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After finding work as an assistant to commercial photographer Chris Callis, Winters kept his own creative juices flowing by shooting black-and-white street photography in the city. “It was a way to express my passion as I rode my bike around town,” he says. Inspired by legendary urban street photographers—Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander—Winters snapped away with hand-held medium-format cameras and Tri-X film. “It was a self-assignment—my attempt to wrestle the beast to see what I could do with it. Sort of an artistic rite of passage.”

After leaving New York in 1990 Winters became a famously versatile commercial and portrait photographer; he now splits time between Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles (with a beach house in Savannah, Georgia). While working on his 2014 photo history/memoir, Road to Seeing, Winters dug up his black-and-white NYC oeuvre, which he’d continued in subsequent years while visiting the city. “That work started to resonate in a new and special way,” he says.

The result is Winters’s monograph The Grey Ghost: New York City Photographs, an artful, personal collection reflecting an outsider’s take on an indifferent city. The series is also on view at L.A.’s Fahey/Klein Gallery through October 15. Here Winters shares his fond memories of creating this body of work.