This striking, vibrant street photography essay was selected as a finalist in the LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2016. Discover more inspiring work from all the winners, jurors’ picks and finalists.

I am fascinated by the way we present ourselves in public. Living in a city, we are part of an enormous community, but we are also alone. To change that, I love confronting people: first, I invade their line of sight, then I capture the moment with my camera.

Studio photographers often use a single light to illuminate their subjects, and so do I, but with one key difference: I leave the controlled domain of the studio and take my camera out on the street. This uncertain environment is the opposite of the constrained limits of the studio.

As the sun rises and sets in New York City, the gridded structure of the streets creates shafts of light that illuminate some parts of the sidewalk while leaving others dark. I use this lighting to highlight people. My subjects are in literal spotlights—yet the lighting also brings into focus the isolating nature of living in a city.

I’m looking for striking, confident people that manage to emerge out of the shadows. When I’m working, I anticipate people’s movements and position myself in a way that allows me to capture both light and dark. This series conveys how I see light and the people that surround me every day.

—Ed Walker