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Behind the Lens: A Profile on Alberto Reyes
By Morgan McGinnis
It’s a sunny spring day in New York City, something that Knickerbockers have not experienced in a long time. The weather has brought them out of hibernation to enjoy the unusual warmth. Both locals and tourists crowd Central Park for sightseeing, jogging, boating, and other outdoor activities. Today, I meet Alberto Reyes near the Boat House, where we talk on a nearby bench, next to some bird watchers. This is an activity he finds out of place in the city. Incidentally, he is wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap, but ironically he is not a fan of baseball. “I’m a New York fan,” he says, and wears the hat to flaunt his love for the city.
Originally from Mexico City, Alberto had always desired to live in the United States and learn English. Originally, he moved to Provo, Utah to learn English at Selnate International School and continued on to study aviation at Utah Valley University. Now he resides in New York’s East Village, working as an aircraft mechanic at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Alberto enjoys aviation, but he has another hobby closer to his heart. During his free time, Alberto meanders the streets of New York snapping pictures of the city’s unique buildings and residents. Spending two or three days a week with his camera in hand, Alberto wanders the streets searching for moments that grab his attention. After he has searched the city and chosen the photos that speak to him, he posts these photos on his blogs. His blog “New York Obsession” contains mostly architectural photos while his blog “New Yorkers Unposed” displays candid photos of the city’s locals. “I really enjoy sharing my experiences of New York through my photography,” he says.
Most days, Alberto doesn’t have a specific location to photograph. “I don’t have a destination, I just keep walking and get lost,” he says.
His favorite spots to snap in the city are places such as 5th Avenue and Times Square to capture people. However, he says it is difficult to choose a favorite place for photographing architecture. “The Financial District and SoHo are nice. I love Chinatown. There’s something about it that reminds me of Mexico,” he says. One of his photo excursions led him from 110th Street to Chinatown, a more than six-mile adventure.
His upcoming exhibit on May 9th will feature twelve of his photographs, mostly of architecture. “I would like to show my pictures of people, but people don’t like to buy them,” he jokes.
Some of the most memorable photos to Alberto are those he takes of people. He is particularly interested in photographing women. “They always look good; they dress a lot better than men,” he elaborates. Other popular subjects include older men and homeless people. Color is also something that catches Alberto’s eye. “New York likes black, so I like to photograph weird clothes or colors,” he says. On our walk through Central Park, he stops to take a photo of a girl in a yellow neon dress that caught his eye.
Alberto remembers a time when he was taking photos and it began to rain heavily. He photographed a girl standing against a tree, attempting to shelter herself. “Sometimes I’m not sure people see the uniqueness of it,” he says. When taking a photo, Alberto feels a connection to the subjects he is capturing. “I know they are happy or sad. I will remember them forever,” he says. Sometimes Alberto will photograph the same person on different occasions. “It has happened a couple of times, strangely,” he elaborates.
Alberto developed a love for photography as a child. He has been taking photos since the age of twelve. “I would take photos of my home, my parents, my dog, or random things,” he explains. His sister, Giovanna Reyes remembers her first memory of Alberto taking pictures on a family trip to Disneyland. “I can still remember how he would never let the camera rest. He was very excited about having his family there and creating all the memories of that trip,” she says. Reyes continues to elaborate on Alberto’s enthusiasm to capture the entire vacation, “We were on the biggest roller coaster, and he still wanted to take pictures, even if it was hard to hold the camera,” she says. Alberto’s passion for photography is apparent. However, his parents would not allow him to study photography professionally, yet Alberto still made it a significant part of his life by turning it into an important hobby.
Alberto found a way to combine his interest of photography with another favorite pastime of his, traveling. Since he works for an airline, Alberto can fly anywhere for free, something extremely useful for a photographer. He has been to a majority of Mexico, as well as many of the major cities within the United States and Europe. Out of all the places Alberto has traveled, he claims Japan to be his favorite, especially for photography. “Japan is so crazy,” he says. “There are a lot of colors and everything looks weird and unique.”
