Photography is the art of capturing light with a camera to create an image. It can vary depending on what the photographer is trying to achieve. For example, documentary and news photographers capture images for the purpose of providing detailed account of actual events, while hobbyist photographers aim to capture life moments with their families and friends.
Andrew Werner is a New York-based photographer whose unique approach to style and innovative vision have afforded him a versatile career. With work spanning the fashion, event, and corporate spaces, his photographs have been featured in multiple national and international publications, including Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, Vogue, and Town & Country.
But what happens when your world is tilted on its axis abruptly? Shelter-in-place orders and quarantine are the new normal. Events you were supposed to capture can be no more. You’re left with so many difference spaces, and there you are, just you and your art form.
I took notice of Andrew’s work on social media. Our ever-buzzing city had come to a screeching halt, yet I was able to also see the beauty in the spaces he was capturing. As Andrew so eloquently expresses, his Places Without Faces series was inspired by people, humanity, and connection, and what it is to be in a moment without it.
It’s so mind-blowing to see Manhattan’s biggest landmarks and iconic spaces devoid of human activity, conversations, glances, laughs, and engagement. It’s something Andrew said he felt compelled to document. This series invites the viewer to thoughtfully pause just as our great city had.
How did you get your start in photography?
I’ve been behind the lens of my camera for as long as I can remember. My passion for photography stems from my love of people—being connected to their lives and their stories, even if for a brief moment. I initially entered the University at Buffalo with the intention to study musical theater but switched my focus to communications and photojournalism when I realized that this medium could allow my inner director, storyteller, and anthropologist to mesh together to capture the finite moments of the human experience. I remember shooting everything from theatre headshots, sports, and Greek life to student politics.
After graduating, I began photographing New York City’s notorious nightlife—this was the start of my career. I stayed out at all hours working for club promoters, using my point-and-shoot to capture the lavish parties and the bold personalities. I expanded to Manhattan’s society events, red carpets, charity galas, and weddings. I’ve always loved the city’s contrast and spontaneity.
Over the years, I’ve been able to refine the narratives that inspire me, and found my love for photographing fashion, beauty, interior design, jewelry, and architecture. While my subject matter has varied over the years, people have always provided the common thread— relationships, society, and the environments in which we experience key life moments.
What is your favorite part about photography? What is the best part your job?
My favorite part about photography is the moment when my finger clicks the shutter—a single still frame, that brief moment that can bring you out of your own reality, allowing you to reach out and connect to another time, another place, another person’s experience. I love that I get to interact with such a diverse set of people, and it allows me to catch a glimpse of their experience.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I can give anyone is to follow your own dreams…chase after them with unrelenting passion and discipline. Put honest action behind your goals. There inevitably will be moments where you will doubt yourself or feel that the path you’ve chosen is too hard, but that is exactly when you need to persevere to turn your dream into a reality.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about what you do?
The biggest misconception about what I do is that it’s just a matter of clicking a shutter, and boom—a great image is created. It doesn’t happen like that. You have to spend years training your eye to recognize the serendipity in a normal moment. You have to align your sight to capture the essence of the characters or environment in your story and then wait for that perfect pause—that in-between where it all comes together. That congruence of events could take a few seconds, or it can take a few hours or a few days. The ability to notice and capture is everything. That’s where the beauty is.
What do you hope your scope of work accomplishes throughout your lifetime?
I hope my work inspires people to be more present in their everyday life and to see beauty everywhere, even in the mundane. There is so much beauty in the world that passes us by when we are hampered by time, anxiety, or the laundry list of things that cause us to zone out and disengage. If my images are able to help you shake off the stress and reconnect even for a moment, that may inspire you to engage in the rest of your day— and what a positive impact that can make on your life and for others!
Photography has the power to wake up your emotions, memories, and senses, and can bring you back to an exact moment in time—your first concert at an iconic venue, the feeling of walking through the cobblestone streets in the Meatpacking District, window shopping down 5th Avenue, your first Broadway show—these moments are made immortal with an image. My hope is that my work reminds the viewer that humanity is beautiful—that life is beautiful.
How do you define beauty?
I am optimistic but also keenly aware that moments are fleeting, and that is why I try to find the beauty in every environment or circumstance. I look for the beauty in moments overlooked— there is power in that; beauty is that which is finite. The process of capturing Places Without Faces presented an opportunity for me to show the world what I found beautiful during a time when the absence of New York’s heartbeat— its people—was hidden from view.
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