When Esther Tran Le left Santa Barbara for New York University in 2009, she knew she would be getting a first-class education, but what she did not anticipate is that she would become an expert photographer of the city’s burgeoning outdoor mural scene. Five years later, she has both a BA and a master’s degree in international relations and a hot Instagram feed (instagram.com/thestreetmuseum) that’s gaining new followers every day. The Laguna Blanca grad has always been interested in photography, but it wasn’t until she began walking the apparently not-so-mean streets of Brooklyn that she found her passion: connecting people to the best and freshest things being painted in not only New York but Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Santa Barbara.
I caught up with the recent grad last week in S.B., where she was taking some time off before returning to N.Y.C. to begin work at Egon Zehnder, an international consulting firm, in the fall. “It all started when I was an undergraduate and living in Little Italy,” she explained. “I loved walking in the city, and seeing all the great work that was being done in my own neighborhood naturally led me farther and farther out into Brooklyn, where a lot of the best stuff gets done.” After several years as a contributor to larger, aggregated Instagram feeds documenting street art, she started her own in January 2014, and since then, it has taken off.
How does she find the cutting-edge images that she photographs? Some of them are only up for a limited time, and all of them are in random locations. “When I went on Instagram as @thestreetmuseum, I guess people liked what they saw because they started tipping me off about new work. Although I know it is supposedly cool to post a photo but not say where you took it, I like to include the location. To me this is about making the work more available to a wider audience.”