Driving a taxi in New York City gives a unique eye-level view of the daily lives of the city’s 8 million residents.
When David Bradford became a cab driver in the early ’90s, he thought a view from the cab’s window would make for fascinating photos. He was right.
“I couldn’t anticipate it, but once I was in the driver seat, I realised I had a front row seat to everything happening in New York,” Bradford told Business Insider.
Bradford has been a cab driver for the last 20 years, but he started his career as an artist, attending the Rhode Island School of Design for Illustration.
Bradford was a skilled 'blind contour illustrator,' meaning he drew without looking. He says it was incredible training for photographing from the cab, where he has to often shoot without taking the time to compose.
After college, Bradford became an art director for Saks Fifth Avenue. After 10 years at Saks, he decided he wanted to pursue his own art.
At first, he photographed things from the cab to use as references for drawings. After a couple of years, he turned to photography full time.
Bradford shoots while driving, rarely taking the time to look or compose. He has an instinct for what is interesting or compelling and acts on that instinct.
'There is more drama when the umbrellas are out and people's faces are scrunched up,' says Bradford.
When passengers entered his taxi, Bradford would introduce himself and say, 'I shoot the city from a taxi.'
He taped two of his prints to the glass divider in the cab and kept his portfolio on hand to show to interested passengers. He sealed two books deals and countless media appearances by talking up big-shots in his cab.
Once, he showed his portfolio to a white-haired passenger who told him that he was also a photographer and that he was opening an art show at the Whitney Museum that week. It turned out to be famed portrait photographer Richard Avedon.
Bradford would often camp out in front of the CBS offices or Port Authority to try to pick up interesting people.
After 10 years of shooting, Bradford released 'Drive-By Shootings,' which sold out its first printing run.
Occasionally, passengers complained, but most told him that it was 'the best cab ride they'd ever had.'
Bradford has been witness to everything happening in New York over the years. This is a shot he took on 9/11.
A few years ago, Bradford retired from taxi driving. He says it is of the most stressful jobs in the world.
A race-car driver once told Bradford that driving a cab in New York City is the best training for driving a race-car.
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