“He loves to travel so it wouldn’t be difficult sending him anywhere in the world,” says Sue, his co-worker of three years. “Since his candid photos of people are terrific, I would like to see him photograph exciting or tragic events, such as New Orleans at Mardi Gras.”
Ultimately, Alberto would like to work as a traveling photographer. He notes that Egypt is a top destination he would love to visit visiting and photograph.
As we stand on the Bow Bridge over the Central Park Lake, Alberto explains to me a technique of finding triangles within the photo setup. This technique allows viewers’ eyes to follow the triangle and explore the entire photo. His knowledge of how to capture an enticing photo sounds as though he studied photography professionally. However, this is not the case. “I have never taken any photography classes,” he says. This is shocking information based on the skillful appearance of his photos. As we are stood on the bridge, Alberto patiently waits to take a shot. While he likes the background full of trees, he waits for the boaters to form the perfect angle, the aforementioned triangle.
After capturing a line of trees at the Central Park Mall, we move towards street performers on roller skates. An observer in a green jacket and purple hat catches Alberto’s eye. After snapping a few photos of her, he explains, “This is good for emotion because people are so into what they are doing.” We then stroll towards the Pond. Alberto stops to photograph the reflection of The Plaza Hotel in the water. “Sometimes I get obsessed with a view and go back,” he says. As he captures The Plaza from the Pond, he explains how he likes to get the same angle in different lighting. He tells me that he will later go back to the Pond and to capture this same view at night. Reflections are common in Alberto’s photos. Snapping reflections such as The Plaza on the huge glass box that is the 59th Street Apple Store is something he finds relishing. During our walk, Alberto photographs our reflection on the General Motors building.
Alberto is also interested in trying to set up portraits, especially of older men. “It’s just their faces; they’re interesting,” he elaborates. Eventually he may try nude photos. “Just to see if they’re any good,” he wonders.
To capture life in New York City, he currently uses three cameras, along with his iPhone. The first is a Canon T3, followed by a smaller Canon G12. “This one takes good photos,” he says. However, he is excited to show me his newest edition, a Rolleiflex T3.5. This camera is notable for its compact size and high-quality optics. His new Rolleiflex T3.5 is different from the other cameras in that instead of looking through the lens directly at an object, you look towards the ground, with the lens pointed at the object you wish to capture.
When it comes to photographing people, Alberto looks for familiarity. “I like to catch people doing something I would do, like drink coffee,” he says. Alberto has never experienced an angry subject while photographing people. Ideally, he prefers to capture them naturally. “Sometimes people start posing,” he says, which is something he dislikes. “If I get a good photo that I love, I approach the person and say, ‘I hope you don’t mind,’ and give them a business card,” he says. I witness this as Alberto spots a very Upper East Side-esque woman at the corner of 57th Street and Lexington Avenue with a Burberry scarf and large framed glasses. “You’re very beautiful,” he tells her, and hands her his card. “He has his camera frequently with him,” says Alberto’s friend, Noel Vargas, who he has known for nearly 10 years. “You can easily tell from his pictures that he doesn’t want to miss an opportunity for a good picture.”
Alberto has many projects in mind for the future. He hesitates but explains, “I want to take a photo looking down into a trash can every day for a year, but I don’t think anybody would like it.” Most exhilarating is that Alberto has a secret project. “I’m excited about it, but I’m not telling anybody. You’ll know when you see it,” he says.
Today is May 9, 2012.
Exhibit tonight from
6:30pm - 8:30pm
At the Soho Photo Gallery
15 White Street
Tribeca, New York City
DIRECTIONS: Just 3 short blocks south of Canal Street, between Avenue of the Americas/6th Ave/Church Street and West Broadway Take the 1 train to Franklin Street (2 very short blocks away) or the A, C, or E to Canal Street (3 short blocks away). (Any other train to Canal will leave you about 6 to 8 short blocks away.)
Street Photography and Architecture based on my blog Allleft
Thank you very much!!