A 2009 images of the Pitkin Avenue Bootery in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Image via Store Front II
The increasing homogenization of businesses is apparent everywhere: the uniform fast-food chains sprouting up in neighborhoods around us, the Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts cups many commuters hold on the subway, and even the similar clothing brands people choose to purchase from. With this in mind, City Lab recently published a series of photos showing New York City’s “endangered mom and pop stores” from James and Karla Murray’s new book Store Front II, which documents New York City’s diverse, family-owned businesses before they disappear. On the cover is Village Cigar, which has in front of it a memento of type of fight – Hess Triangle, once the smallest plot of land at 500 square inches, holding out against eminent domain.
A daguerrotype of the Unitarian Church on the east side of Broadway across Waverly Place. Fall 1839 or winter 1840, by Samuel F.B. Morse and John William Draper from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Every so often, articles or social media appear claiming photographs to be the oldest taken in New York City. Such a designation is of course rather difficult – images may still be sitting in personal collections never shared, or simply buried deep in existing archives. In 2009, the below Upper West Side daguerrotype was sold at auction at Sotheby’s for $62,500 dating to October 1848 or earlier. The New York Times exercised its usual caution, writing that “a photo believed to be one of the oldest ever taken in New York City was sold.” But we think we’ve found something even older.
Deities of inspiration, the Greek muses are ethereal young women who guide the creativity of artists and writers. New York City photographer Harvey Stein sees the city itself as his creative muse. Stein has photographed the Big Apple for nearly half a century, publishing views of its people and streets in a series of widely-acclaimed books. Briefly Seen New York Street Life, is Stein’s latest visual love letter to his muse. And it’s clear that Stein has been thoroughly seduced by his muse and what he calls the “rough, raw, charged and even magical energy of New York City street life.”
Last week, a new gallery, Happy Lucky No. 1 opened on Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights – on a stretch becoming increasingly peppered with new coffee shops, bars and businesses. The new space, designed by the firm aa64 is both a gallery and event space, with a green wall and green roof. The first exhibit, Topography is Fate, with images by New York City-based photographer Matthew Arnold, is even more timely now given the recent current events. Arnold’s beautiful large-format photographs belie a darker history – 70 years ago this North African landscape was the scene of carnage during World War II.
Jill Freedman is famous for photographing the freaks, the lost, and the lonely of New York City – and an exhibition of her vintage prints shows just how keen her eye for tragedy is. Freedman, now 75, moved to Greenwich Village in 1964 and since then has scrutinized the city’s squalor and cheeky humor.
Her Surf ‘n’ Turf shot of a bum sleeping next to an artist’s street stall in the 70s says much about the contradictions of New York and its shocking juxtaposition of extreme poverty and the world of the bourgeois. She can be compared to legendary photographer Weegee, with whom she shares the same taste for those on margins, circus artists, and people of the night, as well as the same love for all classes of New Yorkers.
Freedman, who is originally from Pittsburgh, said: “Coming to New York is always a way of getting away from your own life.” She started her career as a singer in nightclubs, and picked up a camera on a whim. She never studied photography formally, but took as mentors W. Eugene Smith, Andre Kertesz, Dorothea Lange and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Her new exhibition at Steven Kasher Gallery, Jill Freedman: Long Stories Short, features over 50 of her black and white vintage prints from the late 1960s to the early 1990s.
It includes work from her famous projects on the city’s cops, firemen, protestors, circus workers, and dogs, as well as unpublished photographs.
Freedman – who has published seven books and is currently working on an eighth, tentatively titled Madhattan – told The New York Times she photographs “the theater of the streets…the weirder, the better”.
But it seems she feels the city she loves is losing its edge, adding: “I don’t feel it’s New York any more because they destroyed the neighborhoods. New York was all about the neighborhoods. Now everything’s just real estate. “The suburbanites won. Instead of having to commute, they brought the suburbs in with them.”
Photograph by Miron Zownir from NYC RIP
Released in September, the book NYC RIP features 156 photographs by Miron Zownir of New York City in the gritty 1980s, focusing a large part on the sex workers along the West Side “Sex Piers” and former nudist area, gay parties before the AIDS crisis, the desperation along the Bowery, and subcultures that were once a fixture on city streets. Numerous NSFW images are published on Dazed Digital (h/t Vanishing NY) and show what is described as his “uncompromising” eye – images that will certainly make those only familiar with the more sanitized New York flinch. While the focus is on human subjects, the environment is key to the photographs which explains why Zownir has been compared to Weegee.