When Betsy Pinover Schiff was walking through the Winter’s Eve festival at Lincoln Square in 2016, she didn’t think it would inspire her to begin working on her fifth book.
“I had no idea of what I would see there, and I was just bowled over by the huge variety of offerings they had, from a tree lighting, bands, street musicians, food stands, ice-carvings,” Schiff said. “I was just so surprised.”
The next year, the photographer decided not to make any personal plans for holiday season and focus on her work. The result is her new book, "’Tis the Season New York," released on Oct.28. The book features more than 160 pages of photographs of New York City during holiday season, from Staten Island to the Bronx.
"’Tis the Season" is a departure from her previous work. Before diving into a career as a photographer, Schiff worked in communications and photography at the New York Public Library, Sotheby’s and The New York Botanical Garden. Throughout her career as a photographer, she has published four books — all dedicated to gardens in the city — and participated in other architecture and landscape-related works.
Shooting at night and in crowded spaces was a new experience, she said.
“The challenges are always there, but they’re very different. Here I was going into private homes, and private clubs, churches, restaurants and pubs, so it was very different photography with specific challenges,” Schiff explained.
The book also features quotes from New Yorkers, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, a postal worker and the director of the New York Botanical Gardens. The idea, she said, is to represent the diversity of experiences that exist in the city.
“I really made an effort to integrate a variety of venues, that represent a great deal of what New York is and has to offer,” she said. “What I learned is that New York is really magical on holiday time, all over the city. One can experience almost every kind of emotion here, romance and celebration, fantasy and fun.”
In "’Tis the Season," readers can find a bit of everything — the iconic American Museum of Natural History and Columbus Circle Holiday Market, the less famous Bronx Museum of the Arts, and several store fronts and private locations.
“I love that Christmas is a holiday for all people," Schiff said, "for all traditions that come together in this great city and are all happy to be together."