‘You see somebody washing a window, stop, and look’: Melissa Breyer’s best phone picture

Melissa Breyer has never met the woman she shot in the window of a Brooklyn deli on her morning run, but she considers the image something of a self-portrait. “When I first moved to New York,” she says, “I was an artist who was also working in a restaurant to make ends meet. There’s so much of that here: young women waiting for their lucky break. She depicted that time – of daydreaming and reverie, a moment of limbo before the next big thing – so beautifully.”

Breyer describes photography as a blend of fiction and nonfiction, and “as much of a storytelling tool as a novel can be. There are so many incredible backstories out there that we never hear about. You could see somebody washing a window and just jog by, as I did. Or you could stop, look, and see this beautiful scene. You could pluck one person out of a crowd and take away that anonymity for a moment.”

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Breyer used an iPhone 5, and desaturated the colour in Photoshop. She says she doesn’t tell everyone she has shot them, as so often a picture doesn’t work and never gets shared. When she went back to the bakery a few months later to find the woman, she didn’t work there any more. “This was 2013, so she’d be nearly a decade older. I’d love it to make its way to her one day, wherever she is.”