Steven Hirsch, 70, has covered many subjects in his career as a photographer – fires, murders, business stories and more. A freelancer for the New York Post for 24 years, Hirsch has also worked for the National Enquirer, Time and Newsweek. His personal projects reflect his interest in people who are not part of the mainstream, including convicts, the homeless and people who say they were abducted by aliens. “It’s just my fascination with people that were on the fringes or out of the mainstream or on the edge,” he said. “I’m just fascinated by people like that.”
Hirsch, who has covered New York City courts for The New York Post since 2005, has also started several blogs. One of them, Courthouse Confessions, includes accounts of people he met outside the courthouse who had been arrested and charged with crimes and were eager to pose for photographs and share their stories.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER?
I grew up in an age of photographs. … When I was a child, people read newspapers. … I loved looking at newspapers. I loved looking at the magazines. … I can remember monumental events that were published in them – first landing on the moon, John F. Kennedy’s assassination. … The other reason — my father was a kind of an early technology freak. He had Polaroid cameras and Super 8 film cameras. … I remember him setting up a projector, we’d sit in the room and all look at the photographs that were projected on the screen.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE PEOPLE YOU INTERVIEW FOR YOUR BLOGS?
I try to be sympathetic to them. … Somebody would come over and see my camera hanging from my neck and say, ‘Hey, you want to take my picture?’ And then [they] kind of… vamp it up to … pose for a photograph. … It clicked in my head… that there are people who want to tell you their stories and people who would want to be photographed. So put two and two together, and you can get them to tell you their stories and let you photograph them, and I did that.
WHAT DID YOU DO TO LOBBY TO ALLOW CAMERAS IN THE COURTHOUSES?
I came here [to the courthouse] in about 2005, so it was pretty much right after that. … I went to one of the administrative judges, and I said, ‘What’s up with this place?’ If you go on TV in places that … are very conservative, … Arizona or Montana or out west somewhere, you see open coverage of courtrooms. Yet [in] supposedly the most liberal city in the world we have no coverage of anything going on here. … We started making progress in here, and now we’ve photographed freely in the hallways and we can photograph in the courtrooms – but only with the permission of a particular judge.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST CHALLENGING ASSIGNMENT?
Covering 9/11. … It was the most difficult assignment ever because you went to something where you just couldn’t even understand what was going on. … The destruction was so enormous. … You’ve been in this building before, you knew that there were people who would eat lunch at the plazas and people would walk around. You just knew there was so much life down there, and now there was nothing but fires and explosions and smoke and just desolation and destruction. … I only saw one body. … That was kind of shocking to realize that so many people were buried underneath, … thousands of people, and to be like walking around in their grave at this point was overwhelming.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR PHOTORAPHERS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. … I think it’s a dying business. … I’m surprised that people are still doing it. I think the internet decreased the value of photographs and decreased the value of reporters.