Capturing Lovers on the Streets of New York

Behold
The Photo Blog
Sept. 30 2013 1:08 PM

Capturing Lovers on the Streets of New York

sub-lonely-kiss-2010-copy
Subway Coney Island, 2010

Matt Weber

In three decades as a street photographer in New York, Matt Weber has seen it all: homelessness, violence, the daily strangeness that gives the city its character.

But he's also seen a softer side of New York, a place where people fall in love and couples display their affection in moments sometimes public and other times seemingly private. "That's the good thing about New York street photography," Weber said. "You get sad, happy, funny—the whole spectrum. And they can all be good."

Weber said he often looks to capture emotion in his photos. Often, in a city with as short a fuse as New York, that means documenting the anger and raw physicality of a street brawl. But it can also mean showing a couple cuddling on the beach at Coney Island, kissing on the subway, or standing together under a street light. "Occasionally, it's over the top. Young people tend to do that—spend half an hour groping," Weber said. "Maybe it's not exhibitionism so much as being overwhelmed. The first time you fall in love as a teenager is a really powerful thing."

Perfect-Kiss!
Perfect Kiss, 2003

Matt Weber

coney-bicycleteens1-copy
Coney Island, 2008

Matt Weber

couplesleepingchurchsteps-1988-copy-2
Upper West Side, 1988

Matt Weber

Advertisement

Weber began photographing in 1978 when, while working as a taxi driver, he could no longer resist the urge to capture the incredible moments he saw from his window. His life story is featured in the documentary More Than the Rainbow, which screened as part of the Coney Island Film Festival in September.

Weber doesn't stage his photos. He doesn't ask people for permission to photograph them. And he doesn't like shooting from the hip, because it means he can't control the composition. "You really are looking for those special images. They come when they come. You can't force them," Weber said. "It's a matter of luck, timing, and good fortune. When I leave my door, I don't know what I'm going to get. The thing with street photography is you often get something better than you imagined."

When Weber sees a shot he wants, he goes for it. As a result, he's found himself in his fair share of confrontations. "I can normally talk my way out of it," Weber said. "I've never been decked or lost my teeth, but I have been shoved into a lamp post. I've been threatened a lot. So far I've been able to diffuse things."

gaypridekiss-2010-copy1
Gay Pride, 2010

Matt Weber

MidnightKiss-1989-SLATE
Midnight Kiss, 1989

Matt Weber

Sub-WindowLoversSLATE
Goodbye, 2008

Matt Weber

Weber said that he generally likes to make photos that pose questions about their subjects: What is the relationship between the people pictured? What are they doing? Why?

But when it comes to romantic couples, Weber said, he's simply interested in capturing a genuinely happy moment amid all the pain and loneliness of New York. "There are so many miserable people," Weber said. "You see a lot of people not looking very content. With happy people, I try not to worry why they're happy."

Weber’s work is collected in The Urban Prisoner, published by Sanctuary Books.

strawberrykiss-2-2011-copy-2
Strawberry Girl, 2011

Matt Weber

coney-index-finger-lovers-copy
On the Beach, 2009

Matt Weber

teencouplefacingharbor-2012-copy
Teen Couple Facing Harbor, 2012

Matt Weber

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Behold

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 7:13 PM Deadly Advice When it comes to Ebola, ignore American public opinion: It’s ignorant and misinformed about the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 6:48 PM Apple: Still Enormously Profitable
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.