Wednesday, August 08, 2007


One day, I came home from to my desk and on my computer screen was a website called Overlooked New York. “What’s this?” I thought. I soon became immersed in the world of New Yorkers who were doing all kinds of interesting things – raising pigeons on their rooftops, designing costumes for the circus, roller skating in that disco circle in Central Park. “Who is the person behind this site?” I wondered. That person is Zina Saunders, a self-professed “native New Yorker who is passionate about finding and profiling impassioned New Yorkers.”

I met up with Zina in a diner and found out more about her. By trade, she is an illustrator and writer who has contributed to publications such as Time Out New York, The Wall Street Journal, and D Magazine. In 2005, she transferred her focus from general illustration to reportage illustration. The new focus included articles which were an outgrowth of her profiles on Overlooked; one piece was about the Puerto Rican Schwinn Club, the other piece was about Central Park portrait artists.

As someone who grew up on the Upper West Side, Zina often sighted Puerto Rican men riding on biked tricked out with flags, foxtails, and fuzzy dice. Who were these men, she wondered? Where did they hang out? She wanted to talk to them. One day, Zina flagged one of them down in Alphabet City and he told her that he and other bikers hung out along the East River. So Zina went over to the River and started painting the bikers’ portraits. Word got around about her visits, and soon the bikers were traveling from spots as far as the Bronx to have their portraits done by Zina.

The overriding spirit of Zina’s portraits and profiles are the affection and great regard for the people she interviews. She picks individuals who are passionate about a pursuit, who are joyful in some fascinating way they have found of expressing themselves. They are earnest, sincere, and proud -- all the same ways Zina feels about her own work as an illustrator. Zina likes and cares about the people she interviews in a real way; there is nothing ironic about her depiction of them. She keeps in touch with the individuals whom she features on Overlooked. She "loves people and loves creating her vision of their joy."
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