Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Sunday, May 3, 2020
NYC Street Food
One of New York Cities most iconic institutions.
Photography and writing by Will Engelmann.
Street Food is one of New York Cities most iconic institutions. Walking off into the night exploring the city. Slowly passing cart after cart until the smell of halal and roasting kebabs fill your nostrils and you can’t take it anymore. Your feet start following the path your stomach is pulling you towards a street vendor. From inside a chef shouts wha-da-ya-havn? You look over the menu and peak inside the cart at the kebab skewers, slowly rotating hot dogs, and the giant pretzels glowing with oil and covered in salt.
When you’re looking for a food cart you’re not necessarily looking for a culinary masterpiece. A work of perfect food art created by a master chef. You’re not going to find a lightly seasoned branzino paired with an aperitif or a dry aged tomahawk steak paired with a glass of wine. The great joy of a food cart is nostalgia. It’s simple pleasurable foods designed to entice you and bring you in. It’s a harkening back to a time when you were little. And a hot dog with a squirt of ketchup and cheese, hold the relish was all you ever needed or wanted in this world. Sitting there like a young boy in your high chair while your mom makes you food. The immediacy of having it now and the messy joy of just shoving it into your face. Cheese and ketchup squirting out as you take your first bite. And in a city as diverse as New York you can find comfort food from all over the world over by just taking a little stroll. Sizzling meats from the Halal Guys, a taco cart parked next door and a Greek souvlaki food truck next to that. Comfort food. Comfortable food that makes you feel good. A little bit of joy as you prepare to wander back into the night exploring what other little joys you can find in New York.
"Street food is about being out and about. It's just one part of a bigger story but maybe the best part."
For some the dream of opening a food truck or cart is an escape from their day job. A chance to excape the office and serve pork buns with a smile. But for many new immigrants it’s the American dream itself. An opportunity to start a business and pursue a better life. People come from every corner of the globe and bring their rich food traditions to this tiny island. Manhattan is roughly two miles wide and thirteen miles long but it holds the hopes and dreams of millions upon millions of people. But the dream of a better life for you and your family isn’t easy. Nor is it easy working in a food cart or truck. Long often 10+ hour days are spent standing on your feet slaving over a hot grill. Serving hot food to sometimes rude or un-gratuitous tourists and busy New Yorkers. The shouting and yelling from customers and competition from nearby carts.
Since the 1980’s New York city has put a cap on the number of mobile food vending permits that they’ll allow. This regulation is good for the city so that street carts don’t block busy New Yorkers commuting to work and it’s good for existing vendors to not have to compete with too much competition driving down prices. But in recent years it’s also created a two tier system of the haves and have nots. Sometimes it can take many years for a new entrepreneur to get their permit approved. Which has created a black market where permits are sold for up to 20,000$.
But even in this chaotic environment people still come from all over the world to serve you a hot dog. And in the process many of these people overcome the odds and find the American dream that they were searching for. The next time you ask for extra sauce give em a little extra tip.
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
New York Food Photographer
Quarantine Food Photography Portfolio
Photography work done during quarantine by the New York City Food Photographer Will Engelmann.
I’ve been at home for the past month under the shelter in place order in New York City. It’s been a trying time but what’s kept me not only sane but also thriving is Art. As much as I’ve been heartbroken for my myself and my friends who own or work at now closed restaurants in NYC, it’s also been secretly rewarding to suddenly have all the time in the world to create Art with photography. I can wake up in the morning with nowhere to go and nothing to do other than to look around my apartment and let my imagination wander. Lie on the couch until an idea forms in my head. An old film camera that resembles a face and a straw. That’s enough to get my mind working and my hands setting up a makeshift photo studio on my dining room table. I say dining room but I live in a large for NYC apartment where my living room, dining room and home office are all one long room. A lot of the food photography work that I did at restaurants in NYC was almost always fast paced. It’s an electric atmosphere with people dining, waitresses carrying plates of food past me while I work, chef’s shouting from the kitchen. Each restaurant moves and flows with a life all their own and I Love it. But now suddenly I have the time. I can subtly move a light an inch to the left, an inch to the right. And if I’m not sure about something I can lay back down on the couch and think about it for a little while. As heartbroken as I’ve been I’ve also found a way to Love photography and Love what I do again. It’s my Silver Lining in these trying times.
"Art creates a fire inside of me that slowly grows bigger every time I pick up a camera."
Being a Commercial Photographer in NYC means creating work for others in their style and vision. Which in of itself can be rewarding but when creating So Much work for others an artist can lose their connection to their craft. Forget why they even ever wanted to be a photographer in the first place. And even at times feel trapped by it. Not loving what you do anymore but also having it be the one thing that’s sustained you through all these years. I’ve been a photographer for 20+ years and a professional photographer for 10+ and the thought of leaving it behind terrifies me. What would I do? I don’t have an answer for that but what I can say is that the more Art that I create the more hope I have for the future. Art creates a fire inside of me that slowly grows bigger every time I pick up a camera. And I couldn’t say that two months ago.
There’s not a lot of food in this portfolio because it is a quarantine portfolio. And in this time I was limited by what I could produce. All the “drinks” are actually just iced tea, and a lot of things had to be improvised or faked or rationed. But that’s the great thing about the creative process. Being limited forces you to think outside the box and come up with new imaginative ways to look at the world around you. And even if I didn’t make my masterpiece everything that I did, mistakes and all, inform every work of Art that I’ll make from this moment going forwards.
And yes I am obsessed with smoke and I Love it. It’s a metaphor for something but I honestly never put too much thought into it.