Erika Shallcross, a Riverdale-based artist specializing in collage and photography, challenges traditional notions of female beauty through her work.
“I see a lot of art there, which is a man’s idea of ââwhat femininity is, what’s feminine, what’s sexy,” she said. “I hope my idea also represents what other women think, but just what we (all) consider feminine or femininity or beautiful.”
Shallcross, a New Jersey native, studied English in college before earning her master’s degree in education and embarking on a 20-year career in teaching. And like many at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she rekindled old hobbies while stuck at home. She started making collages regularly and started using her digital and film cameras again.
âI happened to have a lot of magazines around me, and it was easy; I didn’t need to go get any materials,â she said. “That’s really what reignited my love of art.”
In 2021, she quit her job as an English teacher and landed a position as an instructor at the Pelham Art Center, and in March this year, she started her own photography business called New York Portrait Company.
“Last year I quit teaching (English), you can imagine the pressures of teaching during the pandemic,” Shallcross said. “And I got a job teaching art…and it opened up a whole new world for me where art is my job.”
Much of her work centers around femininity and the female experience, she said, which was also the main focus of her photography business.
When Shallcross couldn’t find a photographer to take portraits of her in the tastefully feminized way she wanted, she decided to start her own brand to meet the needs of people with similar outlooks – and that’s it. is where the New York Portrait Company was born.
“That was the origin – I was just trying to provide a service to women that I couldn’t find there when I was looking for myself,” she said.
But what’s perhaps most unique about the portrait business is the story behind its namesake.
After setting up a Google Ads account and viewing a few digital prototypes on the internet, Shallcross came across recordings from another New York portrait company, which existed over a century ago.
“I came across some old newspaper clippings from a company called New York Portrait Company, and that’s when I started digging,” Shallcross said. âI was so tickled when I found out there had been another company with the same name. I was lucky enough to find many photos taken by the New York Portrait Company on eBayâ¦I actually bought some of the pictures.
According to the archives of the Buffalo History Museum, the former New York Portrait Company was named in the official catalog of the Pan-American Exposition World Fair in Buffalo, New York in November 1901. Adam Rubin, assistant librarian at the museum, told The Bronx Times via email that old newspaper records indicate the company was headquartered in New York, though it “cannot say for sure.” The old New York Portrait Company was disbanded some time after the Buffalo World’s Fair, before being resurrected by Shallcross â albeit unintentionally at first.
Some of his collages â under the name New York Paper Arts â will be shown at Gallery 505 in Riverdale from September 12. The exhibition, titled âFrom All Angles: Through the Female Eye,â explores themes of femininity, beauty, and the female experience.
Shallcross said she encourages people to experience the freedom of mixed paper art.
“I think collage is an underrepresented art form, and I think it’s as valid a form of expression as anything,” she said.
Shallcross’s photography can be found at newyorkportraitcompany.com; see his collage work on Instagram @newyorkpaperarts.
Contact Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes