By Rebecca Drew
INCREDIBLE images have emerged revealing what life was like on gritty New York streets during the eighties.
The spectacular pictures show the twin towers standing tall above the skyline at the pre-9/11 World Trade Centre, Brooklyn Bridge and passengers riding on a graffiti clad subway train.
Other retro shots show African Americans walking through the streets carrying a sign saying, ‘we are somebody’, a burnt-out church and a young boy drinking a can of coke whilst sitting on the streets.
The stunning nostalgic photographs were taken by Steven Siegel in New York during the 1980s.
“Like millions of others, I am drawn to photographing New York’s streets and neighbourhoods. Many of these public spaces must surely rank as some of the most photographed subjects on earth,” said Steven.
“That might suggest that it is virtually impossible to produce a striking and original photo of New York’s well-known streets and neighbourhoods.
“And yet, it is not impossible. The New York street is a bubbling cauldron of potential images waiting to be captured by photographers.
“On a busy Manhattan street, astonishing images percolate by the second and then disappear forever. Just stop, look closely and wait.
“The visual power of the pre-9/11 World Trade Centre derived in part from its utter simplicity of form, its sheer size and its mirror-image structures.
“The tragedy of 9/11 hit me hard, but fortunately, not in a direct or personal way involving family or friends. Like everyone else, I experienced a general sense of loss.
“In addition, I also, as a photographer, experienced a peculiar sense of loss that derived from the loss of a favourite photographic subject.
Of course, this was a minor loss in the general scheme of things, but it was nevertheless quite tangible. I am hopeful that these photos convey a sense of that peculiar loss.”
Steven explained how young people are shocked when they see what New York used to look like at a time when murder rates were at their highest and crack usage had reached an epidemic.
“These images of 1980s-era New York graphically convey what the city has gained and what it has lost,” added Steven.
“Most obviously, these images show that the New York of the 1980s was an edgier, riskier, dirtier, tenser, more dangerous and chaotic place.
“In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, there is also a suggestion that 1980s New York was a place of wide-openness and freedom.
“When young people today look at my photos of New York from the 1980s, they are aghast. To them, the New York of that era is almost unrecognisable and they are right.
“The photos also remind us that New York always has had great disparities of income and wealth. Of course, by most measures income inequality in the city has worsened in the past thirty years.
“The point is that New York’s extreme economic disparities of the 1980s continue albeit in a different form on the street and in public places, with wealth far more evident and with poverty far less visible.
“It is my hope that these photos might contribute in some small way to this important discussion of the city’s recent history.
“But, at the very least, if they serve to reawaken the memories of a few older New Yorkers or pique the curiosity of some younger ones, then they shall have succeeded.”