, from the famous well-built Hasselblad to the unknown plastic Nimslo 3D camera.
What’s next for Pedro Almeida? Are there any exciting new film and camera combinations you’ll be testing out?
With regards to photography, I intend to continue learning about it and trying new things.
In the near future, I am thinking about working on a candid photo series of people, as well as a number of other photography projects, but I still need to structure my ideas and find the time and strength to start. Also, I would love to have my own darkroom to be able to do my own developing and printing.
We will see what comes next, but for sure I will keep taking a camera with me everywhere.
To see more of Pedro's captivating street photography, follow him on Instagram.
written by Martha Reed on 2019-01-03