Humza Deas on the Art of the Perfect Street Photo

The Kid Is All Right

20-Year-Old Humza Deas schools us on the art of NYC street photography

 

ou know what they say about old dogs and new tricks? Load of hooey, as far as we’re concerned. You can learn ‘em. You can digest ‘em. And you can put ‘em into practice.

But first you need a teacher. And when the new trick in question involves climbing suspension bridges to take smartphone photos, it stands to reason that your teacher should be — dare we say — a millenial.

A millenial like Humza Deas, the 20-year-old photographer and urban explorer who documents New York from vantage points typically reserved for the birds.

Below, Deas reveals his favorite places to shoot in NYC, the craziest photograph he’s ever attempted (spoiler: involves the 82nd story) and a few tips for us novices on documenting the concrete jungles that surround us.

Photography by Jesse Untracht-Oakner

 

A post shared by Humza Deas (@humzadeas) on

A post shared by Humza Deas (@humzadeas) on

 

InsideHook: As a photographer in NYC, where do you like to go when you need some inspiration?

Humza Deas: No matter what part of the city I’m in, I look for the Empire State Building. It’s a symbol of home for me, my stomping grounds. Another place is Chinatown. I love visiting the LES Skatepark. It’s photogenic and friendly to everyone, whether you’re white, black, yellow, an alien. The people there will welcome you with open arms because that’s the culture: we don’t judge you based on whatever — or whoever — you are. We’re all here for one thing, and we’re all supportive of each other.

ou know what they say about old dogs and new tricks? Load of hooey, as far as we’re concerned. You can learn ‘em. You can digest ‘em. And you can put ‘em into practice.

But first you need a teacher. And when the new trick in question involves climbing suspension bridges to take smartphone photos, it stands to reason that your teacher should be — dare we say — a millenial.

A snake person like Humza Deas, the 19-year-old photographer and urban explorer who documents New York from vantage points typically reserved for the birds.

Below, Deas reveals his favorite places to shoot in NYC, the craziest photograph he’s ever attempted (spoiler: involves the 82nd story) and a few tips for us novices on documenting the city around us.

 Photography by Jesse Untracht-Oakner

A post shared by Humza Deas (@humzadeas) on

 

InsideHook: As a photographer in NYC, where do you like to go when you need some inspiration?

Humza Deas: No matter what part of the city I’m in, I look for the Empire State Building. It’s a symbol of home for me, my stomping grounds. Another place is Chinatown. I love visiting the LES Skatepark. It’s photogenic and friendly to everyone, whether you’re white, black, yellow, an alien. The people there will welcome you with open arms because that’s the culture: we don’t judge you based on whatever — or whoever — you are. We’re all here for one thing, and we’re all supportive of each other.

Humza Deas on the Art of the Perfect Street Photo

IH: What are your favorite places to take photographs in NYC?

HD: Tudor City and Long Island City. You can see the city from a vantage point that most don’t know. They’re not on the tourist radar. In Tudor City, the only other people you see are other photographers or families walking by picking up their children from school buses. And yet it offers one of the best views of my favorite building, the Chrysler. And the Long Island City piers offer a vantage point across the East River of Midtown Manhattan that is breathtakingly beautiful, especially around the time of summer sunsets.

IH: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get a shot?

HD: Walking out onto the edge of an extension beam that was no longer connected to the building. I was about 82 stories high and the wind was about 19 mph, and as I walked out there, I tried to get a 90-degree picture looking down. As I went to the edge, I kind of woke up, in a sense. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, why am I out here? What am I doing?’ I immediately got hit with vertigo and dropped to my knees. I started hugging the beam and crawled back to my friend, who was filming. I was like, ‘Stop recording!’ I got caught up in my own little world and started daydreaming, forgot where I was at the moment.

 

IH: What are your favorite places to take photographs in NYC?

HD: Tudor City and Long Island City. You can see the city from a vantage point that most don’t know. They’re not on the tourist radar. In Tudor City, the only other people you see are other photographers or families walking by picking up their children from school buses. And yet it offers one of the best views of my favorite building, the Chrysler. And the Long Island City piers offer a vantage point across the East River of Midtown Manhattan that is breathtakingly beautiful, especially around the time of summer sunsets.

IH: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get a shot?

