What it means to really explore a city, with Charissa Fay

Charissa is a talented photographer based in New York City. We caught up with her to chat about what it means to really explore a city and find the best new trends in travel and photography with an open mind. She’s worked some of the top travel, food and lifestyle brands in the world and also photographed The New Paris capturing insight into one of the most delightful cities we personally know well, Paris.

She shares her photography story and the journey that she took from photographing in her spare time to calling herself a full-time photographer. It starts with a disposable Kodak, connecting with friends over social media and rediscovering a city that she loves— over and over again.

Photo Credit: Charissa Fay @charissa_fay

charissafay7 New York City

How old were you when you got your first camera and what was it? Was there someone who encouraged you into taking this leap into photography?

I think when I was 8, I had a disposable or inexpensive Kodak camera of some sort, probably given to me by my parents.  And as I was growing up, my father, uncle, and a good friend were all amateur Nikon enthusiasts, so I got my first film Nikon as a teenager and then transitioned to digital.

Was there a defining moment where you knew that you would pursue photography as a career?

Several years ago, I got laid off from my magazine publishing job and started pursuing more photography in my free time.  I figured out what I love to shoot (food, travel, lifestyle), built an online portfolio, and started posting daily iPhone snapshots on my Instagram account.

Eventually, all the baby steps started building traction and I started getting small editorial and social media jobs.  And I’d say that when Condé Nast Traveler hired me for an early editorial assignment, I had an inkling I could finally call myself a “photographer”, instead of saying “I do photography”.

Tell us more about your photos.

This first one was taken at Bow Bridge in Central Park.  I am a year-round runner who spends several mornings a week in the park.  I love to watch the seasons change and the scenery is a beautiful escape from the hectic pace of the city.  It’s very calming and peaceful to run here, no matter what time of the year.

charissafay New York City

Even though I have lived in New York City for a long time, it’s not very often that I get to see the city from such an elevated viewpoint.  I’m always humbled by the beauty of my hometown and it’s still such a treat to see it from new perspectives.  This was taken from the 50th floor of a new residential building going up in Midtown.

charissafay2 New York City

This is my neighborhood— the Upper West Side.  On Central Park West, you have luxury homes, historic buildings and grand museums that overlook Central Park. During the week, the avenue is filled with cabs, buses, commuters and school kids going about their daily lives, but if you go early morning, you can have quiet moments to yourself.

charissafay4 New York City

Your work in “The New Paris” showcases the people, places and ideas behind this incredible city and one that we often frequent as a team here at Black Tomato. How did you get involved with this project and how did you settle on Paris?

I first visited Paris when I was 15 as an exchange student and have returned over and over.  There’s something about Paris that moves me, hits an emotional chord, and makes me excited for each visit.  The New Paris author Lindsey Tramuta and I knew each other somewhat from social media and we had a mutual friend who put Lindsey in touch with me to shoot the book.

It was a dream assignment, shooting the most creative and forward-thinking places in Paris and rediscovering the city I love.

Paris Photography Charissa Fay

Yeah, there is something about traveling back to one of your favorite cities and seeing how it transforms over the years.

How do you think your personal travels have influenced your career and life when you arrive back home? We’re imagining large-scale prints and lots of social sharing.

I think when you are a photographer, you can’t help but “see” things wherever you are.  Whether you are on vacation or in your hometown, I always have an urge to capture a moment or am framing a shot in my head.  So after traveling, I usually edit my favorite photos down into a portfolio that goes onto my website and pieces of it go on my Instagram.  I am terrible about actually printing photos, however!

charissafay10 Italy

Describe your photography style in 3 words?

Optimistic, relatable, natural

Favorite neighborhood to take a stroll in on a sunny day in New York?

Upper West Side or West Village

Do you have any current day photography/travel books that we need to buy right now?

Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography and Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography are on the top of my wish list.

The no. 1 thing you never leave out of your carry-on?

My camera equipment!

Do you have any secrets to passing the time on a long flight?

I always distract myself with bad comedies and rom-coms. I just want fun, mindless entertainment to relax and hopefully fall asleep. And I would love a pair of those Bose noise-reducing headphones!