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Washington Street 1985 © Brian Rose

The swank boutiques, high-end galleries, and ritzy accommodations of today’s Meatpacking District are a far cry from the seedy desolation that dominated the area in the 1980s. Lucky for us, photographer Brian Rose set out to document the neighborhood in 1985, when the stench of meat and blood still permeated the streets.

As Brian describes, “early in the morning the Meatpacking District was a vast open-air scene of carnage. Sides of beef were hung from hooks that slid along overhead conveyors. Men in bloodied white coveralls grappled with the carcasses. By mid morning the hubbub of the city’s meat market subsided and the cobblestone streets took on a look of abandonment, astonishing in the heart of such a great metropolis.”

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West 14th Street 1985 © Brian Rose
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West 14th Street 2013 © Brian Rose

Brian never printed his 1985 negatives, and nearly forgot about them until he rediscovered the images in 2012. Inspired by what he saw, he took to the streets again to trace the changes that have impacted the neighborhood, repeating many of his original compositions and adding some new ones to create a fascinating series of “before and afters.” The resulting body of work strikes a similar tone to his last publication, Time and Space on the Lower East Side. With Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985-2013, Brian Rose cements his status as the ultimate chronicler of Lower Manhattan’s changing landscapes.

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Hudson and 14th Street 1985 © Brian Rose
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Hudson and 14th Street 2013 © Brian Rose

While many may mourn the loss of character in the Meatpacking District, preferring the rugged charm of its 1980s incarnation, others see the neighborhood’s transformation as an inspiring and unlikely tale of urban renewal. For his part, Brian takes a more nuanced perspective, leaving it up to the viewer to determine his own point of view. He sums it up well while speaking on the subject of the High Line: “I love it-it’s a perfect conjuncture of preservation and contemporary architecture. I hate it–it’s too crowded much of the time to be fully enjoyed. But what can you do? This is New York. You cannot live here if you cannot abide change.”

Brian is raising money via Kickstarter to cover production costs for the book, and you can help! Donate today and pick up some incredible perks in the process, including prints, special editions, and signed copies of the book.