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Photographer Dan Winters searches for New York City's soul in 'The Grey Ghost'

During a recent trip to New York City, photographer Dan Winters had a chance encounter with a personal hero: Robert Frank, whose 1958 book “The Americans” helped to alter the direction of photography as art, shattering the traditional boundaries of mood, texture and content in street photography.

Winters and Frank spoke for half an hour in the Bowery that day. “At the end I said, ‘Would you mind if I made a portrait of you?’” says Winters, who has his own body of work documenting the gray streets of New York in the tradition of Frank, Garry Winogrand and others. “So many people have used that city as a proving ground. It’s a very saturated genre: New York City street photographs. I call them public photographs.”

Winters has collected his three decades of New York pictures into a book, “The Grey Ghost,” which is also the subject of an exhibition at the Fahey/Klein Gallery on La Brea Avenue through Oct. 15. The black-and-white images are a dramatic contrast to his vivid, colorful work as an acclaimed magazine photographer.

The New York pictures date to the early 1990s, when Winters relocated from Thousand Oaks to pursue a photography career. During days off, he would wander the city for pictures, drifting from Staten Island to Times Square to the Empire State Building. And he didn’t stop: Some pictures were shot in the last couple of years.

“Once in a while when I get one of those moments that fits with that body of work, it’s a real joy,” Winters says. One recent image was that impromptu black-and-white portrait of Frank. “He said, ‘Is that a digital camera? May I see that?’ And he took it and did a picture of me,” Winters says with a laugh. “It was one of those wonderful full-circle things.”