Joe Raskin

Urban Photography by Joe Raskin

Born in Queens, New York, Joe Raskin is a photographer, an avid urban explorer, and chronicler of New York City. He has posted on his blog over forty-eight thousand photographs of the greater New York City region, which he shot while wandering its boroughs over a period of seven years. Raskin primarily documents the varying architectural styles of the city’s buildings, but also shoots images of its subways and commuter railway lines. 

Raskin is a graduate of York College, City University of New York, where he majored in political science; he received his Masters Degree in Urban Studies from Queens College in New York. Although he attended a  photography class while at York College, Raskin considers himself self-taught. Originally starting with a Kodak Brownie camera, his primary equipment choices now are the digital Panasonic Lumix and the smaller, digital Casio Exilim. 

Prior to his retirement, Joe Raskin served as assistant director of Government and Community Relations at the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York. He is the author of a book on the history of New York’s subway system entitled “The Routes Not Taken; A Trip Though New York City’s Unbuilt Subway System”, published in 2013.  Now a resident of the Chelsea neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan, Raskin previously lived  over thirty years in the neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Rochdale Village, and Astoria. 

Influences on Raskin’s work include the works of Arnold Eagle, a photographer and cinematographer known for his socially concerned photographs of the 1930s and 1940s; Todd Webb, whose photographs documented architecture and everyday life in cities; and, in particular, the work of Berenice Abbott, best known for her photographs of New York City architecture and urban design of the 1930s. A portrait photographer of cultural figures from 1920 to 1940, Abbott was a central figure between the photographic circles and cultural hubs of Paris and New York.

A life-long history buff, Raskin’s photographs document how New York City grew in  its expansion from just the downtown areas into each of the boroughs. This expansion was, in a large part, enabled by the rapid growth of its extensive subway and rail systems. Although Raskin documents many historical, architectural styles of buildings, he finds classic city housing, such as Art Deco Bronx apartment houses, Mathews Model Flats row houses, and brownstones and townhouses, the most intriguing to photograph. 

“I’ve always looked at the paintings of Edward Hopper and the photographs of Berenice Abbott as a reference point for my photographs. They seemed to be more intent on showing the environment of an area. When a person was in Abbott’s photographs or many of Hopper’s paintings, they were part of the overall scene, rather than the subject. If someone shows up in one of my photographs, it’s more of an incidental matter more than anything else. They’re part of the background, a component of the overall scene.” 

—Joe Raskin, Art in New York City, July 2012

Joe Raskin’s photographs can be found on his blog located at:  https://wanderingnewyork.tumblr.com

Top Insert Image: Joe Raskin, “North View of 90th Street, Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights”, Queens, New York

Bottom Insert Image: Joe Raskin, “Apartment Building, Highbridge”, Bronx, New York

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