Book Review: Coincidences
New York City has been heralded as the city that never sleeps. It’s chaotic. It’s dirty. It’s relentless. The only way to make sense of it is to establish your own order. That’s exactly what photographer Jonathan Higbee did when he first moved to the city from Los Angeles. Looking through a camera lens allowed him to find patterns… coincidences, if you will. He took these photographs for five years— falling in love with New York City in the process— and compiled them into his newest book, Coincidences, set to come out on November fifth of this year.
Higbee approaches the concrete jungle with humor, immediately shown by the book cover depicting a man with white hair that seemingly dissipates into white smoke trailing off the page. The succeeding photographs similarly manipulate the mind’s eye to create an unparalleled New York. An advertisement of a man mounting stairs now becomes his trek over recyclables on the street. The American Eagle insignia materializes as white pigeons take flight next to it. A man disappears behind a garden’s reflection, engulfed in a green portal with only his legs to remember him by. It is hard to believe that these photos are authentic, but Higbee reassures us that they are simply the result of patience and perfect timing.
Now the city doesn’t appear nearly as daunting or indifferent to its many residents. How can it when so many moments perfectly align to produce these coincidences? A tree superimposes itself over a mural of a man picking apples. Suddenly, the two-dimensional man grasps for real, tangible leaves. Chess players become chessmen as a mural of a woman reaches for them. It muddles the mind and begs you to reconsider the cold metropolis that so many call home. Something even as simple as a cane on the sidewalk becomes otherworldly through the eye and lens of Jonathan Higbee. The crack on the sidewalk melds with the cane, further grounding the anonymous passerby and challenging our notion of logic and convention.
Honestly, this collection has been the most difficult for me to review because there are so many photos I wish I could include. Every page has you searching for a pattern, then reveling at the kismet at work once you do. We are clearly not in the New York that everyone thinks they know. We are transported to one whose murals come to life and integrate into our own world, one that allows us to become a part of the advertisements that surround us. This New York imbues itself with magic that Higbee provides us access to through his unique approach to street photography. He gives us a new lease on the city’s cacophony. Instead of looking at it with trepidation, Coincidences shows us how this frenzy can become something humorous, something whimsical, saturated with puddles of irony and oodles of soul.