HD: Walking out onto the edge of an extension beam that was no longer connected to the building. I was about 82 stories high and the wind was about 19 mph, and as I walked out there, I tried to get a 90-degree picture looking down. As I went to the edge, I kind of woke up, in a sense. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, why am I out here? What am I doing?’ I immediately got hit with vertigo and dropped to my knees. I started hugging the beam and crawled back to my friend, who was filming. I was like, ‘Stop recording!’ I got caught up in my own little world and started daydreaming, forgot where I was at the moment.

Humza Deas on the Art of the Perfect Street Photo

 

IH: Do you draw a lot of inspiration from other NYC photographers?

HD: I often look at different types of art — paintings and sculptures. I like to dig into an artist’s background and find out why the created the piece; I take their words and see how I can convert that into my own life and work. When you take a different type of artist’s approach, you’ll come out with something completely different, versus listening to another photographer — then you’ll just end up recreating their work, whether intentionally or not.

IH: Who are three under-the-radar photographers you’d
recommend for people to check out?

HD: Ramy (@PimpMyCamel). He documents urban decay throughout the world. He’s based here in NYC as well. Another one is Vikram (@VikramValluri). He travels to a part of the world and stays for a long time — usually off the grid — and documents things in 35mm film, which I love. Last but not least, Justin (@JLRoyal), who photographs landscapes in his hometown of San Francisco. There have been times that I have met up with Justin and we photograph the same thing and both walk home with similar images, but after post-processing it looks completely different.

IH: What are some tips you would give to the casual photographer
to make their own snaps better?

HD: Photograph iconic structures throughout your city or people who wear symbols of your city: the police, mailmen. Understand your aperture. When you want to photograph a specific subject — whether that’s a person or product — you want your viewer to only focus on that, versus witnessing the whole view. And try not to follow the trends you see on social media. Be true to your work.

 

IH: Do you draw a lot of inspiration from other NYC photographers?

HD: I often look at different types of art — paintings and sculptures. I like to dig into an artist’s background and find out why the created the piece; I take their words and see how I can convert that into my own life and work. When you take a different type of artist’s approach, you’ll come out with something completely different, versus listening to another photographer — then you’ll just end up recreating their work, whether intentionally or not.

IH: Who are three under-the-radar photographers you’d recommend for people to check out?

HD: Ramy (@PimpMyCamel). He documents urban decay throughout the world. He’s based here in NYC as well. Another one is Vikram (@VikramValluri). He travels to a part of the world and stays for a long time — usually off the grid — and documents things in 35mm film, which I love. Last but not least, Justin (@JLRoyal), who photographs landscapes in his hometown of San Francisco. There have been times that I have met up with Justin and we photograph the same thing and both walk home with similar images, but after post-processing it looks completely different.

IH: What are some tips you would give to the casual photographer to make their own snaps better?

HD: Photograph iconic structures throughout your city or people who wear symbols of your city: the police, mailmen. Understand your aperture. When you want to photograph a specific subject — whether that’s a person or product — you want your viewer to only focus on that, versus witnessing the whole view. And try not to follow the trends you see on social media. Be true to your work.

Humza Deas on the Art of the Perfect Street Photo

 

IH: Any advice on collecting photography?

HD: Find or create things with a sentimental value: whether that’s having the artist shoot/create the piece for you, or being there when they make it. And take care of it. Don’t let it deteriorate [by keeping it] in one spot forever. Keep it clean and in a spot where everyone who walks in the home can see it.

IH: Finally, what are your thoughts on selfies?

HD: Selfies are like a bad habit. There are better ways to document yourself in time than smiling in front of a camera. Just have a friend take a photo of you, or better yet, only document the times you feel most in love with yourself: let it be a reminder of how you felt.

 

IH: Any advice on collecting photography?

HD: Find or create things with a sentimental value: whether that’s having the artist shoot/create the piece for you, or being there when they make it. And take care of it. Don’t let it deteriorate [by keeping it] in one spot forever. Keep it clean and in a spot where everyone who walks in the home can see it.

IH: Finally, what are your thoughts on selfies?

HD: Selfies are like a bad habit. There are better ways to document yourself in time than smiling in front of a camera. Just have a friend take a photo of you, or better yet, only document the times you feel most in love with yourself: let it be a reminder of how you felt.

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