Oct 21, 201309:33 AMPoint of View
People and the City
(page 1 of 3)
In a few months Mayor Bloomberg will be leaving office, ending an era that radically changed New York City, starting with Rudy Giuliani. Some say that during that time, the city lost its oomph, that they miss the edgy side of the city wiped away by new upscale condos and chain stores. Others cheer the better quality of life. They cite the bike paths and smoking bans; they don’t miss the filthy streets and hold-ups on every corner. For sure it was a different New York and everyone who lived through those times has an opinion. Photographer Robert Herman expresses his own point of view with his camera. His new book, The New Yorkers, from Proof Positive Press, is an inspired photo essay that pays homage to the city that was and to its denizens.
Herman’s lush, colorful photos show us just how far the Manhattan of today has changed in the ensuing years. He reminds us that, not too long ago, a ride on the subway was to submit one’s self to trains covered in graffiti, not of the artistic kind but of the sad, empty vandalism sort. A time when you could still find vacant lots in SoHo and when Little Italy was a neighborhood of hard working Italian-Americans.
Perhaps Herman’s greatest gift is the way he’s able to connect the city to its inhabitants and vice-versa – the characters and their places in it. He finds all the right niches where individuals somehow take possession of “their “ spots in city, softening and humanizing the concrete jungle. New York was tough then, but as he shows us, the rough streets were also somehow welcoming of personal expression.
Having seen the Edward Hopper show (recently closed) at the Whitney, it was not difficult to observe parallels between how the two artists looked at architecture and people’s interactions with it. Both were great observers; they knew their subjects well and sensed how people physically relate to space, be this indoors or outside. They saw where and how people fit in. Hopper would study the buildings, the light, and the perspective in sketches (masterpieces in themselves) until he knew he got it right. And then he applied the same care to “people” the canvas.