Interview with Reuben Radding

Reuben Radding is a Rome Photography Workshop tour leader in New York City. His passion for street photography is evident in his prolific black and white imagery around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Rome Photography Workshop encountered Reuben in NYC while we were there for the NYC Pop-Up workshop sessions in 2017 – and knew he would be a super addition for our clients in NYC.  Read more about him here.

Photo of Reuben Radding by Lloyd Wolf.
How long have you lived in New York?

I moved to NYC in 1988, and other than a short break in the late 90’s, I’ve been here ever since. I hope I’ll live here the rest of my life! It’s changed a lot since the 80s, but it still has the pulse of life and richness of variety and diversity I love.

Where are the top places you traveled and photographed in the world?

New York is still my favorite, but I have had great times shooting in Lisbon, Portugal, and more recently in Scotland. The more I photograph, the more I see pictures anywhere I go. I like to be in places that surprise me, where it feels like there’s much to be discovered. If I feel like I really know a place I don’t feel the compulsion to photograph. One of the reasons I never get tired of shooting in New York is that you can never know it completely. There’s always surprises, and changes.

Who was your top influence / teacher of photography?

The photographs that crystallized my expectations and aesthetics in photography were made in the classic LIFE Magazine era, and all the great Magnum photographers had a big influence, but I was also absorbing a lot from some of the great rock ‘n’ roll photographers like Anton Corbijn. Of my teachers, I would have to name Jeff Jacobson as the most important to me. He really helped me to see my work differently. It isn’t easy to get out of one’s preconceptions about what picture you think you’re supposed to make, and Jeff understands that the best work comes from ignoring these restrictive assumptions about genre or story, to find your own pictures.

What is the trickiest part about doing photography in NYC?

Everything happens so fast. You have to be ready to pounce on a moment. Also, the ever-present challenge of making something fresh in a city that’s been photographed so much. It’s easy to feel like it’s all been done before.

What is your favorite thing to shoot in NYC?  

For me, it’s all about the people, their gestures, interactions…their humanity which shines through the artificiality of the street. I like to make pictures that don’t spell everything out or tell you how you’re supposed to feel. I like there to be questions left in the air.

Who are favourite photographers?

Larry Fink, Jason Eskenazi, Helen Levitt, Anders Petersen, Daido Moriyama, Eugene Richards, Josef Koudelka, and hundreds of others!

What are your go-to cameras ?

Lately I’m really enjoying the Ricoh GR, but my Leica MP240 is my favorite. It’s as close as I can get to the Leica M6 that was my choice of instrument the whole time I was shooting film. I like small cameras that are simple.

What time of day do you prefer to shoot?

The last couple hours before sundown always offer the best possibilities, but if that’s all you shoot your pictures will always look the same. Lately I am excited about shooting at night.

Are there any places or monuments in NYC that are harder than others to get good shots?

The hardest thing for most of us is to make a great picture in an iconic spot that everyone photographs. Unless you can say something fresh about your experience and your observations. It’s not enough to take a snapshot of the Stock Exchange, The Empire State Building, or the Statue of Liberty. You could just buy the postcards. But, for those of us who live in NYC it’s also very difficult to remember to embrace these locations, since they’re so familiar to us. I catch myself avoiding them because I don’t want to make someone else’s photographs, but they’re an important part of the city.

What should someone visiting NYC simply not miss?

I think everyone who comes to NYC should visit Coney Island, but during the colder months it’s shut down. The Staten Island Ferry remains one of the best deals in tourism. It’s totally free and gives you a great sense of the scale of the city. Plus, it passes right by the Statue of Liberty.

Please share your personal favorite shot of NYC and why.
Photo by Reuben Radding.

This picture is still one of my favorites, years after it was taken, because it’s so cinematic and surreal. It’s a very New York scene, a Cinco de Mayo celebration in a Brooklyn park, but it feels like you’re looking into some alternate world that exists in secret.

Where can one see your photography?

At my website, and at the Prospect Range Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.

Finally, where is your favorite place for a pizza slice in NYC?

Rosario’s Pizza on Orchard Street will give you an opportunity to meet a real NYC character in Sal, the charismatic owner, while you down a truly representative NY slice. If you want the very best though, you should probably head straight to Prince St Pizza. They’re unbeatable.