Justin Bettman

New York Magazine Showcasing Justin's latest project, #SetInTheStreet

I met 

Justin Bettman

 in college, and before I really knew him, I knew of him, because of his incredible photography. Justin is a super talented photographer based in New York. Not only is he crazy talented, he's humble, always fun to hang out and kick back with, and has a clear and direct vision on his projects. The photos and projects he creates get more and more impressive as time goes on. His latest project,

Set In The Street was recently featured in New York Magazine

and a plethora of other media outlets. Similar to how the name sounds, Justin worked with a set designer, 



zde Eker,

 to create a set in the streets of New York. 

How’d you come up with the idea for Set In The Street?

"I have been wanting to shoot elaborate, stylized sets for a long time. I reached out to a bunch of set designers and


was on board with my vision. We tried to brainstorm how to do it on a budget without a studio rental and realized all we needed was a sidewalk and the side of a building. From there the idea evolved into using "found" furniture and leaving the sets up for others to interact with after doing our shoot."

Photo By Justin Bettman

Walk us through the process from the idea through executing the idea?

"The first step is finding the hero piece of furniture for the set -- that usually dictates what other items we use and the color palette. Next is finding a location that will work -- one that has a wall with no windows, no street parking, good foot traffic, etc. On the night before the shoot, I pick up a uhaul to get the items to the set. Then we get to the location at about 

3 AM

, build it overnight, and shoot it during sunrise."

What was your biggest surprise when creating Set in the Street or when it was live? Something you didn’t expect?

"The first set that we built, we took down after we shot. But people were curious about the set so I decided we should leave the next one up with a hashtag. I was blown away that it lasted for 8 days and how many people interacted with it."

Photo By Justin Bettman

How long did it take to gather, and come up with the ideas for each set?

"It really varies but on average Id say about 1 month."

Who are the models in the photos? Which one took the longest to capture and create?

"The models are people I casted. For me, casting is a huge part of my process and can really play a big role in the final outcome. Once the lighting is right, I don't shoot for very long, maybe 20 minutes at most. I think it took the longest with the two children on the couch."

Something you wish people knew or might not know about the Set In the Street project?

"I feel like it's a pretty simple and straightforward project, which is why I like it. I guess lots of people think I'm done doing these since I've released images -- but I've only just begun." 

Photo By Justin Bettman

How did you get into photography? When you were little what did you want to be?

"I had a clothing company in high school and I used to shoot bands wearing the clothes. Eventually I liked shooting more than running the clothing company. I don't remember what I wanted to be when I was really young -- but freshman year of college I thought I was going to work in finance. I interned at a commercial bank and realized I couldn't stand wearing a suit and tie to work everyday."

If money was no obstacle, what would be your dream project to create?

"I'd like to do these #setinthestreet sets all around the world. It'd be awesome to do a month residency in Paris, Brazil, etc. and see how different the cities are."

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 21 year old self?

"Real jobs are over rated -- take advantage of the free time you have because you won't have it forever."

Any obstacles along the way (in photography) and set in the street? How’d you overcome them?

"Finding the furniture has been a struggle. There's only so much furniture thrown away every month and only a fraction of it fits my style. Also, I don't have a van or SUV so transporting it has been though. Seeing a taxi drivers reaction when I asked to put a couch in his van was pretty hilarious."

Photo By Justin Bettman

Favorite Quotes/Mantras?

"Normal is just another word for boring."

Photo By Justin Bettman

Advice that someone's given you that's really stuck with you?

"Don't try to be like someone else or you'll always be one step behind."

I feel like something that’s super admirable, is you listen and execute your vision. What would you tell young photographers just starting out on how to find that? 

"Try everything full knowing that you won't succeed with it all. When you're young, that's the time to fail. It's much harder when you have a mortgage and kids."

Photo By Justin Bettman

For more of Justin's photography: