14 Sep Finding Sunshine in the Storm: A Rainy Day with Professional Puddle Photographer Nancy Hightower
LOVE LETTER // NYC
Finding Sunshine in the Storm: A Rainy Day with Professional Puddle Photographer Nancy Hightower
What if I told you that the meaning of life is inside of something as simple as a puddle.
Yes, a puddle.
How many times have we walked by a puddle, aloof. Or stepped inside a puddle, with rage. We jump to avoid them and wear boots to protect ourselves from them. Whatever it is that we are doing, it is not interacting.
Well, at least most people are not.
I recently met Nancy Hightower. An adjunct professor at FIT and Hunter as her day job, but with a side business idea that quite literally, blew my mind.
Nancy is a professional photographer of puddles. And what a talent she has.
She left a home and steady job in Colorado to look for something else.
Magic. And she wanted to find it, here in New York City.
We walked up 10th Avenue together. The rain had been falling for two days. So many puddles, so many stories. I wanted to know everything about her process of finding the puddles and capturing the images inside.
I learned the key is to get low, low enough. You want to get really low. It’s not uncommon for me to return home smelling like puddles, she told me.
I asked her what a puddle smells like, and she smiled an instant smile;
The city. They smell like the city.
I have been in love with the smells of this city for over a decade. Somehow, I’ve even grown to love the smell of the hot trash, or the A/C in the train, or the freshly cut grass in Central Park. But never have I thought about the smell of a puddle.
Turns out the smells of a puddle are not the only thing that I had not been observing.
There are worlds inside these puddles, Nancy told, and subsequently showed me.
Back in 2020 and 2021, Nancy was living in Chelsea. She started walking the streets in a time where everyone was moving away. The city was empty of people, but frequent rains left puddles galore. Nancy started looking inside the puddles, and then photographing them.
“I would look at these giant puddles and almost get vertigo looking into this landscape that was a mirror of where I was. And it felt like Alice in the looking glass, where if I just peered in too far, I would fall in. And I loved that feeling, because how often to we get to feel like we are in a story book?”
Let’s start with the technical. I asked Nancy if she could share a few of her favorite shots.
“I just got Radio City Music Hall from a puddle that was right underneath the lights while it was still raining, and I had to wait and catch the picture in between drops. I have a beautiful picture of the Highline that is split between worlds. I do have a wonderful picture of Times Square caught in a massive puddle on 8th Avenue and the buildings look like they are dancing, and that is joy” (You can see a selection of Nancy’s favorites below, and also in the video).
“I felt like Alice in the looking glass, where if I just peered in too far, I would fall in. And I loved that feeling, because how often do we get to feel like we are in a story book?”
Within minutes of our strolling the streets, it became immediately apparent to me how much philolsphopy, purpose and passion went into these photos for Nancy.
While self-admittedly, most people look at Nancy as a crazy lady, hunched over dirty water, Nancy looks at the water with a different lens, both literally and figuratively. She believes that every puddle is a portal, and every car is a space station. For Nancy, it’s all about reflections that bend the world. It brings magic back into your life in a daily way.
Nancy correctly points out that we are always rushing, and this slows her down and gets her excited to be alive. She finds joy and beauty in these puddles. As she told me, every puddle has a story – the trash, the leaves, that adds to a life lived. The best life is a lived life and puddles show all the life of NYC in it, the buildings the cars, the leaves, the trash, the things in our lives. It’s like a picture frame that’s continuing to changing your perspectives.
Nancy hopes to eventually make her project it into a book or have a gallery show, but she also wants people to enjoy the photos, and inspire them to go out and take their own pictures of their own cities lakes, and buildings.
A morning with Nancy reminds me that there is still wonder to be had in the simplest of places and spaces.
One puddle, one portal, one rain, and one reflection at a time.
To learn more about Nancy’s work and purchase your very own puddle photo, please visit: https://nancyhigh.picfair.com/
Thanks For Reading!
This letter is a part of Brian Rashid’s “Love Letters to the World,” a global initiative bringing stories of hope, humanity, and travel/tourism to our world.
A huge thanks to Bradley Tusk, the sponsor of this series called, “Love Letters to New York City.” Bradley is owner of Tusk ventures and Founder of P&T Knitwear.
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