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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Photo of the Day: A Bargain at Twice the Price!

Photo of the Day: A Bargain at Twice the Price!

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

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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

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Cabalerno: And It’s All Right

Cabalerno: And It’s All Right

Cabalerno is a documentary-style short film shot in a Latino neighborhood of New York City.  The film was an official selection in 2007 at film festivals in the United States and around the world (including film festivals in Australia, Barcelona, Brazil, Canada and Germany).   In the United States, Cabalerno was an official selection at the Provincetown International Film Festival, The New York Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, The International Latino Film Festival (San Francisco) and others.   Cabalerno was the winner of The Best Short Film for Season Two, on LOGO Television.

Cabalerno reveals the unspoken suffering of a withdrawn and awkward Latino young teenager, who appears to be attempting to begin coming to terms with some of his uncomfortable erotic attractions to others.  The younger teen gets caught pointing his video camera at an older, handsome and muscular skateboarder on New York’s Lower East Side, with whom he is infatuated.   Confronted with his video filming by the older teenager, he suffers both embarrassment and fears of possible public humiliation.  However, after an initial awkwardness, the two fellows must cope with their unanticipated, seemingly dissonant feelings.

I’m Looking at You,
Looking at Me,
Looking at You,
And it’s all right
.”

Cabalerno: And It’s All Right

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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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Photos of the Day: The Storefront Worldwide East Village Radio

Photos of the Day: The Storefront East Village Radio

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

East Village Radio (EVR) was first established in June 2003, and originally broadcast on the airwaves at 88.1 FM. But after an article in The New York Times described the station, the FCC sent a cease-and-desist letter (since the station was unlicensed). Due to the difficulty of obtaining new FM licenses, even LPFM licenses, in a large metropolis such as NYC, the decision was made to make East Village Radio a free internet radio station.

Some time after this, it was decided to move the studio from its original location above a restaurant to a storefront booth on First Avenue in the East Village. This was seen as a way of reconnecting EVR with the East Village community since the station was no longer literally on-the-air. According to a Metropolitan Transit Authority study of pedestrian traffic in New York City, almost 1,800 (1,000 during off-peak travel times) pedestrians pass by the sound booth per hour.

Over the past four years, East Village Radio has emerged from a small, backroom collective of music lovers to become a growing fixture on a local and international level. EVR has been featured on ABC News, in The New York Times Magazine, Spin Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Time Out New York and many others. EVR has also been nominated by the influential PLUG Independent Music Awards for Best Internet Radio Station three years in a row.

Have a listen to the innovative music by the local DJs and personalities, who might otherwise have been drowned out by the deafening presence of the East Village’s rapid gentrification, on East Village Radio.

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Sex in the Lower East Side: The 100 Lovers of Jesus Reynolds

Sex in the Lower East Side: The 100 Lovers of Jesus Reynolds

The 100 Lovers of Jesus Reynolds, directed by Ilya Chaiken, is a short film that was shot on a shoestring budget, but it’s marked with a sense of gritty, tenacious elegance. In 2004, the film was an Official Selection of The Sundance Film Festival.

The film begins with a humorous, but bittersweet meditation about an East Village girl’s many, many love affairs. It then focuses on a particular one-night stand, which unfortunately happened to take place the night before the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade. The tryst seems to become a poignant portrayal of an important event in the young heroine’s life. Yes, it seems to be, but one is left with an ending that is both beautiful, yet at the same time hauntingly elusive: One senses that something has changed, but we’re not quite sure what.

The 100 Lovers of Jesus Reynolds

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