From the invention of the daguerreotype to the mass produced camera, from early film and television, to this very minute, New York, the so-called city that never sleeps, has always been and still is one giant photo-op. One cannot turn on the television, go to a movies or open a magazine or newspaper without coming face to face with a picture of New York City, be it of the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street Stock Exchange, Times Square, Central Park, Coney Island, or one of the countless skyscrapers that pepper the city’s landscape. With some 10 million tourists a year flocking to New York, and 8 million people living there, presumably all having cameras in hand, there is no end to the mountains of photographic images being produced. It has been said that if all of the photographs that were ever taken, in New York City alone were set side by side they would go to the moon and back several times over.
Traveling throughout Russia for the past two years, before it goes to Hungary, Germany, France, and eventually New York where it will end its tour in 2012, the New York, Then and Now, curated by Moscow based Andrey Martynov, is a poignant sampling of New York City images as seen from the eyes of twenty-nine international photographers, both amateur and professional, dead and alive. Though focusing on life in New York, the exhibition is the story of every city, every person. We work. We play. We live. We die. It is also, in no small way, by the very subjects the photographers choose to document, and the manner in which they do so — the images range from fanciful, realistic, abstract, to staged, sharply focused, highly manipulated and blurred — an autobiography of each photographer’s interests, concerns, and personality. Some choose to capture the flow of life as it unfolds; others are fascinated by neighborhoods and buildings. Still others prefer to explore individual human expression. The diversity of approach and style is endless.
From a homeless man on the street, to the proverbial intellectual, in his small and overstuffed, art and book laden apartment, photographer Carlos Escolastico, from Sevilla, Spain, chooses to focus on where and how people live. Russian photographer Valery Orlov, and New York based Jennifer Drucker, Arthur Leipzig, Anita Chernewski, and Jill Connor, all look to the old and weathered face of Brooklyn’s Coney Island, the once legendary, turn of the century, amusement park. Barry Kornbluh’s photographs, many taken from the window of his downtown New York apartment, presents the jazzy side of the city. Walter Rosenblum’s (1919-2006), and Arthur Leipzig’s photographs takes us back to New York during the 1940s. German based photographer Kerstin Drobek transforms public locations into orchestrated individual happenings. New York based Marcy V. Hargan, along with Polish photographer Zbigniew Kosc, captures the city’s brilliant architecture in varying seasons, while Edward Rubin’s photograph of Christo and Jean Claude’s 2005 installation of 7,503 saffron colored gates in Central Park, almost the twin of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-1886), offers proof positive that despite all change, entertainent, people, and their poses, remain virtually the same.