Legends in the Field: Sylvia Plachy

“Tightrope Walker,” New Orleans, 2011.© Sylvia Plachy
Kay Macy among her flowers a few days before her 100th birthday, Cold Spring Harbor, 2012, by Sylvia Plachy.© Sylvia Plachy
“Crone,” Sicily, 1988© Sylvia Plachy
“Invisible Man,” Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2002.© Sylvia Plachy

When Sylvia Plachy, 70, got serious about photography, she was in her junior year at Pratt Institute and engaging in a medium that other students saw as a distant second to fine art. "But I fell in love with taking pictures," she remembers. "I decided that this is what I wanted to do." Though Plachy is a contributing photographer for The New Yorker and has shot for a number of publications including the New York Times Magazine, she was most prolific when working with the Village Voice, snagging black-and-white images from one corner of New York City to the other as well as internationally. With several shows in Europe—three last fall, another later this year—and her seventh book in the works, she says, "I am looking back and rescuing pictures that I have taken and not seen. I am at the age where I want to make sure I see them."

Back when she was shooting for the Voice, Plachy worked continually and imagined her photos would have longevity. In fact she was creating a serious body of work: Her photos wound up in museums and private collections. Having accomplished all of that, she's now investigating the corners of her career, digging out images that didn't necessarily make the printed page but still resonate. "For example," she says, "there are really interesting photos that I took on the way to the assignments. I'm rescuing photos that have been clamoring for attention. I'm seeking pictures that I can look at for a long time. I want pictures that are timeless and that have meaning to me now."

© Sylvia Plachy