Helena Price: New York City

What’s your historical San Francisco and New York connection?
Currently, I’m living in Brooklyn, New York. I lived in San Francisco for three years prior to Brooklyn.

I was familiar with New York first, growing up in North Carolina. It was the one “big city” that all of the rebellious, creative-types moved to after college. I chose to go to San Francisco instead.

I originally moved to pursue an MFA in photography, but I quickly found myself working in startup land, first at a digital agency, then running comms teams internally at a handful of startups. I lived and breathed San Francisco tech, while still trying to take a photograph here and there on the weekends.

Last year, I began spending about 25% of my life in New York, as I was the sole west coast employee of a New York-based startup. I quickly fell in love with bi-coastal life, and with New York City, and then next thing I know, I’m living in Brooklyn.

Describe your experience in NYC.
I love New York. It’s magical.

Honestly, Brad Smith describes it best in his interview with The Great Discontent:

“I love this city for so many reasons. One, it creates constant drive. There is a very high competition factor in the city. You want to be successful because making it in New York does mean something. The other thing is that I love how this city makes me feel very small and insignificant. There is something very comforting about laying my head down on my pillow at night, knowing I am closely surrounded by millions upon millions of people, all crammed in around me, in shoebox sized apartments. I’m an anxious person and, in a weird way, there is something extremely calming about how this city makes me feel insignificant. New York, for being what it is, can also be the loneliest place in the world. You walk the streets with millions of people or sit on the subway next to some of the most beautiful and interesting people, but we rarely say a word. There’s something wildly romantic, yet heartbreaking, about that.”

Personally, as someone who’s deeply invested in tech AND a million other things, this city has so much for me. Tech itself is so influenced by other industries here—media, art, advertising, publishing, fashion, you name it. I love the variety it affords the web products being built here.

Then there’s everything else. The creative scene, the photography scene, the filmmakers, the shows, the galleries, the projects being launched and premiered. I’ve spent more time in the creative community than anywhere else while I’ve been here. It allowed me to get back in balance with my creative work and return my focus to personal projects (everyone has at least five personal projects in New York, it seems).

More than anything, moving to New York helped me figure out what’s important to me and what I want to spend my time working on. That’s invaluable.

What was the biggest challenge of moving from SF to NYC?
I moved here at the beginning of winter and, my god, coming from California, winter here is hard. If you ever find yourself in a position to move to New York in November, don’t. Just wait ’til spring.

I also don’t recommend trying to move during a hurricane. My plane was supposed to land at the exact hour that Hurricane Sandy also landed in NYC. Long story short, I ended up homeless living in airports for a bit.

Logistics aside, it was difficult leaving a city that truly has everything I want. I love tech, but I also love photography, and fog, and cliffy beaches, and climbing hills, and eating cheap Indian food in the Tenderloin, and road tripping around Northern California. Sometimes it takes leaving to know what you really want, and while I love New York so very much, I’ll be moving my home base back to San Francisco soon (two weeks, in fact).

How can NYC and SF best engage with each other?
Oh, I don’t know. When I think of the times when I feel most connected to my networks on both coasts simultaneously, I’m often at a conference or event. Look at something like (love it or hate it) SXSW, or newer, more curated events like XOXO or even Phoot Camp (an annual invite-only creative retreat for photographers). While there’s not going to be a cure-all for bringing the greater NYC and SF scenes together, I think we can learn something from creating experiences that bring together individual communities (dev, design, photo, fashion, etc) from disparate cities for a few days. Magical things happen.

Perhaps we can recreate this online in new ways, or on an individual level, simply planning a group trip of specific SF/NYC folks to a random destination with a light agenda can have the same effect. Let’s do more of this.

Favorite SF secret spot
It’s no secret to some, but eating toast from Trouble Coffee while sitting on Ocean Beach is my idea of the best way to spend a morning San Francisco.

Favorite NYC secret spot
Upstate. Ok, I know it’s not in the city, but it seems like the majority of NYC has no idea it exists. Go get some fresh air and hike by the Hudson River—it’s just a $20, 45-minute train ride from Penn Station.

You recently left your full-time job to do your own thing. Typically, we ask “if you were not at job x, what would you be doing?” So instead: what are you looking forward to doing over the next 6 months?
My next six months are full of changes. I recently said goodbye to my last startup, and made the jump into full-time photography. I loved working in startupland, but I’m way too eager to work on my own ideas. So I’m packing my bags, moving back to San Francisco, and building my business. You can follow my progress at http://helenaprice.com/blog.

Inflight Entertainment: tell us what song/album, TV show, podcast, or web videos you’ve been watching lately.
I’m not gonna lie, my guilty pleasure is watching lots of Bravo and Food Network reality shows while flying cross-country on JetBlue, but otherwise, you’ll find me editing photos to tunes in my headphones. The new albums by Wild Belle, James Blake and Major Lazer have been my soundtrack on repeat lately.

From the 2905 Miles newsletter: connecting NEW YORK CITY + SAN FRANCISCO

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