Jean Philippe’s Spider Web of Fire Escapes

Portrait of New York

April 12, 2018

Every city has its one thing that is defining and most recognizable, yet very descriptive and unique to that specific town. Sure, you may say New York has many, but there is no argument that the fire escapes of the pre-war buildings are the most notorious and unique feature of them all.


Fire escapes in New York were mandated by the law in 1867 and became a necessary staple in buildings erected throughout the 1900s. A medium of originality for local foundry workers, oftentimes European immigrants, fire escapes took on endless shapes and forms. Ever wonder why they are so colorful? That’s because another law in 1929 required fire escapes to be painted in contrasting colors. With years, fire escapes’ original purpose and effectiveness has been critiqued and argued over, but they have also taken on many roles in social and cultural sense, becoming a staple of New Yorkers’ daily life and an original extension of its dwellers behind those windows (remember fire escape adaption of Romeo and Juliet balcony scene in West Side Story?).


One artist, in a remarkable bow to New York City’s history, captured the allure and the multifaceted energy of NYC.  Allow us to introduce you to Jean Philippe Kadzinski.  His carefully put together collages of fire escapes photographs, taken by JP himself in all neighborhoods of New York, became a signature look and are sought after all around the World. 




These images carry incredible energy of the multidimensional city, from pure, fresh and honest, to darker, mysterious and even dangerous sides of the Gotham, or the warm, vibrant and busy metropolis that New York City is.  Every piece is packed with energy and intrigue. What is behind those closed doors? Is someone making love, or having an argument? Sort of a peak into the window of a stranger. Each art work is put together from about 550 images on average, prudently selected for color and placed together in a way to seamlessly connect with one another. Printed either on plexiglass or metal for texture, images are created in a range of impressive sizes with a purpose of giving the audience the utmost immersive viewing experience.


These influential art works were born from the passion of seeing extraordinary in ordinary.  JP has the immaculate attention to details, seeing something special in objects that most people pass by and do not pay any attention to.    


Long before his success in visual arts, there was a decade of hard labor in the industrial plant in Lorraine, France. One day JP met a girl who simply suggested him being a model.  At the time, not having a clue what a model is or what that industry is all about, and how to become one at 28 years of age, Jean decided to quit and move to Paris to pursue his new career. Hard work, determination and persistence led him to success.  Jean’s whole life changed, he stayed in Paris, never looking back at Lorraine. The new modeling career took him around the World as a top male model in the late 90s.  Then, while working for YSL and L’Oreal, among many other well-known brands, JP landed in NYC and found his new home. 


New York City resonated with Jean on a very personal level at the very first sight.  After ten years of modeling, he decided to try his hand now behind the camera, and changed his focus and career goals to become a professional photographer.  Self-taught and reconnoitering to find his own vision and style, his eye gravitated toward the abundance of fire escapes.


Strolling through New York neighborhoods with a camera, Jean was admiring and capturing these old fashioned fire escapes.  Having accumulated thousands of images over several years, it suddenly dawned on him to put them together.  The rest is history.


New York City inspired Jean to make the move from a life in pictures to a photography career. The dreams of New York life finally came true.  In just short four years after entering the art world, Jean’s work is displayed in New York, Hong Kong, Miami, Hamptons, Japan, and Paris.  An incredible achievement.


The art works urge us to look at the image as a whole, representing unity, as well as beyond into the details that embody the cityscape’s energy.