ONA has an office in New York City, and we aren’t ashamed to say that we are head over heels in love with this city. There’s always something to do and always something to photograph, and it’s thrilling to be at the center of the media and fashion industries (like when we were able to experience Fashion Week!). There is no shortage of amazing photos taken in New York City, and one of our favorite sources for street-side inspiration is James Maher’s daily blog of New York photos. His images beautifully capture the constantly changing heartbeat of the city, whether it’s a quiet moment in the park or the hustle of SoHo streets.
James carries the Union Street Messenger Bag in Smoke.
ONA: How did you get into blogging?
JM: I started blogging in 2009, thinking it would be a good way to motivate me to continue to create personal work on a daily basis. Creating four to five new photos a week that are decent is a tough thing to do and the blog helped me think about it every single day. I didn’t think I’d grow a large audience at the time, although I hoped I would. I just wanted a few people out there listening to keep me shooting consistently and improving daily.
ONA: What’s your favorite thing to photograph?
JM: It might be self-explanatory by looking at my work, but I prefer images that portray people and culture. New York is my muse because it’s where I grew up and there are so many different cultures and unique things to capture here. I’m lucky to be in one of the most diverse and inspiring places on the planet. I like to capture content that gives insight into people, culture, life, and modern times. I try to capture photos that are beautiful both on the surface and under it. I aim to make the viewer think.
There are certain meccas for photographers -maybe it’s Yosemite, a safari, Alaska, India, or small towns in Europe. I like to think of the street corners of Broadway and Prince Street and 57th Street and 5th Avenue in New York as meccas for street photographers and people watching. So much life passes by there every 10 minutes.
ONA: How does photography play a role on your blog?
JM: It’s everything. My primary goal with the blog is to tell the story of the modern city through imagery. I write a little bit, but I prefer the narrative to take place through viewing many photos over a long period of time. Certain photos on the blog might not seem interesting alone, but as you get more into the narrative they begin to make more sense. I like to write a little about what I think about a few of the photos, but the less writing I do the more I allow the viewer to interpret and think about the photos in their own ways. That’s important.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to?” lens of choice?
JM: I’m a Canon shooter and I’m currently using the 5D Mark II. My street photography lens is the Canon 28mm 1.8 lens, which I love, and I use the 24-70mm and 70-200mm primarily for commercial and architecture work.
I also use the Fuji X100s as an everyday walk around camera, for street photography, and when I give my photo tours of New York, to save my neck and back a bit from the Mark II and lenses. I am obsessed with the Fuji X100s. It’s a stunning camera in size, looks, ease of use, and image quality.
ONA: What inspired you to start your blog?
JM: I wanted to create a forum to speak to people with my images and I wanted to use it as a means to motivate me. A blog seemed to be the best way to share my voice and point of view and to help people understand my work. I do a lot of picturesque city work, but a significant amount of my work is much different from that and it can be an acquired taste, if you know what I mean. The blog is a great way for people and clients to get to know me as well through my personal work. Also, the city and people in the city inspire me. I use the camera as a way to relate to other people.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a blogger just starting out?
JM: Don’t craft the blog to what you think other people will like and don’t shoot things because you think other people will like them – shoot or create the content that you are the most passionate and knowledgeable about and the readers will see that.
ONA: What’s your favorite post on your site and why?
JM: Go to my website and look through three pages of the blog (30 images). I photograph people candidly, do street portraiture, architecture, cityscapes, daily life photos and much more. I think as you look at more and more of the photos, certain themes and messages begin to pop out beyond the individual shots. So there’s not one post that does justice to what I’m trying to do. It’s a story told over hundreds of images.
ONA: How did you hear about ONA?
JM: I have been searching for years for good bags. Since my work is extremely varied, good bags are every bit as important as the equipment. One day I’ll be doing commercial work, one day I’ll be capturing the architecture of a neighborhood, one day I’ll be giving a photo tour in the rain for three people where I need to bring camera camera covers, umbrellas, and towels for everyone, and the next day I’ll be doing a tour for one person on a sunny day, where all I need is the small Fuji.
Until I found ONA’s Union Street, I could not find a bag that was sturdy and well made, comfortable, that would fit my 5D Mark II with a few lenses, some other equipment and a 15-inch laptop, and that was fashionable. I hate to say it, but when you’re doing photo jobs, the better you look, the more people trust you as a photographer. It’s important that the bag looks fantastic. I’ve searched everywhere and I haven’t found anything comparable. Also, I beat this bag up on a daily basis and it can more than handle it. It only looks better as it gets used.
I then picked up the compact ONA Bowery bag to work with my Fuji X100s for a light combination. I give at least a couple three- to five-hour photo tours of the city each week and having a light combination for the busy weeks has saved my neck and back. The combination between the two bags pretty much covers all my needs on a professional, daily, and travel basis. I bring both bags when I travel and the combination is the perfect amount of size and space.