Where else can you see 25-foot toy soldiers, a two-story Santa, or a house decked out with 30,000 lights other than Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. The suburban neighborhood, historically a quiet, Italian-American enclave, has been putting on its legendary holiday spectacle since 1986, when Lucy Spata moved to the area. Her over-the-top Christmas displays started as a way to honor her mother’s memory (she also loved holiday decorations) and quickly her neighbors followed suit. Today, Lucy is known around town as “Mrs. Claus” and the Dyker Heights lights attract up to 150,000 visitors each season. 6sqft’s resident photographers, James and Karla Murray, recently visited Dyker Heights and captured the outrageous lights and decorations in all their glory. And they were even lucky enough to meet Lucy herself!
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, NYC-based photographer Betsy Pinover Schiff shares photos from her new book, “‘Tis the Season New York.” Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Two years ago while attending for the first time the Winter’s Eve Festival, billed as the largest holiday festival in New York City, photographer Betsy Pinover Schiff had an ah-ha Christmas moment. If she, a native New Yorker, just recently learned about this huge annual celebration that draws thousands to Lincoln Square, what other Christmas celebrations was she missing? In a quest to find out, Betsy ended up taking hundreds of photos and attending hundreds of events across the city, all within a six-week period.
Her curiosity grew to become the basis of her latest book, “‘Tis the Season New York,” which was released this fall. Her book takes us on a tour of NYC during its most festive time of the year, from photos of the holiday windows at Saks Fifth Avenue to the elaborately decorated homes of Dyker Heights. Plus, 15 different New Yorkers, ranging from philanthropist Agnes Gund to Betsy’s postman, provided their own NYC experiences for the book. Ahead, Betsy shares with 6sqft some of her sparkling photos and tells us how New York during Christmastime becomes a place for “fun, fantasy, and endless heartwarming moments.”
Christmas shoppers on 6th Avenue (1910) via Library of Congress
Black Friday marks the start of frantic holiday shopping, the day when retailers offer their best deals of the season to lure in eager shoppers. While some gift-givers now choose to digitally add items to shopping carts from the comfort of bed instead, many still line up outside of stores at the crack of dawn in search of major discounts. This is not a modern phenomenon, as these photographs from the Library of Congress of 20th century New York City reveal. Like today, New Yorkers of the early 1900s were drawn to the magical window shops and displays. Ahead, explore vintage photos of shoppers browsing New York City stores looking for the perfect presents, postcards and more.
“Bird’s-eye View of the Southern End of New York and Brooklyn, Showing the Projected Suspension–bridge over the East River from the Western Terminus in Printing-House Square,” drawn by Theodore Russell Davis (1870)
If you want to go on a visual journey that begins with Manhattan’s first European settlement, way back in the seventeenth century, up through the skyscrapers and urban planning of the late twentieth century, look no further than New York Rising: An Illustrated History from the Durst Collection. The book, set to come out on November 13th, originates from the sprawling Durst Collection at Columbia University’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. Incredible photography captures the most definitive parts of New York history, accompanied by the thoughts of ten scholars who were asked to reflect on the images. Their writing ranges from the emergence of public transit to the “race for height” to affordable housing.
6sqft spoke with Thomas Mellins, who edited the book with Kate Ascher, on their efforts delving into the Durst Collection — which has its own unique history — to come up with this comprehensive visual history. See a selection of photos from the book, along with thoughts from Mellins, after the jump.
All photos © Jeff Rothstein
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Jeff Rothstein shares a collection of 1970s street photos. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Brooklyn native Jeff Rothstein bought his first 35 mm camera in 1969, hoping to get some good shots at the Yankees and Mets game he frequently attended. But what he found was a love for NYC that turned him into an avid street photographer for the rest of his life. Jeff recently compiled a selection of these black-and-white images in his book “Today’s Special: New York City Images 1969-2006,” and he shared a subset of 1970s photos with 6sqft. From John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Muhammad Ali to protests shows at the Filmore East, and candid shots of everyday New Yorkers, Jeff’s work captures a bygone NYC with a delicate intimacy.
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Brian Rose shares his past and present Meatpacking streetscapes. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
A native of Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg, photographer Brian Rose moved to New York City in 1977 and captured some of the most fleeting, bankrupted moments of the Meatpacking District in one January of 1985. In 2013, he returned to the neighborhood – impossibly changed – and once again photographed it. He then presented both sets of photos in his 2014 book “Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013.” Read on for an interview with Rose on old-school NYC, 9/11, and the city’s unknowable future.
© New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Before iPads and air-conditioning, New Yorkers of all ages sought entertainment outside. And since backyards and open space in the city are practically non-existent, games took place outside of apartment buildings, spilling out onto the streets and sidewalks. Twentieth-century New Yorkers improvised games in streets and parks, including classics like kick the can, off the wall and stickball. Preserved and documented from an NYC Parks archivist, photos from this era will make you wistful for the simplicity of urban street games.
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Paul Morris shares his digitally altered streetscapes. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
New York City is full of urban photographers, capturing streetscapes and buildings as they morph and grow and alter our neighborhoods. But very few can find a way to do this that is totally new, which is why the work of local artist Paul Morris is so refreshing. By juxtaposing his original photography with his graphic design skills, his large-scale patterns “capture and restructure elements discovered in urban landscapes to create innovative perspectives on objects found in everyday life.” His latest series focuses on the city’s biggest, and arguably most anticipated, new development–Hudson Yards. He’s also created “False Mirror” images of everywhere from the Rockaways to the Financial District. Ahead, Paul shares with 6sqft an exclusive collection of his photos and chats with us about his unique process and inspiration.
“The area seen in these views was later filled with sand from the Bay and the new circumferential highway.” 1930; via NYPL
In the curve of Brooklyn between the Narrows and the borough’s southwestern edge at Sea Gate, there is a lesser loved body of water called Gravesend Bay. The boundary of what was once Gravesend Town and is now simply Gravesend, among other nabes, was along a wetland of sandhill dunes before it became an oil-saturated trash marsh. Now, it’s home to a relatively scenic portion of the Belt Parkway, where the Verrazano Bridge emerges from around the bend or Brooklyn’s tip juts into your vision, depending on your direction.
Dated photos from the New York Public Library reveal–as old New York photos tend to– a Bay apart. In part it’s likely because the smells and oil sheens of today’s bay can’t be experienced in these vintage pics. The unimpeded openness of the water, kept from humans only by what appears to be a single giant tube, however, clearly belongs to a Brooklyn long past.
Central Park, 1900 © Ray Simone
6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Ray Simone shares vintage photographs of New York City he has lovingly restored to stunning quality. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Born-and-raised Manhattanite Ray Simone has a native knowledge of New York, as well as an intimate understanding of its past lives. When he’s not taking current photos of the city, he’s in his Williamsburg studio, restoring its past, negative by negative to shocking quality. While some negatives take under an hour to restore, the more badly damaged ones can require more than 40 hours of painstaking work, going pixel by pixel. “You can only work at something a certain amount of hours at a time,” Simone reflects, “You get tunnel vision after a while; carpal tunnel.” Ahead, 6sqft talks to Simone about his photo restoration business and his thoughts on NYC’s history and future, and we get a special look at some of his greatest restoration works.