Three photographic visions of New York
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Exploring New York City style and a society in flux
“I wanted to show how New York City looked to me at that time,” Joel Meyerowitz says of the street photographs he took from the 1960s to the ’80s. “The activities, the clothing people wore, the quality of the buildings, even the light on the street.” These reflections, recorded over 18 months’ worth of interviews with historian Lorenzo Braca, are now being published alongside more than 100 classic and unseen photographs in the photographer’s first biography, The Pleasure of Seeing.
The book spans Meyerowitz’s formative encounters with Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander; his observations on how fashion, gesture and architecture have shifted over the years; and what these changes revealed to him about culture in the United States. The question that fired him, he says, was, “How can we deal with the absurdity of what we were seeing in America, back then, and with the transformation of the social system that we were living through? How does this play out on the streets?” From observing life – from the “very expensive business suits” to the “messengers” – he built a picture of the US that offers an answer.
The Pleasure of Seeing: Conversations with Joel Meyerowitz on 60 Years in the Life of Photography is published by Damiani at £55
The many faces of a city of possibilities
Photographer Luc Kordas grew up in Wrocław, Poland, and moved between London, Madrid, Barcelona and San Francisco before arriving in New York in 2014, aged 30. He quickly began exploring the lesser-known boroughs with his camera, photographing life on the street. These snapshots of the city’s multiplicities make up his first monograph, New York Unseen. In one image, a girl rides the subway, eyes closed and hands resting on the window, as if making a wish; in another, protestors raise placards and megaphones at a Black Lives Matter demonstration.
Elsewhere, salsa dancers whirl and spin along the boardwalk of Coney Island in a dance class. Kordas borrows words from Joan Didion’s 1967 essay “Goodbye to All That” to describe his feelings towards the city: “I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.”
New York Unseen by Luc Kordas is published by teNeues at £19.95
Basquiat and Warhol’s touching friendship
In December 1984, photographer Jeannette Montgomery Barron travelled to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s studio on Great Jones Street, carrying only her camera, a light and three rolls of film. Her set-up was simple: a plain wall, some of his paintings, the shadow cast by a birdcage he kept in his studio. One sitting led to another, this time at The Factory with his friend Andy Warhol. Both sittings, from 1984 and 1985, are brought together for the first time in a new book, alongside an essay by Italian artist Francesco Clemente. In contrast to the myriad posed and highly stylised photographs of the pair, Barron’s naturalistic images capture a more subtle dynamic: a shared sense of melancholy, a gentle and tender friendship. The secret to her success, writes Clemente, was that she didn’t treat her subjects like celebrity artists but rather “as poets, emerging timidly from darkness to the realness and fragility of body and soul”.
JMB by Jeannette Montgomery Barron and Francesco Clemente is published by NJG at £45