Photographer Tod Seelie is a chronicler of the weird, extreme, and outsized parts of New York life, the parts you don’t see in Midtown or Times Square.
He has sailed down the Hudson River on rafts made of junk, partied on top of the Williamsburg Bridge, and attended dinner parties in train tunnels. It’s all part of the scene that he has been running in and out of for the past fifteen years.
Comprised of a collection of artists, writers, musicians and D.I.Y.-aficionados, they live by the creed that if you want to make something happen, don’t wait. Make it happen yourself.
“Most of the things I’m drawn to are done by D.I.Y. people who make what they want to happen, happen,” Seelie told The New York Times. “You want to put on a play? Great. Find an abandoned power plant.”
Seelie’s work was just released last week in a book, “Bright Nights.”
'New York can be anything because there are so many worlds happening here already,' Seelie told Business Insider. 'Everything is going.' Here a crowd dances on a Bushwick rooftop on the 4th of July.
What Cheer? Brigade, a 19-piece brass band performs in Alphabet City. Seelie has long been involved in the 'vandal-art' scene of Brooklyn, which has a renegade, anti-establishment attitude.
Seelie often photographs punk rock shows, like this Spank Rock concert. It was at a closed bodega that his friends converted into a concert venue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Seelie got into photography while studying sculpture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. While there, he became friends with many major members of the D.I.Y. scene like the artist Swoon and Ian Vanek of the band Japanther.
Swoon organised this 'junk-raft' sailing trip from Troy, New York to New York City. The rafts are powered by Mercedes diesel engines that were taken from a junkyard and reconfigured.
'(Seelie is) all about showing smart, sometimes privileged, people doing stuff they probably haven't done before,' Seelie's friend and music promoter Todd Patrick told the New York Times. 'He likes to catch upper-middle-class white kids actually doing interesting things.' Here, his friend straddles the 'third rail' of the subway in Staten Island.
'Ultimately, Tod's passion is for experiences that are only really possible if you're living at the extreme,' said Patrick. Another friend of Seelie's drinks after climbing a tree in Fort Tilden, a park on the edge of Queens.
Seelie is often taking part in the events he photographs, lending a helping hand with the crew or joining the fun.
This is a dinner party taking place in the Freedom Tunnel, a train tunnel used by Amtrak. It gets its name from the famous street art in the tunnel by Chris 'Freedom' Pape.
Seelie said that one of the strangest and most exciting events he's been at was a party at the top of the Williamsburg Bridge.
Not everything that Seelie photographs is an event: Often, it is an unusual occurrence. He heard this car explode while making dinner and ran outside to photograph it.
This was part of a performance by the artist Nate Hill, who was cheekily protesting racism against white people in Harlem. 'His work is about getting a reaction,' says Seelie.
Seelie has collaborated often with Jeff Stark, a guerrilla theatre producer and the editor of NonsenseNYC. You can find many (but Seelie reminds us, not anywhere near all) of the types of events Seelie photographs on the NonsenseNYC mailing list.
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