Comedy and photography might seem to have nothing in common, but they're both about seeing everyday topics in a new way. Jenny Rubin has been making New Yorkers laugh for years and has recently discovered a new passion: taking pictures. Born and raised in the Village, she's also lived in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.
The Art of Brooklyn sat down with Jenny to talk about her creative life and her new book of photographs, "New York Walk."
You’re a fixture in the NYC comedy and storytelling scene. When did you start performing?
Long enough ago to wonder if I should just wrap it up. No, I started in 2003. Before that I was doing improv and theater, but had always wanted to do stand up since I was a kid and stood on a bar stool in my parents kitchen at age 5, with a brush as a mic. Comedy, music and the arts were huge in my house.
What inspired you to start taking pictures? Was it something you always did, or were you looking for a new creative outlet?
It happened suddenly without me even fully trying a little over a year ago. I always loved photography. Always went to photo exhibits at museums, etc. but never thought I would be doing it. Sure, as a kid I always took pictures of my friends, and enjoyed it but then I sort of let it go. I almost hate to say it, but I gotta give thanks to my little iphone for getting me started. I was going through an emotional time in my life and was doing quite a bit of walking, as I always did because I find it therapeutic and I still get inspired by walking through the streets of New York. I started snapping and then magically and not thinking and then realized I had an eye for it as well. But yes, it has been a wonderful new creative outlet for me.
As a life-long New Yorker, did you see your city in a new way when you starting taking photos?
Yes, definitely. No matter what, I always see something new in this city. Although, as we know, so much is changing… almost dying, but I am still able to find inspiration or even rekindle old loves of certain neighborhoods or buildings. I mean how many times can we look at The Empire State Building? But you can! I see something different in it every time I pass it. Music effects my emotions with it too. I walk the streets, listening to music on my headphones and taking pictures from everything from pretty things to people laying in the street and I am perfectly content.
Which photographers are you most influenced by?
I love street photographers probably the most. I recently went to the Garry Winogrand exhibit three times at The Met. Incredible Black and White Photography. I love Bruce Gilden, Josh Meyerowitz, Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee and Vivian Maier! Her story is incredible. The undiscovered amazing talent. I am haunted by her photographs. I wish she knew how much people love her work. Kind of sad she didn't live to be discovered. If I die, make sure I get famous! But I truly love photos of real people, people thinking and not posing. Daily life, old buildings, couples kissing, all of that kind of stuff.
A lot of your photos were shot on your phone. The limitations of the technology give many of the shots a dream-like, almost impressionistic quality. Is that something you liked from the start, or learned to use as part of your aesthetic?
Probably a little of both. It gave me the ability to just capture moments but also mess around with different phone apps to enhance and edit photos as well. For me as a newbie photographer, it was extremely helpful. I am sure advanced photographers might scoff at this, but ya know, I feel it doesn't always matter how you got there — it's what the finished product is, whether you took it with a Nikon or a Tuba. If it makes someone feel something, then that is amazing. However, there are still a lot of technical things about photography that I do need to learn.
You recently published a book of your work called “New York Walk.” It seems that everyone is going the social media route now, with feeds that constantly present an endless flow of new images that only exist online. Why did you decide to create a physical book?
Because books still matter! Haha. Believe me, I am a social media queen. I do believe it is a very helpful platform to get your work out there. But, I think we all need to still be able to hold and touch art! Walking into someones house, sitting down with a cup of coffee and looking through a book --the best. You can really dive into the pictures. I want to have a photo show too. All in good time. It can become overwhelming with all that you have to do, after you create the art.
Do you feel that photography has been devalued, now that everyone has a phone with a great camera and lots of free filters? Or will good photos always stand out from the crowd?
I know -- I hope it hasn't been (devalued.) I think that there are still people who genuinely appreciate and love photography. But yes, everyone is a photographer now because of the phones. Sometimes, I feel like, wait, am I a fraud? But I love what I do so I don't care. And I did recently get a "real" camera, as they say and I am in love with that too. I do feel that good photos, no matter what will be noticed and stand out, and I just hope I can be one of the many to stand out--even just a little.
Jenny Rubin Comedy & Photography on Facebook
Jenny on Instagram
Jenny on Flickr
Buy "New York Walk" on Blurb
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