Excuse Me, Ladies and Gentlemen

As part of the first cohort of the School of Visual Arts' MFA program in Visual Narrative, we were incredibly lucky to get Alicia DeSantis and Jennifer Daniel (both then working at The New York Times) to lead a course on visual writing. This book resulted from our efforts over that summer. I contributed two pieces to the collection: one, ASL signs of NYC, and another one on the strange industry of dollar pizzas. What I learned.... customers should never ask for parmesan when buying their dollar pizza. 



Sometimes it seems like it’s hard to say anything interesting about New York City. Old New Yorkers already know everything. New New Yorkers don’t know enough yet. 

When we decided to make a book about the city, we took it as a challenge: Find new perspectives on a place that we all either know too well, or not at all. It helped, perhaps, that our contributors were themselves new to town, all of them graduate students at the School of Visual Arts. Each piece was produced in only a few summer weeks with little time to spare. These pages represent the best work of our students, each experimenting with a visual style or voice that was unfamiliar to them. 

Ryan Weber’s interviews with MTA workers give us insight into a world of items lost and found — what we value, and what we leave behind. Craig Coss’s sensitive exploration of city trees makes us attentive to the things we pass by every day, reframing the definition of a “street drug.” Nadia DeLane and Jenny Goldstick began by asking where they could find kale in Crown Heights, and found that it had been there all along. Feifei Ruan asks us to view the familiar icons of the city through a new lens — destroying our symbols (and our bridges) while remaking them. 

What started as a modest class project became a book. We will never look at bicycle baskets, bar billboards or bedbugs the same way again. 

Many thanks to Joan McCabe and Nathan Fox for inviting us to teach this summer. 

—Jennifer Daniel and Alicia DeSantis, editors