All photographs by Christopher Payne

A few years ago, we covered the photographer Christopher Payne’s incredible work inside the Steinway & Sons factory in Astoria, Queens. Payne’s background as an architect clearly informs the spatial composition of his photographs, of which many took long hours to set up. More than just beautiful images, Payne’s work captures an important legacy of New York City’s manufacturing present, highlighting how handcrafted, highly technical objects can still be produced here. In many ways, his work pre-dates the city’s obsession with things small-batch and handcrafted: Steinway pianos take one year to make.

Payne’s patience has paid off in so many of his projects – regular visits to North Brother Island in all seasons, battling poison ivy, snow, and rickety abandoned buildings – led to the book North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York CityNow, he’s self-published the book Making Steinway: An American Workplace available only through Steinway and the Benrubi Gallery.The photos capture the production process and the skilled workers at the Steinway factory, revealing pieces of the instruments that will never be visible to the public.

As he tells Untapped Cities, “One thing that we’ve done in the book, which is very effective, is juxtapose historic photos of the factory from 1916 with their modern day counterparts, 100 years later. They show, in some cases, how little has changed and how the pianos are still made very much by hand.”

Next Thursday, June 16th, Steinway Hall in Midtown will host a talk and book signing with Payne to launch the publication of the book. Payne will take guests on a visual journey through the Steinway factory and talk about his experience photographing the space.

RSVP for the event here. Untapped Cities is also coordinating a tour of the Steinway & Sons Factory. Sign up for advance notice here:


Next, see Christopher Payne’s photos of North Brother Island