On the Street: The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

Madonna, St. Mark’s Place, 1983; Lesbian couple, 8th Street, 1981

Alan and Charles Rosenberg, Central Park, 1985; Fingernail Extensions, 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, 1988

Pia Guccione, 8th Street and University Place, 1988; Phoebe Lègére Accordion, 10th Street and Avenue B, 1987

Tongues Down, Rafael Araujo, 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, c. 1987-88; Jenny Gift-Wrapped, 59th Street, 1982

Susanne Bartsch, Houston Street and West Broadway, 1987; Miranda Pennell, Columbus Avenue, 1984

Jan Long, Cooper Union Square, 1982; Julio Q, Broome Street, 1985

On the Street: The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

Photography by: Amy Arbus

On the Street is a collection of photographs by Amy Arbus, which were selected from Arbus’s photo-column that ran in The Village Voice between 1980 and 1990, a page that documented New York City’s downtown area’s most vibrant, creative dressers and personalities (many of the photographs were also published in a book).  Amy Arbus has been photographing professionally for more than 25 years.  She has been a contributing photographer to the New York Magazine theater section, and her photographs have appeared in over one hundred periodicals, including The New Yorker, Aperture, People Magazine, ESPN, and The New York Times Magazine.  She is the daughter of the late photographer Diane Arbus.

Now that Manhattan is only habitable for the rich, many New Yorkers love to reminiscently look back to the mad and crazy ‘80s, when the Bowery could be quite dangerous and apartments were still affordable.  Nostalgia presently stalks the five boroughs, whether for acid-washed rap-fashion, Mudd Club art parties or coke in sleazy bars.  But back in the original 1980s-1990s, Amy Arbus found the subjects for her extremely unique photographs mostly by just wandering around the Village, looking for people who were wearing visually creative and unusual outfits, a lot of polka dots, or stripes, or everyone wearing hats in the summertime.  At the time, there was nothing else like it.  Now there are a lot of similar things, but back at the original time there hadn’t been any kind of record of the East Village scene when it was comprised of this particularly promising, hopeful group of talented, interesting people.

Describing her pictures from this 1980s-1990s collection, Arbus stated, “In terms of the clothes, I think they were fantastic and funny and outrageous and silly….There was no kind of judgment going on at the time.  Everyone wanted to be noticed, no matter what it was for.  That’s completely gone.  Being noticed is irrelevant now.  You have to make such waves to be a success at things now that dressing differently may make an impression, but it’s not going to get you a career.”

Included here are a number of Arbus’s vintage photographs, a video from  her documentary film On the Street, a full-screen high-resolution slide show and an additional audio-slide show of Arbus’s photography.

The Clash, Broadway, 1981

Slide Show: On the Street/ The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

(Please Click Image to View Full-View High-Res. Slide Show)

Amy Arbus: A Documentary of On the Street, 1980-1990


Audio Slide Show: Amy Arbus’s On the Street/ Annals of Self-Invention

(Please Click on Image to View Audio Slide Show)

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