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Posted by Sabina McKenna

Weekly updates


Everyone you talk to about New York City will have something different to say: it’s the city of dreams, and the home of the hustler; a place to find yourself, and make it no matter who you are. Or maybe it’s more like a huge island of super rich people, who ride City Bikes in suits through garbage in forty degree heat, and who have no manners…

Either way, the opportunities are tenfold, everyone has nice dogs, it’s a melting pot of art, fashion, and culture; and it’s probably the only place you can get delivery food from a Michelin starred restaurant on any night of the week.

Although it’s likely that moving there for the first time will mean having to pay six months rent in advance to live in a shoebox with no windows, somewhere else really far from Manhattan, that is the sort of stuff that can make the other aspects of living there feel so special. From one extreme to the next, everyone and anyone can find their people there, and so many have shared in it’s existence; making it just as much a place to talk about, as it is a place to be…

We asked a bunch of creatives, some whom are still there and some have long since moved home, about their experience living in New York City and the things they love or loved, hate or hated about it.

01. Sally Tabart, Editor of Ladies of Leisure, Melbourne

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Why did you want to move to NYC?

I first visited New York with my family when I was fifteen, and it was wild! It hit something in me, and I dreamed of moving there ever since. I guess it was for the same reason we all want to go—bright lights and stars in our eyes.

What did you do there?

Lived, learned, worked… I did so much stuff; I photographed male models for a casting director over New York Fashion Week, assisted stylists, produced fashion stills, interviewed newlyweds outside city hall for a documentary, looked after famous people’s babies, assisted on a TV show, worked in a ceramics store, and as a hostess in a restaurant. I was somewhere different almost every day.

Was living there what you expected?

The thing you realise very quickly is that any preconceived ideas you had about living in New York are completely irrelevant. You can’t explain it or imagine it, you have to live there… At times I was more lonely than I’d ever expected to be, but simultaneously felt connected to something big. The best part about living there is literally just walking down the street people watching, and being an anonymous observer; everyone complains about how shitty it is, but you end up falling in love with that shittyness… Anything could happen every time you step outside.

Why did you leave?

I fell in love with someone when I came back to Melbourne for a visit, so leaving for that was worth it. But I think about New York every day, it was the best thing I’ve ever done and such a formative experience – it’s a wild time. But I’m just another schmuck who loves that city; it’s not unique.

02. James J. Robinson, Filmmaker, Bushwick

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What do you do?

I’m a filmmaker and photographer. I work on fashion videos, music videos, and general editorial work for magazines and brands.

What made you decide to move to New York when you did?

I felt like I hit a point in Melbourne where the work I was getting became too repetitive. I was shooting in the same locations with the same clients, and same lighting, and same vibe. I wanted to move to somewhere that could challenge me and keep me inspired to shoot. I also wanted to get more feature filmmaking work which can be difficult to find in Australia.

Had you been there before?

Yes, when I was three or four. I had family here on my mother’s side so we came to visit when I was young… I don’t remember anything other than seeing the World Trade Center.

How is it so far?

Really good! I’m getting lots of work over here and it’s so exciting having new people to shoot and work with. It’s such a hustling city—everyone’s working on projects so it pushes you to keep working otherwise you feel like you’re falling behind. Essentially, I’m working every day but I’m still finding the time to be social and relax when I need to.

Is the plan to stay forever?

I don’t know! I’m taking this first year to figure it out. It’s a tough city rent/expense-wise, but it’s worth it for the opportunities, and I was able to get a visa without too much trouble. I’m not sure if I’ll end up here forever, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be wanting to live back in Melbourne for the foreseeable future. I love it so much and miss everyone I know there, but I think it’s a necessary sacrifice if I want to be doing everything I want to.

03. Sunni Hart, Creative Director of Folk Collective, Melbourne

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When did you live in New York?

In 2009.

What did you do there?

I interned at Interview Magazine, DJ’d at the now defunct Lit Lounge in the East Village, explored my sexuality, slept with some famous and not so famous people, and went to the best parties I’ve ever been to!

