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Downtown From Behind

A new photo blog turns its back on traditional street style portraiture

by Laura Neilson in Culture on 27 October 2010

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Casting the lens on NYC's backside, Downtown From Behind stands out from among the fashion-blog mayhem for its altogether unconventional spin on this increasingly standard form of style photography. The newly-launched site showcases back views of bicycle riders on the streets of lower Manhattan, creating "an environmental portrait for each street and its subject."

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The upshot of photographer Bridget Fleming's effort to document the 200-plus streets of Manhattan located below 14th street, Downtown From Behind showcases an eclectic cast of individuals ranging from local architects and designers to stylists, decorators, musicians, artists, hoteliers, chefs—anyone who has an impact on their specific downtown neighborhood, be it through their profession or just by living in the area, Fleming notes.

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Despite her subjects' faces not being visible, Fleming's particular brand of photography is revelatory in an entirely different way—the surrounding streetscapes not only convey a sense of where they are, but their belongings also tend to indicate where they're headed. The approach further reinforces the connection between subject and destination, such as the shot of designer Frank Alexander balancing a massive bouquet of flowers over his shoulder, or chef Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde captured with a whole baby pig strapped across his back as he pedals his way to his soon-to-open restaurant, The Dutch. The compositions are particular and make a lasting impression without falling back on devices of typical figurative work.

Downtown From Behind also encourages "green awareness through cycling," partnering with philanthropic organization Little Ambitious, who lends support to young inventors and designer using sustainable processes.

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