‘New York UP & Down’ – Raw street Photography Of NY In The 80s.
Europe has on tap for the discerning wanderer a varied library of things to do and alternatives. One can go fishing in what looks like ‘The Shire’ in Galway, or sailing off Capri. You can get down in Barcelona, or high as a plane in Amsterdam. You can take a restful stop in Provence, or cop a shop in London. And that’s just the first aisle. Yet whatever the options tend to be, how varied and culturally diverse, a large portion of Americans, and many else around the world, often have a different city atop their dream trip locations. New York.
Perhaps it’s because of films, perhaps it’s just because they’ve heard of it. Perhaps though, there’s a degree of desire stemming from the characterful, storied, and highly documented New York of the 80s. There was a different kind of romance to NY at the time, due in no short amount to the dichotomy of what was going on. Frank Horvat is a photographer who, for years, took the unadulterated experience of NY at the time through his Nikon SLR with Ektachrome, and serves as a window into a defining time before the gentrification of the defining city of the US.
The project ‘New York Up & Down’ is a series shot between 1982 and 1986. It’s street photography not at all in the vein of Humans Of New York. It appears New York may not have been so open to that at the time. While it’s less friendly than HONY, it certainly does have its charm.
…what I tried to convey by the words ‘up and down’. The highs and lows of New York are not just the transitions from Uptown to Downtown, from the darkness of the subway to the view from the top floors of the skyscrapers, from the temperatures in January to those in July. But also the shifts, between one day and the next and sometimes between one minute and the other, from exhilaration to disappointment, from triumph to failure, from fulfillment to defeat.
The Italian native, would often travel to NY for fashion shoots, a foray he stepped into in the late 50s, and continued for decades. Shooting for the likes of Harpers Bazar and many others, Horvat went with natural light for this series and certainly captures daily life in a hugely influential time of the Big Apple. He admits that he didn’t experience or suffer from the ups and downs he documented, though he knew those who were destroyed by them, and ultimately reduced to poverty, addictions and suicide. He claims his immunity was was his status as an outsider, for whom home, was across the Atlantic.
Having lived in a number of different countries, I always loved to see and hear about NY at that time. The 80s on a whole were such an interesting, colorful period. It was the decade of Nintendo, Reebok Pumps, and much of the media culture that was present in whatever country I was in, was somehow taken from New York. That, however, was an 80s child’s view.
While some adults remember some of the finer points, many will tell a different story as they recalled almost a real life Gotham City; Large parts of NY were down-at-heel, it was a time of terrifying subway commutes, and it seemed there were areas you wouldn’t get ten feet without someone trying to steal even the chapstick off your lips. And of course the media center for the AIDS crisis as it unfolded. Horvat seems to encapsulate all of this so well in his spread of photos. It’s utterly charming, and thankfully taken by someone who weaved between the two worlds, and seemingly wasn’t too jaded by either.
There’s much more of the series to be enjoyed and you can find the collection and much more from Hovart on his site, and he has, even as an octogenarian created an app which shares thousands of images and hours of written and spoken commentary.
CREDITS: All photographs shared by Frank Horvat are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist