New York’s iconic landmarks and street panoramas have become familiar characters for people around the world, even those who have never stepped foot on its soil, thanks to the thousands of films, television shows and commercials that take place in the Big Apple.
Yet, George Steinmetz’s new photo book, New York Air: The View From Above, presents an unparalleled visual feast of this well-known metropolis. Every photo offers a new perspective and a level of detail that turns familiar places into never-seen-before spectacles. Popular views are transformed, and an exclusive, secretive New York is revealed: the curvy contours of Central Park’s trails encircling baseball fields blanketed with snow; the contrast of old and new as the glowing Freedom Tower competes with the iconic Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges; or the privilege of looking into Lady Liberty’s neoclassical eyes.
A self-proclaimed “air junkie,” Steinmetz was looking for a short aerial project in the winter and started hovering over the five boroughs last February, eager to captured an unusual New York under a fresh blanket of snow.
As seasons followed, the landscape’s metamorphosis as well as New Yorkers’ seasonal activities presented a different visual appeal, which prompted Steinmetz to prolong his work and capture new scenes: snaps of people frolicking on rooftops, the serpentine tracks of go-karts at Coney Island’s Luna Park, and the pale tones of Victorian row houses lined up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area. “I felt as if we were cruising through an extraordinary reef stocked with the most diverse forms of urban flora and fauna,” Steinmetz writes in the introduction of his book.
One of the challenges he faced was in capturing the landscape of a city that changes constantly. “As I flitted about the five boroughs by helicopter, I began to understand that in a city as dynamic as this one, I could never make the definitive photographing document, because by the time it was done, the city would [have] already changed,” Steinmetz confessed.
George Steinmetz is an independent photographer and a frequent contributor to National Geographic and GEO. He lives in in Glen Ridge, N.J. His latest book, New York Air: The View From Above, has been published in October 2015 by Abrams.
Marie Tobias is TIME Associate Photo Editor.
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