Every December since 2005, New York Magazine has ended the year with a love letter to its hometown. For the 15th annual “Reasons to Love New York” issue, the magazine pays tribute to those inspiringly singular New Yorkers who wouldn’t–and probably couldn’t–live anywhere else, with a people-watching portfolio of 24 New Yorkers who stand out by photographer Daniel Featherstone. The portfolio is accompanied by essays about the lives of some of the remarkable individuals featured in the photos from novelists Brit Bennett, Lynn Steger Strong, Rumaan Alam, Regina Porter, Jenny Zhang, and Emily Gould, all of whom are New Yorkers too.
Featherstone started documenting real New Yorkers when he became friends with late photographer Bill Cunningham, known for his legendary street-style shots. Following Cunningham’s death in 2016, Featherstone decided to keep his friend’s legacy alive, searching for people who stand out from the daily hum of New York City streets. “New York is just such a place for individuality,” Featherstone tells New York. “I don’t think I could go to London or Rome or Paris and find that.” He searches for subjects who are “always dressed for the day, and you can see them dressing like that every day,” adding, “I’ve always been attracted to the older generation because they seem to be more individuals than the younger generation.”
“We wanted to pay tribute to the No. 1 reason we love this place,” says features editor Marisa Carroll of the inspiration behind this year’s package. “We were drawn to Daniel’s vibrant street portraits and how they captured the city’s attitude, but we wanted to go beyond simply people watching, and ask, Who are the strangers we see as we move through the city? What’s their story?” As the six novelists assigned to this piece got to know their subjects, they learned their histories spanned boroughs and continents. “The portfolio reinforces the reasons it’s worth it to stick around in a sometimes unrelenting city — and may even make you want to talk to strangers,” Carroll says.