Cloud Chamber: Dan Ziskie's street photographs of Manhattan in post-9/11 New York

Dan Ziskie is a Manhattan-based photographer and actor. As an actor, he is best known for his recurring role of Vice President Jim Matthews on House of Cards and the politically connected banker in post-Katrina New Orleans in Treme, among other parts. He began photographing in the early 1970s in Chicago while working for the commercial photographer Curt Burkhart. During this period, he also began to work in improvisational theatre and in the off-Broadway and experimental theatre scene that was developing at the time.

Ziskie later moved to New York, where, inspired by the work practice of Gary Winogrand, he hit the streets daily for several years, shooting with a digital 35mm camera. His work focuses on what is revealed socially and culturally in urban public spaces. Cloud Chamber, his first monograph (published by Damiani Books), presents his unique and contemporary colour photographs taken in Manhattan between 2013 and 2016.

Ziskie writes that within New York's pulsating street life people's actions "reflect and bounce off each other ... but you sometimes find a sense of privacy. As if you were for a moment alone. And that's often where I look to take my picture, inside the cloud chamber of New York City."

His keen eye, informed by his work as an actor, zeroes in on the kinetic theatre played out daily on the streets. This is a post 9/11 New York where a sense of constant emergency seems to exist. People are on the move, or on pause for a New York minute, amid the jackhammers, screaming sirens, parades and honking horns. They appear lost in their personal dramas as they make their way through the congested streets seemingly oblivious to the ubiquitous signs and billboards beckoning them.

Ziskie leaves it to the viewer to imagine the scenes being played out here. A woman who has fallen on the sidewalk is helped up by two people. Are they friends or strangers? Did the woman faint or trip on the curb? A man clasps his head with his hands as if in mental anguish, or is he suffering from a toothache? A woman wearing sunglasses and a long green dress, and holding a bright red bag, walks out of the shadows into what looks like an actor's spotlight on an empty stage. A bloodied man lies on the street ominously flanked by the legs of two standing men. He looks to be dead or at the very least severely injured. A woman stands alone in the middle of the street hugging her herself with her head inclined upwards. Is this a moment of prayer or reflection, or is she just enjoying the sun on her face before going back to the office?

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All images courtesy of Dan Ziskie | © Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie

© Dan Ziskie