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One of the reasons I moved to New York was because of its diversity. I live four blocks from the subway stop, and nearly every time I make the walk either to or from the subway, I hear at least one language other than English spoken in the street. (The Indian owner of the newsstand near the subway carries, among other newspapers, Nowy Dziennik, Diario de México, El Diario, and the Irish Times.)

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I once entertained the idea of becoming a linguist and I’m still fascinated by languages: how they sound, how their grammars differ, how the languages continue to change. So I thought it would be fun to do a portrait project on people who speak the languages heard in New York.

Little did I know …

There are, it turns out, in the vicinity of 800 languages spoken in New York. Yup, languages, not dialects. Merde! I found the Endangered Language Alliance, met with directors Daniel Kaufman and Juliette Blevins, and have embarked on a pilot project with them. We’re starting by photographing and taping some native speakers of Nahuatl, an Aztec language of Mexico.

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Lots of details to sort out: project scope, technical issues, logistics, financial. But the people I’ve been working with are great. And the food’s an unexpected bonus!

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Click for more photos from the Languages of New York Project.

Technical notes (no need to read further unless you care about this stuff):
Newspapers photo: Olympus E-P2, kit 14-42mm lens, available light.
Victor: Canon 5D, Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 L lens. Canon 580EX and 580EXII Speedlites, Photek Softlighter II on the left, fill with an Orbis ringflash

Perfecta: Canon 5D, Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 L lens. Window light from the right, Canon 580EX bounced from the ceiling for fill from the left.
Mole: Canon 5D, Canon 24-70mm F/2.8 L lens. Window light from the left.
Molcajete: Canon 5D, Canon 100mm F/2 lens, +1 closeup lens. Window light from right, Canon 580EX bounced from the ceiling for fill from the left.

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