A few years ago, the five of us were sitting around eating pizza and talking about the pizza shops we grew up in. Aside from the always heated debate about the best slice in New York, we found ourselves reminiscing about the little things — the Icees, the orange booths, the pizza guy who never smiles — stuff like that.
At first, the photography was our primary goal. We were focused on the quirks and charms that gave each space its character. We'd photograph the pizza boxes, the packs of sodas stacked to the ceiling, the walls decorated with movie posters, and the neon signs calling in customers from the street. After a few months of playing back our interviews, we began to develop a deeper connection to the subject. As we became more comfortable talking to people in the pizzerias we visited, they started opening up to us a bit more. Their stories became the highlight of each trip.
The portraits and anecdotes we were gathering began to paint a picture of everyday New Yorkers, through the places where they work and eat. These mom-and-pop pizzerias are special precisely because they are so ordinary. In our eyes, they are the backbone of what makes New York so great. There are no gimmicks — just a solid slice and soda for a few dollars. Many of them continue to thrive despite the 99 cent pizza next door and the booming cost of rent. In a city where tastes and trends are constantly shifting, these places endure. The employees work hard, they put out good product, and in return, they have loyal customers. If they were to disappear, the city would lose part of what makes it unique, part of its DNA.
At this point, we’ve been to over 100 neighborhood pizza shops, taken thousands of photos, and captured hundreds of hours of interviews. In June, 2014, we raised over $25,000 to design and publish a 192-page hardcover coffee table book. Get your copy today at www.nypizzaproject.com!
The photos below are a few of my favorites from the book.