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Iconic New York City buildings reimagined in dreamlike photo series

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Photographer Marc Yankus captures a dreamy, not-quite-real version of New York City

From a distance, photographer Marc Yankus’s images of New York City look like photos you may have already seen of architectural landmarks—the Empire State Building, or the Ansonia apartments on the Upper West Side. But look a bit closer and you’ll notice something a bit off-kilter about them. The ESB, for instance, is usually surrounded by buildings and a crush of people; but in Yankus’s image, it sits isolated amid Manhattan’s grid.

That dream-like, fantastical quality is quite intentional. Yankus even uses the term "surrealism" when referring to his latest collection of photos, "The Secret Lives of Buildings," now on view at ClampArt Gallery in the Flatiron District. "It’s a fantasy," he says of this series of photos. "It’s documentational, but it’s not pure documentation. It’s a place to escape to—an idealized New York in a more meditative, peaceful place."

To create these images, Yankus first wanders around New York City, building what he calls a "visual diary" on his smartphone—when he sees a building that speaks to him, he’ll snap a picture, and then come back later to grab a more official photo.

"I’m interested in all kinds of buildings, but some just stop me in my tracks," he explains. "It’s hard to describe what it is, but there’s something that is calling me." Though Yankus often photographs turn-of-the-century icons (like the Ansonia, or the Flatiron Building), he also focuses on more quotidian, lesser-known structures, like a series of plain homes in the West Village. He’ll manipulate photos after the fact—changing the lighting, removing people, darkening the sky—in order to achieve that hyper-realistic quality he’s striving for.

"They’re portraits of buildings that are real and fiction," Yankus explains. And they’ll be on view until November 26.