The Urban Lens: Sam Golanski gives Park Avenue doormen their moment in the spotlight

February 11, 2017

6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Sam Golanski gives Park Avenue doormen their moment in the spotlight. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].

Sam Golanski grew up in a small town in Poland, but has been residing in Manchester, U.K. since 2005. Though he thinks New York is “a tough place to live,” he fell in love with its energy as a child watching films set in Manhattan from the ’60s and ’70s. Now all grown up, he comes to New York frequently to visit friends and work on his urban and social photography projects (“I have to admit I shredded a few pairs of shoes by just walking up and down for days everywhere with my camera bags,” he says). In his series “Park Avenue Doormen,” Sam gives the men who safeguard the Upper East Side’s ritziest buildings an opportunity to step from behind the velvet ropes and in front of the camera.

Why did you choose to photograph Park Avenue doormen?

New York is one of those places where if you’re an emerging photographer it’s very hard to find something new, fresh and inventive to photograph. The doormen story came to me while I was studying street portraits of working people. Doormen are a very New York entity and an example of the ultra wealthy living in the most expensive area of the city. Park Avenue is a different dimension; you don’t see many people on the streets, only cars and delivery trucks and residents coming and going out of taxis. On the other hand, who you see a lot is the doormen, guarding the buildings of the most expensive apartments on earth. It was also very visually attractive for me. These guys look so Art Deco in their uniforms, and I wanted to document that.

What surprised you the most when talking to these doormen?

The funniest thing was the fact that they asked me more questions than I asked them. I explained that I was a photographer from the U.K. who though their trade was very interesting, and their reaction was like, “Are you crazy man, nobody wants to publish photographs of doormen.” But it was a really positive experience to see how they make friendships with residents and, in some cases, are accommodated in these buildings.

What are some of the other subjects you like to photograph?

I’m still in search of what I want out of photography as a medium. My subjects are people, places, passing time and general things from the past or those who about to become forgotten. I don’t really like photographing new things [like glass buildings], and NYC is a classic, dated city that’s great to photograph. I would love to photograph Sugar Hill in Harlem again. The townhouses and apartments there are some of my favorites. I envy the people who live there and were born there; just a handful of streets make this place very unique.

What else are you working on right now?

I still have to develop some rolls of films from this past summer when I photographed an unknown sea site region of the Vistula Spit by the Baltic Sea in Poland. I have a few projects planned this year in Poland. One will be in Warsaw, where I’ll be shooting local anglers by the Wisla river, which crosses almost in the city center. I also need to edit a lot of my digital photographs from Brooklyn; I really like this mix where you can see a loudly operating cement plant right next to a hip bar. And I hope to come back to New York again to shred another pair of shoes.

Instagram: @samgolanski

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At 485 Park Avenue

At 812 Park Avenue

At 630 Park Avenue

At The Beekman, 575 Park Avenue

At 737 Park Avenue

At 775 Park Avenue

At 480 Park Avenue


All images © Sam Golanski

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