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Daniel Arnold’s iPhone photographs of New York daily life are as blunt and candid as his subjects themselves — as he documents subway commuters and midtown workers in moments of everyday weariness and banality. His photographs capture a spirit of the present while channeling a tradition of street and subway photography from the likes of Walker Evans, and Garry Winogrand.

Daniel first found his photographic platform in the form of Instagram, where he quickly amassed a dedicated amount of followers (and last summer, when his account was flagged for indecency, it spawned a minor “Free Daniel Arnold” movement online).

His first book, “Locals”, is published with Dashwood Books, and will launch at The Newsstand tonight at the Metropolitan Avenue station, from 6-8pm.

Lele:

First, tell me a little bit about you: where are you from, and for how long have you been living in New York?

Daniel:

Well, I’m 33, and I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin — I’ve been in New York for ten years.

Lele:

Ten years? Did you go to school here?

Daniel:

No, it’s been ten years long enough to be tired and bitter and angry, but no, I did not study here. I’ve had assorted writing jobs all across the spectrum, which started with writing about music, but it has kind of found its way into other things. Throughout this whole time I’ve been pretty obsessively taking photographs of everything...

Lele:

For yourself?

Daniel:

Yes, always for myself — I always had an interest from when I was a little kid, I’ve always liked taking photos. When I moved here, I would go out and see music by myself every night, or I would walk around by myself for hours, and basically I was taking photos to try and stabilize my brain, trying to keep track of what was happening every day. It’s easy to get hooked on it as a pastime in this city, there’s just so much going on. And it’s one of those things, like a crossword puzzle — if you keep working on it and doing it everyday, you really do start to get better.

Lele:

And it’s like you see a different city, almost?

Daniel:

Oh yeah, completely. And aside from seeing a different city, you get to make your own city and have it set aside, as something you can go back and refer to, and decide what was where and what mattered.

Lele:

You never thought of it as an art project then?

Daniel:

Well, I don’t know if thought of it that way at the time, but it definitely was. It became a bigger and bigger part of my life, and I was finding the creative satisfaction that I wasn’t getting out of writing, which was major for me because I had always thought of myself as a writer. And it’s like the same premise without the excruciating torture of putting it into words.

Lele:

Way more immediate...

Daniel:

Yeah, and reliable — the discipline of sitting down to write and actually seeing things through words can be a shaky thing.

Lele:

So, when did your Instagram come about?

Daniel:

Well, I was working in Times Square, which I had been doing for seven years, and I was kind of miserable too, and it was sort of this accidental escape to turn that experience into this really great creative outlet that was sitting there waiting for me everyday, I just had no choice but to deal with it. It ended up picking up really quick, even though didn’t do any kind of self-promotion, or take it that seriously. It started out as this smart-ass thing, and it just took off.

Lele:

But then they shut you down your account, right? Why did that happen?

Daniel:

Because I posted a photo of some topless girls.

Lele:

Was it natural, sexy photos or just like...

Daniel:

It was these two girls on a beach — it was an interesting photo of naked girls, that was it.

Lele:

Did you open another account?

Daniel:

Yeah. You know, I was caught off guard by the whole thing, and felt sort of indignant and upset for maybe 12 hours, and then I realized I was taking it way too seriously — that this is a goofy iPhone app, and I’ll open a new account, which was a good moment for me. But Instragram is just great photo training with a great level of unexpected exposure — and it’s the best to always have your camera in your hand at all times, you’re always in that state of mind and...

Lele:

And it’s like going to the gym every day. So, how did your relationship with Dashwood start?

Daniel:

Tim Barber and Jason Nocito were both doing a book signing about a year ago, and Tim introduced me to David Strettel (of Dashwood Books) and gave him this little hype speech about my photos, which was great — Tim has been a great advocate for me. David started following my Instagram, and after keeping up and saying hi to him, and reminding him of who I was, the conversation eventually we got to the point where he was ready to do something with me, and I felt ready too.

Lele:

In the future, do you see yourself more as a photographer or do you think you’ll eventually go back to writing?

Daniel:

Photography is definitely my focus, but as a general long term goal, I just want to be in a position where I am scared — where I'm intimidated, and learning...

Lele:

You want to be scared?

Daniel:

Yeah, I keep trying to find, and I guess I've been always doing this since I've been here, but as often as possible, I’ve been putting myself in positions where I feel like I don't know what I am doing —

Lele:

Why do you like that, is it another form of escape?

Daniel:

Well, if you keep proving yourself wrong, it leads to such great experiences.