Books: The Man Who Photographs Manhattan's Million-Dollar Views

By David Schonauer   Monday May 8, 2017

Mike Tauber  knows what makes for a fabulous photo of Manhattan:

Location, location, location.

Tauber makes his living shooting luxury New York City homes and apartments for architects, real-estate developers and brokers — places that often feature magnificent views of the city and the surrounding landscapes. While shooting interiors, he sometimes takes a break and point his camera out a window. Now he has released a book called Vista Manhattan: Views from New York City’s Finest Residences. His images of million-dollar vistas show not only how the wealthy live, but what they see.

Recently, Tauber shared some of his favorite vantage points with The New York Times. As he noted, some New York apartments offer views of the city you can’t get from an ordinary observation deck:

There aren’t a lot of public places in Central Park where you get to look over the reservoir the way you can from the Ardsley, at 320 Central Park West. There are a zillion places where you see the Empire State Building, but at 845 United Nations Plaza — Trump World Tower — there’s a great perspective where the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building look like they’re the same height because the Chrysler Building is closer. And you wouldn’t necessarily be in any of those places at that magical period 20 to 30 minutes after sunset, when it’s not absolutely dark, and lights are beginning to shine through the windows, and there’s that glow. The time of day plays a large role in how a view looks. After shooting an apartment during the day, sometimes we’ll return to shoot at twilight.”

Tauber shot his first New York apartment in 2002 — a long time ago, in terms of the furious Manhattan real-estate world.

“It happened by chance,” he says. “I’d been working at HBO in their print advertising business, and taking photography courses at the International Center of Photography. I went out on my own as a full-time professional photographer in 2000, with the idea of shooting travel-documentary work for magazines like National Geographic. And I was getting some traction, but then 9/11 happened and everything dried up.”

His luck changed when he ran into a  real-estate agent friend: “She said, ‘Have you ever shot an interior?’ And I said, ‘Nope.’ And she said, ‘Do you want to try?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’”

“At that time there weren’t a lot of people shooting interiors for brokers, and I decided to see where I could go with it, and it became a really solid revenue stream,” Tauber says. “It was a direction I never anticipated going, and for a long time I did it because the phone kept ringing. Over the years more photographers got into it, which was good and bad, but I've come around and found that it’s really interesting work. You shoot some amazing places and some that are really awful. It’s almost photojournalistic in a way. And you also get all these perspectives on the city that nobody else gets to see.”

“One of the first things I do when I see an apartment is go look out the window to see what kind of view there is,” says Tauber. Sometimes shooting the view is part of his job, but other times he simply shoots a view for himself. These days he shoots apartments with a Canon 5D Mark III and variety of lenses, including the Canon 24mm f/3 tilt-shift lens.

For one job, the client wanted to include a photo of the view from the apartment, which Tauber provided, even though there was a blizzard outside. “The apartment didn’t sell, so they sent me back in the spring to rephotograph it. I decided to include both shots in the book,” he says. “One thing I wanted to convey is that views really change, depending on the time of year, how much moisture is in the air, and the angle of the sun.”

One of the changes he’s had to deal with are the residential mega-towers rising across Manhattan. “Half of them aren’t even finished yet,” he says. “When you’re up in those things it’s like you’re not even attached to the ground, you’re up in an airplane or something.”

One of the towers, the new 432 Park Avenue building, has become a photographic problem. “You can see it from everywhere,” Tauber says. “It’s so tall, I have to shoot wider or else I’d chop off the top of it.”

See more of Mike Tauber’s interior photography as well as his travel photography at his website.


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