Ashkan Sahihi on the picture e book ‘The New York Years’ – WWD

Ashkan Sahihi has not been able to visit New York for over a year – a strange situation when you bring out a book about New York photography that you didn’t want to make nostalgic. After working on the book “The New York Years” for months in Berlin, it is almost impossible for the photographer not to feel any nostalgia for the Big Apple.

“Of course I miss New York. I haven’t seen my kids in a year – but something turned out to be added. It turns out that there is a certain level of reflection, ”says Sahihi of Zoom. “We didn’t just talk about what was before, but also about another level of change, of life that puts us in difficult situations.”

His photo book then reads both as a love letter to New York’s creatives and as an artist statement, which Sahihi originally intended when he began work on it before the pandemic and was firmly convinced that it was not read with nostalgia.

“The New York Years” by Ashkan Sahihi.
Courtesy Ashkan Sahihi

“I’m a man of a certain age and men my age tend to look at things a certain way, and they tend to call things beautiful and amazing. And they tend to be nostalgic and not realize that what they are talking about is a point in their youth where things were different, where there was no responsibility and so on, and they let the bigger cultural, social and political content more likely than I look at it in full, ”says Sahihi. “That’s why it was very important to me not to be nostalgic. And here we are, suddenly nostalgic for the time we didn’t have to wear masks. “

He specifically wanted to work with a young art director to counter any nostalgia he’d usually picked up, and released much of the control over the selection and arrangement of images.

“I wanted the portraits to come together and tell their own story. I don’t want to sound too great, I just dare to say it in retrospect: the DNA of a cultural community at a certain point in time, ”he says.

Dennis Hopper in SoHo, 1998, by Ashkan Sahihi.
Courtesy Ashkan Sahihi

Sahihi had no personal desire to bring out a book with these pictures – he says he lacked the ego for it – but the experience of looking back through the book now gives him a perspective on the people he has included.

“I mean, these are people who were part of the reason I moved to New York when I was a very, very young man,” he says. “The ones who created the art that drew me to New York and that made me see how they did it? What’s your secret? Why are you in New York? ‘”

His New York, which he moved to when he was 22, was a time when “You went dancing and shared the dance floor and Keith Haring or Debbie Harry were in the room you were in,” he says. “They already knew each other from downtown and were approaching them [for shoots] wasn’t as confused as it is now.

“New York was a completely different animal back then,” says Sahihi. “It was a self-sustaining myth. People came and did things they thought they couldn’t do at home, whether at home in Frankfurt, Bombay or Pittsburgh. And that would beam back to the world like, “Oh, all the crazy people are in New York and I’m going to do these crazy things.” It came with a sense of belonging, maybe even freedom, and at the same time with a sense of responsibility that you too have to do things now. You have to create, you have to produce, you have to deliver. “

Jenny Holzer in New York State, 1990, by Ashkan Sahihi.
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Jeff Koons in New York City, 1996, by Ashkan Sahihi.

Curtis Mayfield in New York City, 1996, by Ashkan Sahihi.

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