New York City is a complete fascination for me. I’ve been traveling there at least 3 times a year since I started my career and its an extremely special place. It is interesting how its changed over the years, but still maintains its reputation as the place where things happen. Those things that happen are more corporate anymore due to the extreme cost of living but it has an amazing history that has become an obsession of mine. From the fashion photographers of 5th Avenue to the street photographers of the golden age of photography… its all there. If you could give me a time machine I’d set it to NYC in January of 1953 at the height of abstract expressionism and vintage street photography.
One of my weird hobbies has become photographing historic places. If I’m in NYC and I have a day off – this is what I research, find and document.
I’ve got about 10 more sites photographed… they’ll be released soon.
821 Sixth Avenue :: The Jazz Loft
In the late 1950’s, Harold Feinstein lived in a loft in the flower district of New York City with several musicians including Hall Overton. In 1957, Feinstein moved out and turned his space over to his friend and fellow photographer W. Eugene Smith. The loft was filled with late night jam sessions by the biggest names in New York City, most notably was Thelonious Monk. The always obsessive Smith set out to document the whole thing over the next 8 years. He wired the place with microphones sound and took photographs. An entire catalog exists of this material including over 4,000 hours of audio tape and about 40,000 images. The archive lives at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.
Today the building is still there, used as a storage facility.
Saul Leiter’s East Village Apartment (East 10th Street)
Born in Pittsburgh in 1923, Saul Leiter developed an interest in art in his late teens. In a rebellious move, he left his upbringing as the son of an internationally known Talmudic scholar and moved to New York City to pursue painting. His friendships with Richard Pousette-Dart and W. Eugene Smith led him to photography over the next few years. Saul had equal talents as a painter and photographer and rented an apartment in the East Village where he would paint in his studio and go onto the streets to photograph.
Leiter kept a fairly low profile during his life, though his paintings hung in shows along side Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston and Philip Pearlstein at galleries such as the Lower East Side’s Tanager Gallery.
As a photographer he worked occasional freelance jobs for Show, Elle, Vogue and others. Edward Steichen included 23 of Leiter’s black and white photos in the MoMA’s 1953 exhibition, “Always the Young Stranger”. Despite these successes, Leiter remained fairly unknown outside of New York.
His color work was brought to public attention by Howard Greenberg Gallery in the 1990’s and a surge in his career followed to the end of his life. In 2006, the seminal book Early Color was released which put Saul as a legitimate figure in the art world.
Today he is remembered as one of the great color photographers of the 20th century.