Standing tall at four feet and eleven inches, I've been prone to an array of nicknames, but I generally go by Daniela Spector (my last name didn't help much either).
How was your interest in photography sparked?
I was raised in Miami, Florida with a father who collected rocks aka a geologist and a mother who collected tchotchkes aka an amateur hoarder; so the concept of collecting was prevalent in my upbringing. My obsession centered around accumulating tangible memories, from movie ticket stubs and notes from high school to an array of journals with meticulous details. As I grew older my obsession slowly evolved into photography. Observing the world through a viewfinder eventually changed my perspective. I fell in love with moments where all the colors complimented each other perfectly or when light naturally landed on a subject in an interesting way.
What brought you to New York?
Last year I was presented with the opportunity to move to New York and I didn't think twice about it. Although my notion of New York was primarily derived from episodes of "Friends" and "Law & Order," I felt drawn to the city. I was a moth and New York was the flame.
While Miami's art scene is eclectic and exponentially growing, it's still very young compared to the art scene that has been developing for decades in New York. It's the perfect place to start a career. I'm currently freelancing while working part time as a studio assistant at Attic Studios in Long Island City.
(Ok, ok, there may have also been a cute boy involved in my decision to move to New York.)
New Yorkers are notoriously stereotyped as abrasive and aggressive. What would you suggest is the best way for non-New Yorkers to be embraced by locals?
Step 1: Buy black clothes and toss anything neon colored.
Step 2: Download a Subway app on your phone. You never want to be that person hovering over strangers to get a closer look of the Subway map on the train.
Step 3: Buy dark sunglasses so you can people watch on the train without looking like a creep.
Step 4: Never stop suddenly on a crowded street. It's akin to slamming on your brakes in the middle of a busy intersection.
What would you say are the biggest cultural differences between Miami and New York?
The two cities are complete opposites. The diversity in Miami is Hispanic-specific while the array of cultures in New York is often overwhelming. New York also has these things called 'seasons.' Which is a fairly foreign term in Miami where there are 51 weeks of summer and 1 week of winter.
Where do you go to enjoy the city and escape tourists?
Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It was once a warehouse and manufacturing district that has slowly been evolving into a quaint little neighborhood with dozens of niche restaurants and shops. If you end up there, you must stop by Bellocq. Surrounded by industrial buildings, graffiti, and trash in the gutters, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you aren't Alice falling down a rabbit hole into Wonderland when you step into the tiny teashop.
What advice would you give for those who are interested in moving to New York?
- Living in Manhattan isn't all it's cracked up to be. You can find a spacious alternative in Brooklyn or Queens.
- Buy wool socks, wool sweaters, wool blankets, wool everything. Wool is your new best friend in the cold winter months.
- Avoid Time Square at all costs.
- Starbucks is now dead to you. There are so many good quality local roasters who will make you forget any loyalties to previous coffee shops.
What recommendations do you have for future travelers coming to New York?
Best local restaurant:
Num-Pang. There are three locations in the entire city, but the only one with proper seating (and ample outlets for those with dying smartphones) is in the flat iron district. I often feel as if I'm performing a form of charitable service whenever I take someone to this spot, because it is that good.
Best view of the skyline:
My favorite view of the city is from my balcony! Stop by anytime!
My favorite thing about the chain of the Standard Hotels is that each one is designed to reflect the characteristics of its neighborhood. The Standard Hotel, East Village is just as funky as the rest of its surroundings. I may be slightly biased as they have the best avocado smash I've ever had in their restaurant - Narcissa.
Best museums to explore:
There are museums all over the city, but few are as scintillating as the Museum of Moving Images in Astoria, Queens. Also, it's free on Fridays from 4pm - 8pm! It's great for adults and kids alike, particularly the old school video game exhibit. If you're looking for something more peaceful, I'd suggest taking a quick bus ride over to the Noguchi Museum.
There's a strip of galleries in the meatpacking district that always have interesting exhibits in rotation. Gagosian Gallery, Andrea Rosen Gallery, Mike Weiss Gallery, Paula Cooper Galler, Anton Kern Gallery, and David Zwirner are all within a five blocks of each other and perfect for gallery hopping.
What’s next for you?
There are so many options up here that’s it difficult to decide at times. I’m still testing the waters on the types of photography I’m interested in (lifestyle, portraiture, architecture, travel) and the career paths I can take to pursue them. My focus changes constantly and I’m learning to just go with it.
Images Courtesy of Daniela Spector
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