Take a trip back to the ye old days of A.D. Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-Three (1993). Harlem still had its true grit, 8mm was king of art house film, and the Queen was Latifah–at the Apollo Theater, at least. Photographer and blogger Gregoire Alessandrini gives us a rare peak into this quintessential New York neighborhood’s past through a 4 minute film of a ride he took on the M101 bus along Amsterdam and Lexington Avenues by way of 125th Street. The grainy black & white film is not the only thing about the video that has high contrast. It is remarkable to see the differences between the New York of today and the New York of just two decades ago.
These differences are what Alessandrini dedicates his blog to, as all of his content was originally produced between 1991 and 1998. His works include photo collections of 42nd Street and Times Square (when the decline in the porn industry gave way to British Airways’ Concorde ads), Coney Island, the old World Trade Center in its heyday as an icon, and subway commuting on an F train that actually looks quite similar. Indeed, many notable locales bear similar resemblance to today, but it is within the nuanced differences of street signs and advertisement logos where the spirit of Alessandrini’s work truly shines. Then again, his photos of the Meatpacking District might send you reeling.
One must pay particular attention in his Harlem bus ride film to notice the brief glimpses into a markedly different past, such as the boxed “DONT WALK” signs that have been replaced by the now ubiquitous flashing orange hands. Alessandrini also helps guide your eye, further pointing out the old menu at MG Soul Food’s Diner (it was serving fried chicken then) and the sign announcing Amateur Night’s regular MC, Ralph Cooper. Though the angle of the film is from the bus, we can all safely assume that he wasn’t riding on a clear-air hybrid electric model.