James and Karla Murray.

“Though most our photography takes place on the streets, our post-processing is done on our Mac Book Pro using Photoshop CS5. This is our desk, computer and wires connecting the multitude of hard drives we back up thousands of photos we’ve taken. We always have music on during post-processing. Next to the computer is a collection of plastic pit bull figures and baby pumpkin for Halloween. Pit bulls remind of us of our own 12-year-old dog, Tabasco. There’s a “to-do” list of images, James’ computer glasses and his ubiquitous black Bustelo coffee. Underneath the glass is a Father’s Day card from Tabasco.

The framed photos are panoramas appear in our book, Store Front-The Disappearing Face of New York and our graffiti book, Burning New York. For the longest time, we never had any of our own photos on display because James would critique them instead of enjoying them. Now, he finally enjoys having them on the wall!”

James and Karla Murray are professional photographers and authors who specialize in urban and low-light photography using film and digital formats.  Their bestselling and critically acclaimed book STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York along with Broken Windows: Graffiti NYCBurning New York and Miami Graffiti set the standard for urban documentation. Their photographs have appeared in The SourceCity MagazineRolling StoneStern and Time Out New York. Their work is in permanent collections, including the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C. and New York Public Library. They’re represented by CLIC Gallery in New York City, East Hampton, NY and St. Barthelemy, FWI. James and Karla live in New York City and Miami with their dog Tabasco.

FROM YOUR DESKS: How did the idea of the disappearing store front come about?

JAMES AND KARLA MURRAY: During the late 1990’s, we were combing the streets of NYC documenting the graffiti scene which involved large-scale photography. Most graffiti isn’t found in the center of Manhattan, but the boroughs. Graffiti art is constantly changing; new art covers old.  Many stores closed, or we would come across ‘”old” stores, still in business but remodeled, or original signage substituted with bright, shiny plastic awnings. The feel of the neighborhood changed– individuality and charm gone. We decided to preserve what remained. The meat shop or candy shop such as ‘Katy’s Candy’ which appears on the back cover of the book are the stores we miss the most.

FYD: I blog about the “new”, New York (I Loved New York). Is the romance of say the Woody Allen New York gone?

JKM: It’s harder to find. Over half of the ‘mom and pop’ stores in our Store Front book has disappeared.We discovered shop owners with fascinating stories about the joys and struggles of surviving as a family business in New York City. In late 2008, only one-third of the stores we photographed were gone.

FYD: New York graffiti a bit rare these days. Is Miami emerging as the new graffiti epicenter?

JKM: You need know where to look, but there’s less work being done on the streets compared to the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  These days, graffiti is largely found in the outer boroughs, along train lines and rooftops.

Miami’s graffiti scene is largely recognized by Art Basel Miami. We started documenting Miami’s graffiti scene in the late 90’s,over 10 years of graffiti and Miami artists including the infamous CROME of the MSG crew who were arrested and given a million dollar bond. It highlights artists originally from New York who relocated with their families to Miami and continued painting in the  “New York” style, such as ZAME and CHILLSKI of the FBA crew.

FYD: What is your next project?

JKM: We’re planning a cross-country drive using less traveled roads and photographing whatever looks interesting. This is something we’ve always wanted but could never put together the time. Our trusted companion Tabasco will accompany us (we’re attaching a photo of him scoping out the train yards).

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