Steven Laxton Tours New York With the People
There are a few truisms about New York: the speed, the lights, the diversity. But beyond that, New York changes every few blocks. Each neighborhood has a unique identity which is amazing if you’re looking for new experiences or can be overwhelming if you’re new to the city. “All the neighborhoods in New York a really unique, I used to feel like I was traveling the world from neighborhood to neighborhood,” says photographer Steven Laxton. “There’s a personality that everyone knows, and some of those people are really inspiring community leaders, and some of them are just on the street and if they weren’t there you wouldn’t feel at home if you lived in that neighborhood because you get used to seeing their face around.” Steven was inspired by this collection of celebrities who are sometimes heroes, sometimes the hearts of their communities, and sometimes unsavory figures that just happen to be who is best known. So he’s been photographic these Neighborhood Celebrities in a series, almost as a collection of figures to understand the unique collection of places that make up New York City.
It began by researching these folks online as much as he could, but pretty quickly he and his team found that the more they were able to find these people through word of mouth, the faster everything came together. After all, these celebrities exist as pillars of their communities, so it would be their communities who would best reveal their own leaders. “It’s actually been a lot of fun, meeting these people, they’re all fascinating people,” says Steven.
Steven is originally from Australia, but he’s made his home in a few NYC neighborhoods over the last few years, and part of the fun of this project has been finding the celebrities of his own communities. One of them was Eshete Woldeyilma, the Cat King of Columbia, originally from Ethiopia whose face is very familiar to Steven. “There’s a homeless gentleman who lives on the Columbia waterfront and he used to go around the corner from my house every day. I used to see him all the time,” says Steven. “He’s a lovely guy, a refugee actually, and I think he’s had a bit of trauma. He fled the war and lost all his family there, but he sees it as his job to take care of the stray cats there and he thinks if he’s not there they won’t be looked after.” Woldeyilma is a reminder that every resident of New York lives a unique life and even if we don’t notice those around us, others are. We are all small pieces fitting together into each other’s lives, creating a diverse and complex puzzle. Steven’s images a glimpse of the boldest colors, but set the foundation of the palette for everyone.