All images and text by Nei Valente. Used with permission.
“Fifth Avenuers” is a visual registry of people and moments from one of the most iconic avenues in the world. It captures the vibrancy created by the mix of people who walk along the street that divides Manhattan into east and west. Some of the most famous museums in New York—like MoMA, the Met, and the Guggenheim—attract art-conscious locals and tourists alike. Others are attracted to Fifth Avenue by its proximity to Central Park and the ostentatious, tall buildings that line the avenue, including the Empire State and Flatiron buildings, Rockefeller Center, and Trump Tower. Those who can afford to, shop along one of the most well-known and high-end shopping streets in the world. Store employees, construction workers, and street vendors are combined, and sometimes contrasted, with the people who work in the tall buildings and walk on the avenue during their commute. To further add to the energy and bustling atmosphere, the street hosts important events like the LGBT Pride March, Puerto Rican Day Parade, and St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
For a couple of months, I walked along Fifth Avenue trying to capture the specific things that encapsulated the vibrancy of the avenue. If you paint a canvas with fifty black dots and add just one red dot, your painting is no longer about the fifty black dots. But it’s also not about the red dot. The painting is about the relationship of the fifty dots that looks the same with that one different red dot. That’s what I had in mind when photographing the avenue during my lunch breaks. I was always imagining the street as a canvas and trying to include in my photos the interactions and people that would be the red dot, representing a specific moment on Fifth Avenue. Because, to accurately represent a place, you can’t photograph only the ordinary people and scenes, but also capture what contrasts with the normality and thus makes that place special enough to be photographed.
Why did you get into photography?
I work with graphic design and art direction. Visual arts was always part of what I do. Street Photography was the way that I found to connect my work with my life in the city.
What photographers are your biggest influences?
DiCorcia, Bruce Gilden, Alex Webb
How long have you been shooting?
Why is photography and shooting so important to you?
It’s what makes me feel creative, but also it makes me read about and get to know so many places. I started to see places in a different way.
Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?
I guess that it’s hard to define the line. Even if I try to represent specific places I recognize that the moments and composition that I get not necessarily reflect what is really happening on that moment.
What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?
It changes in every project, but there is an ideal process. When a place gets my attention to photograph I read about the place. With that I’ll know what I’m looking for. Depending on what I want the technique changes, but if I’m looking for specific lights I usually find the light first and then wait until the moment. But some other projects depends more on the action or a specific subject. So I try to use the light in the best way that I can to capture that moment.
Tell us about the project that you’re pitching, or your portfolio.
I photographed this project during my lunch breaks. Fifth avenue caught my attention since I moved to NY. So I started to go there every lunch break.
What made you want to get into your genre?
When I used to work only on graphic design personal projects I would have the feeling that I was losing my life inside an apartment on a nice day. I still love design, but photography lets me explore the city while I’m photographing. My camera is a really good friend when I’m walking alone in the city.
Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.
I photograph with multiple cameras. For this project I used a small Sony RX100 IV. It’s compact enough so I could always have with me and leave my agency during the lunch break to photograph. It worked really well for me.