News & Runway

Downtown From Behind: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

I produce shoots, choose crews, cast models, and scout locations, but it is a rare day that yours truly finds herself in front of the lens. But when my friend Bridget Fleming of Downtownfrombehind asked to shoot me on my trusty yellow speed bike (plucked from the trenches of a Brooklyn junk pop-up and refurbished with love, thank you much), I couldn't resist.

DFB is a collection of beautiful photographs chronicling the bicycles, people, and stories of some 200+ streets of downtown Manhattan. The series has been picked up in press outlets like The New York Times, Huffington Post and Nylon Magazine, and the full set of images will be available in the DFB book being published by Abrams Books in March 2012. Bridget is still taking down the most iconic, magical streets below 14th one by one; "my" street is certainly one of my favorites. In between passing cars and clouds, I chatted with Bridget about her wild ride so far.

Julie Bensman: Tell me the Downtownfrombehind story. How you imagined the idea, how it began and how it's evolved…

Bridget Fleming: Downtownfrombehind was originally a multimedia project: the concept was the same, but I was actually filming from behind. I have an interest in architecture and wanted to capture the rapid rate at which the downtown landscape is/was changing…I shot the first still image on Broadway Street, which inspired me to think bigger and help imagine the project’s potential.

JB: What's been the general reaction?

BF: The media coverage and support to date is still a great and genuine surprise. It’s fascinating to step back and join the dots. The first major media article created a ripple effect that gave the project a momentum that helped realize its potential (I’m sure much sooner) than planned. I think the city itself and all the interesting people who contribute to its culture make for interesting story, pictorial or otherwise.

JB: Who have been some of your favorite individuals to shoot?

BF: There's an early project image of Frank Alexander holding an oversized, eighty-pound bouquet of flowers on 10th Street — that was a great morning. I shot Houston Street recently over two mornings. On the second morning, the traffic police, who had been helpful the day before, recognized us and offered to stop traffic as we shot at 8:30 in the morning.

JB: When not shooting friends’ backsides, where can one find Ms. Fleming?

BF: Usually in the kitchen, multitasking with iPhone in hand! Otherwise, Abraco (best coffee in the city), The Smile Café (consistently some of the best casual food in the city) or with girlfriends and a glass of wine.

And after a few of those, we leave our bikes parked…