I love Daniel Arnold's work, and we've been lucky enough at VICE to finagle him into doing some great projects for us this past year. He's a street photographer other street photographers are envious of for his bottomless pit of bizarre encounters. Whenever I flip through new batch of his snapshots, there's never a lack of amazing facial expressions, kids being superheroes, old people being adorable, and the general chaos of NYC. He has a new book about his time on Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, being published this week by Pau Wau. The book release party and signing will be at local photo lab Kubus Tuesday evening from 6 to 8 PM. Only 300 copies are available, so get there early! I chatted with Daniel to see what this project is all about below:
VICE: How long have you been kicking it around Nassau Ave?
Daniel Arnold: I moved to the top of Nassau in October of 2012, I think? In 2003, I was living on the edge of Chinatown and walked over the Williamsburg Bridge on a free day. I thought I'd walk to the Brooklyn Bridge and cross back over, but I was a brand-new idiot and went the wrong way. That was my first time on Nassau. For some reason, I was sure I was a goner—I saw one of those sarcastic signs about shooting the trespassers that the dogs don't kill and took it one hundred percent seriously. What a stupid young man I was!
Over how many years were these photos taken?
I've got about five years of photos in the book. I gave [Pau Wau] about five hundred to choose from and mostly let go from there. Their studio is also on Nassau, and I wanted to let it be as much a product of the neighborhood as a product of me.
How long have you been going to this lab?
I think it's been about two years with Kubus. There used to be a great spot called Enla on Manhattan Avenue, and in that era, it was my understanding that Kubus was only doing passport photos. Anyway, Enla shut down, and I went right over and started hamming it up with Andy at Kubus. We were buddies right away.
Why do you still shoot film?
I've actually been forcing myself to shoot digital for the past month or so, just to see if i can find a way to like it. So far results are mixed. I'm very attached to film and feel like a bit of a sucker every time I see something great with a digital camera in my hand. For one thing, I like complications. I like things to be impossible. Unlikely success is so much more intimate and satisfying. Digital photos also just don't look as good as film. They don't come close. However, what I really got attached to with film was the process. If you're wandering around waiting for miracles, a screen is your worst enemy. In that scenario a digital camera might as well be a phone. It takes you out of the world and gives you a resting place when you're bored. Shooting film, you have no exit. The camera can only click, so it stays out of the way and lets you really be somewhere.
Why'd you choose to go into street photography?
I don't know that I really chose anything. It's just a natural inclination. I'm not into telling people what to do. I get more of a thrill out of this kinda thrift store A-team MacGyver approach, where I pay real close attention to what's lying around and try to whip it all together into some potent new combination. People left to their own devices, when they think nobody is paying attention— that's way more interesting than anything I could make up. Though I do have pretty insane dreams.
Daniel Arnold is a photographer based in NYC. You can follow his work here.
Pau Wau Publications is an independent publishing house based in Greenpoint. You can follow their projects here.
More photographs from Nassau Avenue are below.