Cheap black umbrellas are a staple in New York City rainstorms, especially this time of year: they magically appear for sale outside every subway station and in every bodega when the weather gets bad. But since these $3 shelters are so cheaply made, anything more than a whisper of wind can mangle them into weird, tortured shapes. They’re flipped inside out, their spokes twisted, as city dwellers hang on for dear life.
Twelve of these destroyed umbrellas are the subject of a photo series by New York-based photographer Drew Anthony Smith. “When I moved to Brooklyn from Austin, Texas, I immediately became obsessed with New York City’s discarded umbrellas,” Smith tells Co.Design. “Following a rain or snowstorm, the city is littered with them. I love that the weather can play with this common item and get varying results. They were sculptures in my eyes.” It took Smith (a former Co.Design photo editor) a while to figure out what to do with this peculiar obsession. But eventually it clicked: he would gather up the umbrellas and take them back to the studio in his loft, where he’d pose them for glamour shots. Thus began his scavenger hunt for the wind-mauled umbrellas of the city.
“I was most definitely an annoyance on the L train, hauling garbage bags of umbrellas back to Brooklyn after a storm,” he says. Back in his Brooklyn apartment, Smith commandeered a closet to store his wretched harvest until his photo sessions began (with his four roommates’ approval). He snapped some of the umbrellas on the street, in their natural element, to remember their shape. “When I thought I had enough, I photographed them all at once on white seamless using a digital SLR camera.” He called the series, appropriately, “New York City Blowjob.” False advertising? Maybe, but now, if you’re caught Googling that phrase, you have a foolproof excuse: “I was looking for photos of broken umbrellas.”
To see more of Smith’s work, go here.