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Carnival: 1,000 Pictures of New York City

New York Life: 1,000 Pictures of New York City | Flickr

WHEN A MAN has lived a long time with a city and then decided to leave her, it seems best to make a record before departing. Otherwise, for all the years he has lived with her, all he will have left will be the shards of random moments; not the mosaic complete.

The archives he retains will, invariably, be merely personal — clippings from the local papers, a box of business cards, filched matchbooks, a sheaf of menus, random pay stubs, a well-thumbed Rolodex, and a few albums filled with pictures of friends and acquaintances remembered with varying degrees of accuracy.

And his snapshots.

They will be snapshots of his personal celebrations; the birthdays, anniversaries, shared summer houses, days in the park and nights on the town. He’ll be in some of them. Friends will proliferate in others. And the city will persist, implied, either in the background or intruding in the middle distance; like the air, unnoticed until absent. When you leave her, this is what you will carry away. It will fit in a medium-sized cardboard box. We’ve all packed this box. Mine was labeled, “New York.”

Like the lies of false and faithless love, your memory of the city will fade long before the snapshots in the box. True, they fade slowly — pushed into the mist by other days and other scenes — but fade they do. And so you will find yourself pretending, long after she has gone to seed and faded into the smoke of the world, that you still know what she looks like, and how you felt, when you lived with her through all those bright days and white nights.

It will all be a lie; one that will grow more elaborate and comfortable as the distance dissolves the experience. In time, you won’t even recognize it as a lie. Just as an old love remembered anew can appear in warmer tones than the last days that drove you apart, so too a city can rise in radiance as the memory, always protective of the self, tints in some false rose of dawn or the sham melancholy of twilight.

Knowing this, and knowing soon after the 11th on that clear September that I would leave her, I resolved to record New York City as I knew her in that last year without sham or falsity.

Beginning in early October of 2001 and ending at around ten in the evening of November 9, 2002, I kept a detailed photographic record of what we were like and how we lived in New York in that shaky first year of our unsought new era.

During those months I took over 23,000 photographs in all the areas and neighborhoods and places in which I found myself, night and day. Of these I destroyed most. In the end, I kept about 5,000 that struck me as worth preserving for one reason or another.

To show you, “to make you see,” what I saw during my walks around New York City in those months, would take a thousand images and an iron constitution. And so I selected them and I’ve put them HERE. I’ve selected these thousand images because they seem, in aggregate, to give a reasonable impression of my last days in New York, the city I had lived in and loved for the better part of 30 years.

It is said that “There are eight million stories in the naked city,” but that’s another lie. There are, if you could read the secret hearts of New Yorkers, eight million stories squared in that city.

Here’s a thousand of them.

New York Life: 1,000 Pictures of New York City | Flickr

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Wilfred Ruffian April 30, 2018, 6:46 PM

    Nostalgie de la boue.

  • Jack April 30, 2018, 7:49 PM

    I went to NYC once in 1974. I saw a lot of faces, very few smiles. Looks as if things haven’t changed all that much.

  • NotquiteunBuckley April 30, 2018, 8:24 PM
  • rlc2 April 30, 2018, 9:09 PM

    First time to NYC I saw what looked like closed off people, but once you broke through the natural reserve of folks crammed in tight, the people were warm and interesting, and patient with the young Midwesterner. That was 40 years ago, seems like yesterday.
    Pretty sure I am NOT that same idealistic patient man…

  • Dan Patterson May 1, 2018, 4:35 AM

    Used to be a nice town, I hear.

  • ghostsniper May 1, 2018, 4:48 AM

    Having designed buildings for thousands of people from all over the country and world I have found some of the most difficult to be from NYC. Argumentative, loud, arrogant, aggressive, unwilling to listen to reason. Once, the NY client became so over the top argumentative everybody else in the office came running because he was yelling and got right up in my face with balled fists. He went from calm to all up in my grill in about 10 seconds. I backed up and handed him his rolled up plans and told him I didn’t want to argue and he can have the ($3000) plans for free. He continued to argue. Unbelievable. I told him I have to get back to work, bid him good luck, and left the room.

    A couple years later, way after the completion of the home I had designed for him, he came back and wanted me to design an investment property. I told him we were very busy and could not touch the project for at least 6 months. I never saw him again, and I was glad.

    The conference room was large, with lots of vendor samples on display, Andersen window corners, lengths of oak crown mold, Simpson steel hurricane anchors, even some 4′ lengths of epoxy coated re-bar. That’s the last place a loud mouth needs to take their adolescent issues out on me, with all those weapons laying around.

  • Jim in Alaska May 1, 2018, 7:44 AM

    Having spent 4 years in NYC, ’60-’64, enjoyed, Gerard, following you down memory lane.
    In retrospect, I’m quite glad I was there then but ain’t nothing there I need to go back for.

  • ambiguousfrog May 1, 2018, 9:49 AM

    Yeah, I can’t say I miss that freak show.

  • PA Cat May 1, 2018, 10:52 PM

    Glad you included at least one kitteh and one Mets fan.

  • Rick Darby May 2, 2018, 10:38 AM

    Good God, man, you are waxing nostalgic over this? Noo Yawk must have really messed with your mind.

  • pbird May 2, 2018, 10:53 AM

    I suspect its like a strong flavor that you have gotten used to.