What did you like about it?

I was 22, and it was my first time living abroad so naturally I had the time of my life; it felt like the world was so big and beautiful and anything was possible. I made some wonderful connections, and the opportunities presented themselves so readily–even if most of the time I wasn’t ready for them!

How did it feel eventually moving back to Melbourne?

It sucked!

04. Costa Damaskos, Designer, Brooklyn

How long have you lived in New York?

Coming up on three years now.

What do you love about it?

Besides the people, who make the city so unique, I really love that it’s so unpredictable; there isn’t a city I’ve been to that can inspire you and spit in your face at the same moment like New York can. This is the only city where you can walk down the street and see a classically trained violinist play on the street, buy a dollar hotdog, then walk a few blocks more and see a guy taking a shit on a car—concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

What is the hardest part about living there?

I think it’s working out how to actually live here; rent is expensive and finding a job isn’t always easy. It can be really difficult to get your foot in the door, and then once you do find a job you like, getting the work/life balance is pretty hard. On top of all of that you are on your own, and on the other side of the world to everyone you know and love. Also there are rats, I hate rats.

Would you ever leave?

I’m still hoping to win The Amazing Race by the time I’m fifty, so at some point I’ll need to move so I can train… If I ever get tired of all the rotting sidewalk garbage, people who don’t recycle and being sneezed on in the subway, I’ll know it’s time to leave. So I’m gonna say maybe.

What do you do there?

I run a small digital agency with a few friends in Chinatown called The Couch. My job is to design and create things for the internet. I like to think I have the entrepreneurial spirit of Kramer, with the intricate neuroses of George.

05. Katherine Brice, Artist, Brooklyn

How long have you been living in New York?

Coming up to five years in September!

What are you doing there?

I make immersive light and sound installations in Brooklyn with my art partner Chris Lunney… Together we are called Hovver, and our work aims to manifest a kind of visceral, ethereal and introspective moment within the body and mind, by making the viewer become a participant.

At the moment we are doing the Simons Sandbox fellowship at the New Lab, which is a huge interdisciplinary work space in the Navy Yard in downtown Brooklyn—we are feeling so blessed. There are so many others in our work space there doing incredible things and pushing the boundaries… It’s all mostly to do with future tech and human experience so we have access to all their 3D printing equipment and CNC machines, which helps us test all of our ideas quickly and to be able to bounce things of the others!

New Lab is amazing! So why did you decide to move to New York?

I remember having a deep feeling that I would one day live in New York when I was about eight years old… I honestly knew so little about the city at that point, but I guess it came from a yearning to be on the opposite side of the world, as far away as I could be from home.

What made you stay?

If you can handle the fast pace in New York, it can be full of inspiration and possibility. The energy is pretty demanding, and it can be a challenge to keep your life balanced, but it’s become a force that made me look deep within to try and establish a true sense of self and connection. Being here has pushed me to grow and to find my own creative voice; there aren’t many other places in the world that can push that out of you.

06. Sophie Prince, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

How long did you live in NY?

I was there for five months from September 2016 until January 2017.

What did you do there?

I managed to land an internship in a residency space/gallery called the International Studio and Curatorial Program. I was there 3-4 days a week—I loved it.

What of that experience did you take home with you, what did you love about it?

The hustle in New York is contagious! I must have picked up some physical and mental stamina to be able to fit in as much as I did into every day. The reason that people can stay on their feet for so long in New York is because of all the exciting events there are, ambitions the city manifests, the abundance of interesting jobs, and of course the amazing people you’re surrounded with everywhere you go. In Melbourne I find I have to actively seek out events where I can both learn things and have fun to make my days interesting and dynamic, but in New York I realized that there is so much going no matter where you are in the world really…  It’s just less in your face in places like Melbourne. I definitely learnt to be more proactive in seeking those opportunities while I was in New York.

Would you go back to live?

Yes! It’s the perfect city to be in if you want to find your passions, and be able develop them with an energy that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

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