Memory Project

70's Noir

Real, raw, fast-paced, dynamic and exciting is the vision I saw when I walked around NYC in the 70’s. Drawn in by the mere fact that it was like an encounter with noir movie set with lots and lots of characters where you inhaled the liveliness as you kept up with the quick flurry of the streets. It was a gritty black and white looking cityscape without any color until Disney moved in the 80’s.

After finally being allowed to ride the subway by myself, the first time I went into the city was in 1966 at age eleven. My mom gave me a 30 cent token for the RR Broadway local directly into the city. Naturally I got off at Times Square. It looked like an urban amusement park that had arcade game venues. There were places like Fascination and Playland where you could play marksman games with a pocket full of quarters.

Instead of sports, I got bit by the photo bug of the photography gods. I saw my canvas for the first time in a 35mm view finder. Now I can paint, sketch and draw like never before. I was trying to pursue visual randomness into an artform. Incidentally, the way I got my first camera was from a neighbor named Val, who had a numbers racket on East 100th street in Harlem. He told me to go get him a Coca-Cola and handed me the keys to his 68 Dodge Dart, ”There’s a paper bag in there for you”, I opened it and there was a Nikon with a 50mm lens .

I returned with my camera and Tri-X film when I was 15 in 1970. It was possible to walk around the city with a Nikon relatively safely. No one paid any attention to a 15-year-old with a camera. It was a visual sensation. A continual, fast flowing, whirlwind of humanity dressed in tie-die to business attire. Everyone quickly zigged and zagged with perfect choreographed steps towards their ultimate destination.

Still, New York was approaching crumbling chaos in a rapid decline without any redemption. Luckily, I captured these New Yorkers frozen in time by which new fashion and technology will never change them except to be scanned and digitized so the modern world can see their past glory. Then came the crime and crack that took over the area in the 80’s. My camera and I kept a far distance then.