America's Stage: Betsy Karel's theatrical images of New York's Times Square

In her new book, America’s Stage: Times Square, street photographer and photojournalist Betsy Karel uses the five New York City blocks that make up Times Square as a metaphor for today’s urban America.

"Here," Betsy explains, "many of the major trends of our society – consumerism, hypersexualization, hucksterism, surveillance, narcissism, globalism - are condensed and amplified. Fantasy parades as reality."

Across the 73 black and white photographs featured in the book, Times Square becomes a vivid, almost hyper-realistic form of theatre, peopled by tourists, attraction-seekers, businesspeople, and the off-brand performers who make their living under electronic billboards the size of football fields.

“[Karel] has not only captured a mood with flair and intelligence at a pivotal point in American history but, more importantly, in a perhaps small but vital way, she has shaped our understanding of both life and society from her personal experience,” says British photographer and critic Gerry Badger.

Born in New York City, but now residing in Washington, DC, Betsy worked as an award-winning photojournalist in the 1970s before she stopped photographing for 20 years. She’s the author of Conjuring Paradise (2013) and Bombay Jadoo, shortlisted for the German Photobook Prize in 2008. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

America’s Stage: Times Square is available via Steidl.