AS the saying goes, there are eight million stories in the naked city. But sometimes what’s more telling is all that those souls leave behind. The remnants of humanity live on in the simple flourishes, banal trappings, shadows cast and layers of paint that decorate the city’s walls.
A collage of smiling graduates through the years. Stacks of expensive sneakers, carefully backlit. A teenager’s trophies. A taxidermist’s trophies. A new immigrant’s hovel, a clock hung still in its box, near a faded family picture from a faraway home.
You see a lot of disparity among the images: things that are luxurious, like the sneakers, and things that are utilitarian. How much thought goes into some walls and how other presentations are more visceral.
At the Bronx apartment of Tika Chapagai, a new immigrant from Bhutan, behind the clock you can see the layers of paint and imagine those who came before. In the Gravesend, Brooklyn, bedroom of Omika Jikaria, a Stuyvesant High School student who has been competing in beauty pageants since she was 5, a timeline of a young life emerges.
Such intimate still lifes are not a new concept; Walker Evans created similar photographs of personal objects in the 1930s. We look back nostalgically at those images and say, “What a fascinating world they lived in.” I wanted to apply that to the world we live in now — look how interesting the furniture is, things we take for granted — to try to be nostalgic about the present.