PERFECT STRANGERS: NEW YORK CITY STREET PHOTOGRAPHS by Melissa O’Shaughnessy
Published by Aperture, 2020
Hardcover, 144 pages, 91 Color Images, 10″ x 11.5″
Following in the street-photography tradition of Helen Levitt, Alex Webb, and Vivian Maier, O’Shaughnessy captures the kinetic bustle of the changing streets and passing crowds in New York City. Over the last seven years, O’Shaughnessy has photographed daily on the streets of New York. Through her curious and quirky vision, we witness the play of human activity on the glittering sidewalks of the city. Woven into her cast of characters are the lonely, the soulful, and the proud. She has fallen for them all—perfect strangers.
The book is a celebration of contemporary city life, as well as an homage to the chaotic rush of New York City: the intersection of businessmen and tourists, shoppers and grand dames, with families frozen in confusion, wonder, pain, frustration, sometimes even joy. It is also a reminder of the city’s energy and diverse and captivating life, at a time when its streets have been altered by the Covid-19 crisis.
Perfect Strangers: New York City Street Photographs contains more than ninety color photographs and is accompanied by an introduction by Joel Meyerowitz.
As one of a growing number of women street photographers contributing to this dynamic genre, O’Shaughnessy enters the territory with clarity and a distinctly humanist eye, offering a refreshing addition to the tradition of street photography.
“This is a book that shows you what street photography looks like when it’s played at the highest level.”
“Great to see this street photography book come to life, after many years of looking at books made by men photographing New York, finally we have a book by a woman, the pictures ooze style and grace and look different to her male counterparts photographs, which is a very good thing. Wonderful sense of gesture and color, certain to become a classic of the genre.”
“[O’Shaughnessy’s] images capture the diversity and energy of New York, as well as the beauty and humanity of the people she encountered. Through them we can see O’Shaughnessy’s sense of humor and the deep empathy she seems to have toward her subjects. Perfect Strangers does the soul good and is a reminder that no so long ago, the streets looked totally different than they do today.”
The effect with O’Shaughnessy’s work is something theatrical, but with too much feral energy and unexpected convergences to be choreographed, even as the images yield a kind of polyphony, or at least a surprising intelligibility about urban mixing.
“O’Shaughnessy has a fondness for strong female characters in the city….
Collectively these women assume a starring role which is unusual in a street photo book.”
~Blake Andrews, Collector Daily
“This book serves to capture what life looked like on the streets of New York before the pandemic hit:
a heady bustle of families, tourists, businesspeople and shoppers.”
~Selected as one of the best new art books of Autumn, 2020 by the Financial Times
Melissa O’Shaughnessy takes on perhaps the world’s most street-photographed location. Because New York has been photographed so often, it’s exceedingly difficult for a photographer to find a voice there….Happily, O’Shaughnessy has found a wonderful style and voice for her work.
This collection finds a new insight and every page is a joy.
~W. Scott Olsen, Frames Magazine