History in Photos: New York is the Most Photographed City in the World

2:34 pm  |  19.01.2022

Have you already seen everything? Photographers manage to take a new perspective in the mega-city, to resort the city an unusual motif.


The city has never been dependent on historical data and its anniversaries. Even though 400 years “Holland on the Hudson”, 125 years of Liberty statue or ten years “9/11” give an additional incentive – it is not much more visitor to the 8.2 million inhabitant metropolis.

New York around 1900, there is a dense crowd: Mulberry Street, the heart of the Italian quarter on the Lower East Side.

Source: Library of Congress

Nearly 49 million people traveled to New York City last year. Not eliminate how many photos you have done well with your digital cameras, cell phones, and smartphones. And also in the professional area, New York has a non-sealing charm for filmmakers and photographers.

1929: The main building in the Grand Central terminal.

Source: Courtesy of the New York Transit Museum

Every year, there are 40,000 shootings for advertising, cinema films, TV shows, series, music videos, documentation. New York is considered the most photographed city in the world. And yet photographers, again and again, manage to take a new perspective in the megacity, to avoid an unusual motif to create an optics that fascinates.

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May 1, 1931: The day the Empire State Building was opened.

Source: Samuel H. Gottscho


Sometimes it is only an event before the delicatessen business around the corner, which – seemingly banal, exercises almost laiadly painted – their special charm. Let’s take aerial photography that pulls the viewer with an unusual viewing angle in the spell.

In four newly appeared image volumes, the viewer can indulge in opulent optics, and there is little role as to whether one knows “NYC” from their own experiences or whether the city is still a travel daring, which is possibly at the top of the wish list.

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Architecture to Touch

One in the word, good overview “New York from above” offers from Yann Arthus Bertrand (Photos) and John Tauranac (text). Yann Arthus Bertrand is an aerial photographer Par Excellence, he plays with the light, waiting for the skyscrapers, immersed in hot sunlight, withdraws from the deep dark background.

Look at Lower Manhattan, taken from a departing ship in 1941.

Source: Jack Delano, Library of Congress

His ramble through the city, no: over the city, is optimally supplemented by image texts. As a reader one learns many backgrounds and historicals to the pictured building, place, or district: The architectural historian John Tauranac has long been dealing with the building history of New York and already published numerous monographs about individual buildings.

And in fact, the city is full of architectural masterpieces of the past two centuries. But modern architecture is no less exciting. With its detailed recordings from the air, Yann Arthus Bertrand brings closer to the buildings.

Jazz musician in front of the metropolis Café, Broadway, 1960.

Source: Estate of William Claxton

His game with contrasts, with images that emphasize the geometry particularly strongly, or with double-sided totals, on which the eye can wander around, makes the book particularly entertaining.

From the Bird’s Eye View


Several highways flow through the heart of the West Side (1964).

Source: Estate of Evelyn Hofer

Another band with aerial photographs comes from Michael Yamashita. In his band “New York in-flight” he draws in the most atmospheric evening light a romantic image of the city, sometimes he lies around the viewer like a voyeur on roof terraces around which make a lunch break between palm trees businessmen.

Scene photo from Martin Scorsese’s film “Taxi Driver” with Robert De Niro (1976).

Source: Steve Schapiro

On the terrace of the Empire State Building, you watch the tight tourists who want to give a look through the lattice bars to shoot their own personal New York from-up picture.

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For many settings, Yamashita, who worked for the “National Geographic” magazine for more than 30 years, chooses a wide-angle lens and thus strengthens the term “home sea”. 

Two Artists 

“New York – Portrait of A City” by Reule Golden.

Source: TASCHEN

For the Mare Bildband “New York”, publisher Nikolaus Gelpke has commissioned two masters of her subject. The Italian Paolo Pellegrin (Magnum and Newsweek Photographer) fills with its dark.


Three times Pielow traveled to the city for shootings, he did not let up until every single appointment finally folded, the light was fit, which was prepared for mask and equipment. His persons are not coincidentally in the picture, they also pose even – they are exactly calculated productions without room for coincidences. Crisp colors, great light, strong characters.

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In the pictures of Paolo Pellegrin, however, the gene of the photo reporter comes to light. His pictures are like the inevitable result of a photographer who always has his camera. The views seem from the forced coincidence to adults: light reflections and wanted blur in the subway, a man with umbrella, which is painted on the wet, reflective sidewalk only as a silhouette extremely contrasted, a couple who is at the restless lake on the Outer deck has a ferry – in the background, the Statue of Liberty wakes up.

Airy view of the Financial District.

Source: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Knesebeck Verlag

Pellegrin often dedicates himself to the bridges and rivers in the metropolitan town, with Pielow the relation to the water is obvious: There is a financial advisor and recreational athlete half-naked by the container port of Brooklyn, a grandfather fishing with its grandson on the released marshes of Jamaica Bay (Queens) or the Professurferin Diana Mattison carries at the Macey Avenue in Williamsburg – dressed like an office worker – her surfboard under the arm, as if they were walking around the beach.

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Who Loves the City, Will Love This Book

Also trained from the air: the Manhattan Municipal Building in Tribeca, Manhattan.

Source: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Knesebeck Verlag

“New York – Portrait of a City” is no book, which is polluted just by the way. It is a heavy compendium that you will always like to take back to discover something new again and again.

Like ice blocks: Architect Frank Gehry built the IAC building glass.

Source: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Knesebeck Verlag


Reule Golden, who arranged the book, has chosen his team from hundreds of thousands of images, in a period of about eight months he has blamed no fewer than 50 archives and private collections.

His mission was to find views that you have not faced before. The special challenge: as old color pictures as possible! However, so golden, of course, “Iconic Images” were not missing, so pictures with almost cultural symbol character.

As the English, who has only lived in the “city of the cities” since the year 2000, the photo expert Golden means a special sense of perspective on this beloved city, which seems to have lost some born New York. Works of more than 150 famous photographers enrich the band. Probably therefore Time Magazine was torn on the assessment “The Greatest New York Photo Book Ever”.

The “city portrait” that draws the publisher pockets here from the Big Apple is as comprehensive as stunning. Each of the five thematic sections would fill with decency to fill their own book.

The appendix with film, music, and literature recommendations, with the biographies of photographers and not least of the bibliography, make the tape beyond the first through-leaf and reading exit valuable. The fact that a few pages are filled more than necessary due to the three-language ability, one sees worldwide sales. This 560-page work may not be missing in any Book Rack of a New York Enthusiastic.

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