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Behind the lens: Aviva Klein

The Brooklyn-based photographer shares the stories behind her NYC portraits.

Aviva Klein, whose influences come from the worlds of fashion and hip-hop, has shot everyone from pop culture icons to indie talents. A self-taught photographer who grew up in Brooklyn, Klein has a laidback, impulsive process that's resulted in a signature style: sophisticated yet raw images that are rich with attitude. Check out some of her favorite shots and the personal stories behind them.


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  • T.I., New York 2012

    T.I., New York 2012

    "I was called in by The Source magazine to document T.I. taking over as editor for the month. This was sometime in the fall, and I was outside with the video crew. They were planning on briefly prepping him of the day's events upon his arrival, but when he showed up it was lights, camera, action. I literally took four frames of him outside and this was one of them."

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  • Gita, Harlem 2013

    Gita, Harlem 2013

    "I photographed Gita for an interactive fashion magazine called The Unlimited Magazine. We walked around the streets of Harlem that surround her apartment. She really wanted to shoot in front of a random motel near by, but after shooting two frames we were asked to leave. This image was shot just down the block from that motel. I love the lines in this image and how lush the plants are behind the windows."

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  • Stephen 'ESPO' Powers, Brooklyn 2013

    Stephen 'ESPO' Powers, Brooklyn 2013

    "Shooting ESPO was almost a 360 experience for me. I've grown up seeing his graffiti all over the streets in NYC. He was a legend when I was a kid. As an adult I discovered Stephen Powers, the world renowned prolific artist and poet. And a good friend of mine. Ari Saal is a longtime friend and collaborator of Stephen's so I randomly asked him if he would be able to set up a quick shoot. He did. I met him and Steve at Steve's studio in Brooklyn called Icy Signs. I had about twenty minutes to shoot while Steve painted and joked around. Apparently only one other photographer has been granted permission to photograph him in his studio. There are many aspects of this image that speak to me, but my favorite is how his hand is touching the glass door so gently. To have been able to photograph someone whose art spoke to me as a kid growing up in NYC, while still being a huge fan of his work, was pretty cool."

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  • Mickal Stubblefield, Staten Island 2012

    Mickal Stubblefield, Staten Island 2012

    "I've known Mike for many years. His fashion sense has really flourished into something special. I find his style and handsome looks really inspiring. I was applying for grad school, and one of the application assignments was to photograph someone six different ways. This is one of the six shots I caught of Mike that day on our way to Staten Island."

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  • Cee-lo, Brooklyn 2008

    Cee-lo, Brooklyn 2008

    "I took this photo at my childhood friend Mike's birthday get-together. It's a diptych of him and his friends playing Cee-lo. I thought both of the images were important to tell the story. This is pretty much the only non-portrait photograph that exists in my portfolio."

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  • Sabrina, Westchester, NY 2013

    Sabrina, Westchester, NY 2013

    "Sabrina is like a sister to me; I've known her since the 7th grade. I went to Westchester to visit her at her new home around the time Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom was in theaters. I was really inspired by his compositions and tried to capture that in this image. I tried to center everything as much as possible from the fence, the separations in the cushions to the wood floor, among other parts of the image. If you look close enough you'll see it's practically symmetrical."

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  • Gaby, San Juan, Puerto Rico 2011

    Gaby, San Juan, Puerto Rico 2011

    "Gaby is lifelong friend of mine. She moved to Puerto Rico around 2005. This image was taken at a very well-known pub there called El Batey. I really love how the light reflects off and through her dress in this image."

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  • Johnny Osbourne, New York 2013

    Johnny Osbourne, New York 2013

    "I was asked by my good friend DJ Gravy to photograph Johnny for his reggae site Largeup.com. I was really excited for this shoot since I grew up familiar with Johnny's music. We met at Miss Lily's, a Jamaican restaurant and bar located on Houston Street, where Gravy has a weekly reggae radio show. Johnny was a lot of fun to shoot, very flirtatious to say the least. He snuck his number to me on a little piece of paper, like a real gentleman, as he hailed a cab for me."
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  • 1982 Statik Selektah and Termanology, New York 2012

    1982 Statik Selektah and Termanology, New York 2012

    "I ran into Statik a few weeks prior to this shoot and told him I was interested in shooting him using a 4x5 camera (this would be my first experience with a 4x5 camera). He was totally down to do it and brought the other half of 1982, Termanology. We shot on the roof of my friend's apartment on the Bowery on a gorgeous day. I only shot six frames that day, only two of which had both group members in the image."

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  • Christine, New York 2013

    Christine, New York 2013

    "Recently I went to the movies one night with some of my friends. When the movie was over, like most people, we went to the restroom. I found the lighting and tile color really inspiring and took a few shots."

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