What does NYC mean to you?
NYC means many things, but there are some feelings that I have maintained my whole life, going all the way back to looking at this magically glowing city from across the Hudson River, as teenager in suburban New Jersey, knowing I just had to be THERE. My heart would race when I was in the city. First it was just about being there, then observing the art, music, action on the streets, then participating in the history – and sharing that history in the things I made. NY was and always will be the city of the world where anything is possible, filled with every kind of person. There’s nothing and no place better.
How does NY ignite your fire/ propel you to action?
I think it was fortunate not to have been born here, but to have desired to be here. NY is designed to break you. It can be about things just out of your reach, or too expensive or too competitive. But why do something easy? The harder it was, the harder I had to work to survive. I had no one looking over my shoulder, no one expecting anything from me. That was and is a great freedom – freedom to make mistakes, freedom to experiment. I learned by doing and doing. I love NY art history and reading about artists that came here to be who they needed to be at all cost – the ones who had the drive to go for it hard no matter what other people said.
What is your purpose as a photographer?
A photographers’ role changes all the time. As technology rapidly evolves so does a photographers’ purpose. I believe my purpose is to make my viewer feel something. To make images that pose questions. To make images that make you stop and wonder what is going on inside, and outside of the frame. But ultimately to make images that touch a nerve, that make you laugh or make you cry, that present truth.
What do you seek to document?
My documentary work spans from artists and athletes, to people voicing their first amendment rights ie: protest. Any time I can be on the streets shooting is the best day I can think of. I’m definitely into helping people express their voices with my imagery.
Cheryl Dunn is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who lives and works in New York City. She has spent a large part of her career documenting the city streets and the people who strive to leave their mark: graffiti-writers, artists, skaters, boxers, bikers and other assorted characters. Her feature–length documentary “Everybody Street” profile some of the most accomplished street photographers of the last century, that have used NYC as their major subject.