The original idea for the series came from Stacey Baker, a photo editor at the New York Times magazine. As she told The Daily Edit, Baker was getting her boots cleaned at a stand outside the city’s Port Authority building and noticed the way that the shoe shiner, Lenny, wrapped his hands in cloth. “His hands were beautiful – the way he wrapped the cloth around his long, lean wrinkled fingers. They looked like sculptures,” she said. “I asked him if I could take a picture. He showed me the various cloths he uses to shine shoes, and some of them looked like works of art. I wondered if there was a photo essay there.”
Baker pitched the idea to NYT Magazine photography director Kathy Ryan and editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein who gave the go ahead.
Griffith and team created the shots in situ using a portable studio. As he told The Daily Edit, “We developed a very small transportable studio that we brought with us to shoot in arguably the most cramped environment ever. Some of these places are quite small, so finding enough space proved challenging.”
All the shiners had their own technique and choice of cloth, making each image a unique document of a trade that is symbolic of New York.
The essay was published in print and online in April. The web version is available here.
Photographer: Christopher Griffith
Director Of Photography: Kathy Ryan. Photo Editor: Stacey Baker. Design Director: Gail Bichler. Art Director: Matt Willey. Producer: Riely Clough. Colour Grading: Rebecca Manson
All the winning work from the CR Photography Annual 2015 can also be seen online here