Just when it seemed Mishka NYC—a gaudy streetwear brand with a flagship alit in pink neon in between its drab neighbors under the elevated JMZ tracks in Williamsburg—couldn’t scream for attention any louder, they went and hosted party photographer Nate “Igor” Smith’s “These New York Streets,” a small exhibit of emotionally charged city scenes shot with a 35 millimeter camera.
On Friday, friends and admirers of Mr. Smith crowded into the small store to check out the prints on display. The scenes included a fire hydrant explosion, a man splayed out on the street with his nose bloodied, gothic nightlife entertainers still dressed in black glitter and angel wings getting into a cab the next morning and other intense New York City moments.
A few months ago, Mishka NYC approached Mr. Smith, who has shot art for one of the brand’s look books, to curate a small exhibit of his more serious work. According to his girlfriend, fellow photographer Kimberly Kane, the exhibit is a collection of what Mr. Smith has witnessed over the years during bouts with insomnia. “He stays out all night and gets into all kind of trouble,” she told The Observer.
Mr. Smith is typically known for his party and event coverage, and photographs of naked women. J.D. Valentine, who met Mr. Smith through her work as an event promoter, said she was surprised when she entered the store. “Normally you see him shoot parties or a kind of soft porn,” she said. “When we showed up we were expecting a gallery full of boobies, and it wasn’t that at all.” Even though the content was different, Andy Shaw, also an event promoter, added that the style was unmistakable. “He always gets the dirtier side of stuff,” he said.
Ms. Valentine told us she wasn’t surprised that Mr. Smith was able to encapsulate the streets of New York in just ten photos because she can’t recall a time she saw him empty handed. “Anywhere you go he’s always there,” she said. “And he always has his camera ready.”
Tara Chacon, the in-house photographer for the brand, wandered around the event shooting photos of the store and the exhibit. Camera in hand, she told us that she admired Mr. Smith’s work because of his ability to find great photos in any situation. “He’s very much a social chameleon,” she told us. “And he definitely has a way with the ladies, seeing as how that’s ninety percent of his work.”
Mr. Smith’s photos of events in New York City have been published in The Village Voice over the years. “They love the naked stuff at parties,” he told The Observer. “Because when you have that ‘Not Safe for Work’ tag the gallery gets ten times as much traffic.”
During a quick break from greeting friends and snapping photos of his exhibit’s guests for his website, Mr. Smith stepped outside of the store to tell The Observer that he doesn’t really think of himself as an event photographer. “I never meant to be a party photographer,” he said, as trains rushed by overhead. “I just carried my camera with me all the time and it turned into work.”
Even though it wasn’t what he intended for his career, friends of Mr. Smith told The Observer that he has a knack for shooting events. Dana Dynamite works with Mr. Smith a lot, bringing him to music festivals hosted by her clients to shoot press photos.
Ms. Dynamite said that Mr. Smith’s unique perspective comes from his persistence with the camera. “He’s everywhere,” she told us. “If there’s a concert with a mosh pit, he will just get in there and hold up his camera and just mosh and take pictures. It is complete insanity.”
Mr. Smith said that even though he thinks of himself primarily as a documentary photographer, the event work has led to exciting experiences, “It’s given me a chance to do a lot of things I never thought I would do,” he said. “Three years ago I didn’t think I would be just hanging out on stage with the Wu Tang Clan.”
But the photographer, who also plays in a punk cover band called The Fucking Bullshit, adds that the job often forced him to locales and venues that weren’t exactly his favorites. “I never thought so much of my life would be shooting electronic dance music concerts,” he said. “I don’t even listen to electronic dance music.”
Steering clear of the dubstep, Mr. Smith said he is going to spend the coming months focusing on what he feels is more personal, continuing to shoot what he encounters on New York City streets. He stepped back inside Mishka NYC to shoot photos of the partygoers, many of which were sleeved in tattoos.
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