A Dose of Inspiration
Life is a constant work in progress for Dr. Marcus Reidenberg, head of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Most days, he carries a camera in his bag in the event something he sees will inspire him. Lately, he's been using his photographic eye to capture men and women who he says, "enable the city to function."
Most recently, his body of work he calls, "Hard Hats," was featured in the Sunday New York Times, a series of portraits of construction workers in hard hats decorated with slogans and stickers, which spoke of allegiances, pride and individuality.
"I saw a construction worker with a yellow hat with a lot of slogans on it. It attracted me and I took a shot of the man's head with the hat," said Reidenberg, also professor of pharmacology, professor of medicine and professor of public health at Weill Cornell. "I started doing head shots with these workers and realized this is the way they express their feelings to the world. I have over a 100 of them."
Dr. Reidenberg has dabbled in photography since high school and college, but let it go mostly by the wayside when he entered the demanding medical profession as a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. Now 78-years-old, Dr. Reidenberg says something clicked about 14 years ago when he saw century-old photographs of people working on the streets of Paris taken by French photograph Eugene Atget. That's when his photographic journey took off, leading him to develop a photographic series on people who work on the city's streets.
"The street trades, the construction worker, the news stand, the mailman, the trash collector. These are the people who make the city work, and they're ignored," said Dr. Reidenberg. "We walk by them every day without a glance. I want them to be noticed. Many of them were thrilled that I was interested in them enough to take their picture."
Dr. Reidenberg attributes his interest in the street trades to his roots in Philadelphia. "People like these were coming into my practice when I was doing general medicine," said Reidenberg. "Street photography of the people that make the city work, it's something I keep being attracted to."
His photography has become a part of the narrative of New York. The New York Historical Society has taken on more about 50-60 of his photographs of the street trades in addition to several of his "Hard Hat" series.
As for what's on the horizon, Dr. Reidenberg says he will continue with his homage to "those who make the city work."
October 25, 2012