Last summer, a broker started photographing the numbers affixed to different buildings across New York Cityranging from the standard sticker to more whimsical, ornamented carvings. Then Town's Will Sharon discovered Instagram. Now, he's amassed an archive of 2,000 images. And, as of January 1, he's posted an address photo that corresponds to the day of the year. For example, March 6 is number 65. He captions them with the neighborhood, some short commentary, and the hashtag #NumbersofNewYork. Surprised by the following he's gotten, Sharon has also launched a website where readers can sort through the building numbers by neighborhood. Curbed talked to Sharon about his favorite numbers, how he shoots, and why he's enamored with this tiny part of the streetscape. (And do scroll through the whole feed; it's lovely, and addictive.)
Curbed: How did you first come up with the idea? What day is number "1" And why?
Will Sharon: As a real estate agent you spend a lot of time on the street, and as a photographer I've trained myself to look past the obvious. As I traveled around Manhattan, I began to notice the amazing artistry of the numbers on buildings and initially began to use my iPhone to take pictures. (I confess that prior to last fall I'd only vaguely heard of Instagram.) When I first began to post them they were essentially random; I think the first one is 11. Having accumulated nearly 2,000 images at this point, I thought it would be interesting to post one a day corresponding to the day of the yearso the number 1 in the current sequence is January 1st, and today is the 65th day of the year.
What do you use to take the photos? Instagram, of course, but any other apps/tools/filters/techniques?
WS: Initially, I used my iPhone but there are some serious limitations if you are trying to take a clear shot of a number on a brownstone from street level. I currently use a Lumix DMC-FZ200 primarily because it has a Leica lens with the equivalent of a 600mm zoom, and it's very compact. I don't use the standard Instagram filters, but I do sometimes increase contrast, saturation and sharpness.
How do you ensure that you come across a building with the next number in the sequence every dayand that they are from different neighborhoods?
WS: I'm constantly on the lookout and I've assembled about 2,000 images. They come from my travels to and from properties that I've seen and I'm fairly disciplined about downloading and cataloging them on the days that I take them – so they are from a wide range of neighborhoods. I challenge myself each day to find new examples and I'm constantly editing to find the best example out there.
Where do you find the coolest/most unusual numbers (in certain neighborhoods)? Along with that, what numbers have been your favorite so far, and why?
WS: That's a tough question. When I started I thought that there would be a particular character to the numbers based on the neighborhoods but given the way the landscape of the city is constantly changing, I haven't found that to be the case. If I had to make a choice I guess I would go with a 2 (you have to scroll down past the current sequence) from the West Village and further down a 23 from the East Village. I have to say though that one of the real pleasures is to see what my followers on Instagram like.
Do you have a stopping point? What is it?
WS: Well, I guess there is a natural stopping point at 365 but that would eliminate all the numbers above that that are really beautiful. So, we'll see. In the moment I'm just letting it evolve.
WS: It is exciting for me to explore. I wanted to explore an avenue of real estate marketing that went beyond the traditional or the expected photographs. I love that the aesthetics of these numbers reflect the city we live in. The numbers are symbols that we walk by and under every day, and they are evocative of the buildings that they adorn.
Here's a video, published in December, of some more of Sharon's work (before he started sequencing them on January 1):