Photo of the Day: New Rock City

Photo of the Day: New Rock City

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

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Photos of the Day: Saturday in the Park

Photos of the Day: Saturday in the Park

Photography by:  Glenn Losack, M.D., NYC

Hot town, summer in the city,
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty,
Been down, isn’t it a pity,
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city,
All around, people looking half dead,
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head
.”

Chicago: Saturday in the Park (Live)

The Lovin’ Spoonful: Summer In The City (1966)

Slide Show: Saturday in the Park

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Photo of the Day: Look on the Sunny Side

Photo of the Day: Look on the Sunny Side

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

June Carter Cash: Keep On The Sunny Side

June Carter and Johnny Cash: Keep On The Sunny Side

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Photo of the Day: Still Homeless After All These Years

Photo of the Day: Still Homeless After All These Years

Photography by:  Glenn Losack, M.D.

A Documentary Short Film: Homelessness in America

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A Tribute to the Legacy of New York’s Lower East Side

The Lower East Side: Mars Bar Secrets

The Lower East Side: Fuchsia

Roundball on West Fourth Street: Muscle Chests in Shadings of Gray

The Bowery: A Solitary Meal

The Bowery’s CBGB: R.I.P. Hilly

A Tribute to the Legacy of New York’s Lower East Side

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

This multi-media piece on the legacy of New York’s Lower East Side, comprised of photographs, a slide show and a documentary short, initially appears to assume the form of a parody.  However, beneath the humorously droll surface of the composition, another layer reveals a more serious message.  It is a genuinely sincere remembrance for the spiritual heritage of New York City and  the Lower East Side before they were forever changed by the waves of rapid and often greedy gentrification, which took hold in the 1980s and quickly accelerated during the 2000s.  The energy and camaraderie of the people who over multi-generations banded together in the face of suffering and adversity is truly captivating.

Over the last 100 years, the East Village/Lower East Side neighborhood has served as the first home for cultural icons who have included financial barons, political leaders and national celebrities in the performing arts.  Andy Warhol and his Superstars, important folk, punk, rock, anti-folk and hip-hop music emerged from this area, as well as advanced education, organized activism, experimental theater and the Beat Generation.   Club 57, on St. Mark’s Place, was an important incubator for performance and visual art in the late 1970s and early 1980s, followed shortly by 8BC as the East Village art gallery scene helped to galvanize modern art in America, with such artists as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons exhibiting.  The East Village is also the setting for Jonathan Larson’s musical Rent, which is set in the early 1990s and follows a group of friends as they spend a year struggling against AIDS, poverty, and drug abuse.

I have documented elsewhere a historical review of the area’s contributions to the literary and performing arts, as well as the struggles which have been undertaken in recent years to keep the memories of its artistic gifts alive.

A Remembrance for the Legacy of New York’s Lower East Side

Slide Show: A Tribute to the Legacy of New York’s Lower East Side

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The Prince of 7th Street: Sexy Pretty Boy (R.I.P.)

The Prince of 7th Street: Pretty Boy (1989-2009)

Pretty Boy, The Prince of New York City’s E. 7th: One Cool Cat

Down in the East Village, residents and other people whose business brought them down to Seventh Street between Avenue A and First Ave. had their own daily guide, a white cat named Pretty Boy who strolled the south side of the street for more than 20 years. Pretty Boy passed away last month at the age of 22, leaving a small sense of emptiness for those who had felt his inescapable presence.

It’s impossible to say just exactly who owned Pretty Boy. The white cat walked into Mikey’s Pet Supply Store at 130 E. Seventh Street one day in 1988 and made it his home base on the block, where the cat became known as The Mayor of Seventh St. Pretty Boy slept at Mikey’s Pet Supply Store, but during the day he hung out mostly at Salon Seven, the hair salon at 110 E. Seventh Street. At Salon Seven he spent his day purring, sprawled out on the appointment calendar at the reception desk and in the laps of clients having their hair washed. Sometimes in the evening he would take a little jaunt over to 7A, the restaurant at the end of the block, and would sit in the sidewalk cafe watching people eat.

Pretty Boy was a great favorite of the superintendents on the block, who work out of a basement office and watched Pretty Boy walk by. One of them said, “I wish I had a cool walk like that. It really was a cool walk, especially as he got older, it was a Zen-like stroll. It was so serene. I like to think of him as my sensei, my Zen master. I hope to be as cool and serene as that when I get old.”

Some have said that Pretty Boy was a karmic blessing, he arrived on 7th Street and made everyone feel good.

Read more here.

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Captivated by New York City’s Lower East Side

Captivated by New York City’s Lower East Side: Tompkin’s Square Park

In The New York Times, Colin Moynihan has written a wonderful article about Q. Sakamaki a Japanese photographer living in New York. During the last 15 years Mr. Sakamati has won a reputation as an acclaimed documentarian of conflict and suffering. From the civil war in Liberia to the misery of sex workers in Bangladesh, he has created pictorial narratives of the devastation that unfolds when military or economic forces collide with ordinary human lives.

His latest work returns to his early days in New York City, when he was still adjusting to a new home and a new avocation, photography, after having given up a job at an advertising agency in Osaka. Upon arriving in the city in 1986, he moved to the East Village, where he was alternately charmed and horrified by what he saw. Dilapidated and abandoned buildings lined the streets. Entire blocks were filled with little more than rubble and bricks. Heroin was sold in candy stores, and gunshots sounded in the night. In the morning he sometimes spotted the bodies of people who had been killed or had died of overdoses.

Even more surprising was the huge number of people who were living on the sidewalks. “The homeless people were spread out all over the neighborhood,” Mr. Sakamaki recalled. “It was like a third world city.” Before long he was drawn to Tompkins Square Park, which was then the East Village’s central gathering spot, where he found a lively mix of people. There were law students, punks, poets and older, lifelong residents who could remember the days of the New Deal.

Twenty years ago this week the neighborhood was also much like a war zone as protesters clashed with police officers seeking to enforce a curfew in the park. Mr. Sakamaki has explained that,”This [work] focuses on Tompkins Square Park as the symbol and stronghold of the anti-gentrification movement, the scene of one of the most important political and avant-garde movements in New York history.”

As his black-and-white photographs make clear, Mr. Sakamaki found much that was life-affirming amidst the ongoing experiences of conflict and poverty. The energy and camaraderie of the people who banded together in the face of such suffering and adversity captivated him; so did the desire of East Villagers to create their own social order even as they received little help from mainstream society. The struggles he documented took place against a backdrop of rapid and sometimes greedy gentrification that took hold in the 1980s and is the unifying theme for the photographs in this pictorial documentary.

Photographs of political protests, demonstrations and police responses that range from arrests inside the park in 1989 to a clash in May 1991, when bottles flew through the air and police officers in visored helmets formed a line across Avenue B. Mr. Sakamaki documents a major demonstration a week later in which a crowd marched on Avenue A at night to condemn the city’s decision to shut the park and bulldoze part of it.

But the work focuses most of all upon the lives of the homeless people who lived in the park or on the nearby streets. The streets and park paths shown in his documentary still exist, of course, but many of the people who populated that landscape have died or left town. Mr. Sakamaki’s photography has always been about people, from the street children of Rio de Janeiro to denizens of an empty lot on Avenue C.

In the end Mr. Sakamaki’s photographs of the East Village and Tompkins Square Park is a valediction of to lost people and a lost place that has been supplanted by a neighborhood that he finds rather sterile and uninspiring. “We lost our culture,” he said, “and we lost control of our dreams.”

Captivated by the Lower East Side: Tompkins Sq. Park

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