Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
Photographer William Meyers documented ordinary life outside Manhattan in the 1990s and 2000s.
In the 1990s, photographer William Meyers started leaving his home in Manhattan for the outer boroughs. He'd take the subway to random stops in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, or the ferry to Staten Island, and roam the unfamiliar streets—taking pictures.
"They are the outer boroughs of the spirit as well as of the physical city," he writes, explaining the photo series on his website. "Each image represents a certain time in a certain part of a certain city where, I have found, even in unlikely neighborhoods there are occasions for beauty."
As Meyers walked through some of these neighborhoods—Astoria, Co-Op City, Bensonhurst, and others—he photographed street scenes, cityscapes, and ordinary people going about their everyday routine.
"Most of my pictures were taken on anonymous streets where the people of the place live and go about their business; they represent the quotidian, not the spectacular," he writes.
The result of this work is the "Outer Boroughs" series. Eighty-six prints from the series that have been housed in the New York Public Library since 2008 will be on display at the 42nd Street library from May 27 to June 30. (The exhibition coincides with the publication of William Meyers’s new book: Outer Boroughs: New York Beyond Manhattan.)
Meyers, who considers himself an art photographer not a documentarian, unintentionally created a photographic record of these neighborhoods—many of which look drastically different today.
"The city I photographed no longer exists," he says in a press release for the exhibition. "However, the essence of New York has always been reinvention."
Check out some of his pictures below: