A heady glimpse into New York’s underground scene

A heady glimpse into New York’s underground scene

Dominique Misrahi discusses her unlikely start as a photographer capturing intimate scenes of the city's youth and subcultures.

In 2017, Dominique Misrahi, then 54, decided to purchase a small Leica as a Mother’s Day gift to herself. Although she had no real intentions, she quickly discovered a natural talent for street portraiture. 

Walking the streets of New York City, where she has lived for the past 22 years, Misrahi began to strike up conversations with strangers who caught her eye. “I’m a people person, I just love the interaction,” she says. “I love meeting strangers and listening to people’s stories. There’s a chemistry that happens. I don’t mean flirting, but a mutual attraction and curiosity. Photography was a perfect fit.”

As the mother of two young boys, getting out of the house and spending time on her own was the perfect release. She began wandering around downtown Manhattan, spending time in Washington Square Park, connecting with the flourishing spirit of youth., and forging cross-generational connections. “There’s always something happening!” she says. 

Model Sunny, Brooklyn, NY April 2022

Misrahi began publishing her photographs on Instagram, and soon discovered a newly formed organisation called Women Street Photographers (WSP), which put out a call for its first annual exhibition. Taking a leap of faith, Misrahi submitted pictures and was astonished when her work was chosen for the show.

Gulnara Samoilova, founder of WSP, became Misrahi’s close friend and mentor, sharing wisdom gleaned from her four-decade career with the emerging photographer. “Dominique is authentic in her approach and genuinely interested in the people she photographs. You can feel her subjects trust her immediately, relax in front of her camera and show off their personalities,” says Samoilova, who included Misrahi in the 2020 book, Women Street Photographers (Prestel).

Brooklyn, NY April, 2022

King Leo, Washington Square Park Manhattan,NY March 31 2022

Although Misrahi was initially apprehensive about calling herself a photographer, she was determined to advance her talents and skills, enrolling in workshops led by renowned street photographers Bruce Gilden, Richard, Renaldi, and Jamel Shabazz

“Jamel is an angel. He went out with us shooting so that we could watch him on the spot. I really appreciated that because he was willing to show us the way,” says Misrahi, whose confidence grew as she observed Shabazz in action,

Both photographers adopt a similar approach to street portraiture: being open and present, engaging with people and gaining their consent first. “It was so rewarding to see Jamel work and made me feel like I’m on the right path,” she says.

Cocomama, Washington Square Park, Manhattan NY, March 28 2021

Bill the demon hip hop artist,Brooklyn April 2022

This April, Misrahi connected with nightlife collective, Underground Kingdom, which hosts parties where young hip hop artists perform. She quickly became a fixture on the scene, shooting portraits and party snaps, crafting an intimate portrait of young New York. 

Although she is from a different generation, Misrahi is inspired by the youth, taking delight in their sense of style, self-expression, and optimism. “I think they are so sick of reality yet they are hopeful,” she says. “They are still trying, going on with their music, and making art. It’s been such difficult years, but I don’t feel a sense of sadness, depression, or giving up. They have a drive that inspires me.”

Pauly, Brooklyn, NY April 2022

Subway, Manhattan, NY June 20, 2021

Hip Hop Artist LSD Demon, Washington Square Park, Manhattan, NY October 25 2021

Brooklyn, NY April 5 2022

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