Our ongoing series “My sqft” checks out the homes of 6sqft’s friends and fellow New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to the longtime East Village apartment of acclaimed photographers James and Karla Murray. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!
You might not immediately recognize their names, but there is no doubt you know their work. Photographers James and Karla Murray burst onto the scene back in 2008 with the release of their seminal book “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York,” a work culling hundreds of images of the bygone retail graphics that once covered the city—and jointly, the mom and pop businesses that vanished alongside them. Since then, the Murrays have released two more tomes of the same vein, and collected countless awards and accolades for their documentary work along the way. In fact, their photographs can now be found in the permanent collections of major institutions around the world, including the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the New York Public Library. Their images also decorate the homes of countless celebrities, among them Sarah Jessica Parker, Ralph Lauren, Alicia Keys and Roseanne Barr.
In this week’s My sqft, 6sqft visits this warm and spunky husband-and-wife team in their East Village home to talk about their tenure in the city (they moved downtown in the 80s—though Karla is from the Bronx) and their ongoing efforts to chronicle what remains of “old New York.” We also get a peek inside their studio apartment/workspace of 22 years, which as Karla and James share ahead, has some crazy stories of its own.
go inside their home here
6sqft’s new series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In the first installment, award-winning authors and photographers James and Karla Murray brought us 15 years of images documenting the changing storefronts of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Now they share more amazing images, this time of privilege signs, an industry term for the promotional signs installed by large corporations on storefronts. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on 6sqft? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Privilege Signs are an industry term for the promotional signs installed by large corporations such as Coca-Cola and the Optimo Cigar Company. They were popular in the 1930s through 1960s and received their name because store owners were given the “privilege” of completing the signs with their own copy. Large companies benefited from the signs because they were an easy way of weaving a marketing campaign right into a building’s façade. The signs were not only given free to store owners, but they also brought people into the store with instant brand recognition.
Today, they read retro and antique, standing out as a testament to a business’ ability to endure even in the face of the monumental challenges in a city known for its rapid pace of change. When compiling our books on disappearing storefronts, we were immediately drawn to facades that still had these type of signs, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorites ahead.
See all the photos ahead
6sqft’s new series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. To kick things off, award-winning authors and photographers James and Karla Murray bring us 15 years of images documenting the changing storefronts of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on 6sqft? Get in touch with us at [email protected]
Bleecker Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue South was once a huge Italian enclave with many traditional “mom and pop” stores catering to the large Italian families who resided in the neighborhood. By the late 1930s, it also had a significant bohemian population with many artists, writers, poets and musicians living in the area who set up galleries, coffee houses and music shops. Due to widespread gentrification and escalating real-estate values, the neighborhood has changed drastically and its unique appearance and character is suffering.
We are here to take you on visual tour to experience how many of the truly authentic shops remain on this venerable Greenwich Village street, and to show you what has replaced the ones that have vanished. Many of the shops you’ll encounter ahead have been featured with full-color photographs and insightful interviews with the store owners in three of our widely acclaimed books on the subject, but we’ve also rounded up several more ahead.
Walk the Greenwich Village of yesteryear and present