Zac Ong Presents the Dreamy Street Imagery of New York’s “Smokies”

All images by Zac Ong. Used with Creative Commons permission.

It’s a common sight for New Yorkers, but can nevertheless be an eye-catching one. Senior Design Technologist Zac Ong introduces the rest of us to one of the most familiar scenes of his city: smoke pipes dotting the streets, which create a particularly fascinating imagery for street photography. While we’ve seen a lot of New York City’s skyscrapers and bustling urban scenes, we think this set are easily great additions to our favorite snaps of the city so far.

Ong’s Smokies New York is comprised of a mix of color and black and white street photos, all showing slices of city life with the addition of dreamy mist surrounding the frames. This is made possible by the steam rising from the streets — something that is most likely perplexing for non-New Yorkers. It’s easy to mistake it as fog, but look closer and you’ll see that some of the shots are a dead giveaway of steam coming from the vents below. This misty display becomes even more prominent during the winter — precisely the time of the year when this set was taken.

The photos look extra dramatic in black and white, but it’s also fun to see an extra  pop of color in some of the color shots. To make things more interesting, Ong also made some cinemagraph versions of some photos.

But we’re sure some of you are still wondering, why does New York City have steam vents on the streets? We’ve got that covered for you as well. According to Citylab, while not as iconic as the skyscrapers, the plumes of steam rising from beneath the streets are still a big part of the cityscape. The steam comes out either from the manhole covers or giant white and orange tubes, from the world’s largest network of steam pipes. These deliver steam to nearly 2,000 buildings across the city to keep them warm and heat up water during the winter, or power cooling systems during the summer.

Don’t forget to visit Zac Ong’s website and Behance portfolio to see more of his photography projects.