The Urban Lens: A tourist’s take on NYC in 1979

Posted On Fri, May 19, 2017 By

Posted On Fri, May 19, 2017 By In Features, History, photography, The urban lens

6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, we share a set of vintage photos documenting NYC in 1979. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].

In the spring of 1979, a 20-something Australian tourist came to NYC and was immediately struck by its fast pace and no-nonsense attitude (“there seemed to be an unwritten rule not to make eye contact or speak to strangers,” he told Gothamist), as well as how much in disrepair parts of the city were, especially Harlem. He documented his experience through a series of color slides, which were recently rediscovered and present a unique view of how exciting, frightening, and mysterious New York was to an outsider at this time.

NYC 1979, vintage New York, old NYC photos, NYC 1970s


West 125th Street and Fifth Avenue


East 127th Street

“I was shocked at the state of disrepair in Harlem. The streets had big potholes. There were many burned out buildings. Some lots had no building, just piles of rubble,” the photographer told Gothamist.

Of the subway car picture, he told Flashbak, “I remember feeling very nervous when I took this photo. One of the other passengers remarked ‘That’s a nice camera.’ That made me more nervous because generally people on the subway did not even look at each other much less talk. I had never seen trains covered in graffiti like those in New York at that time. This carriage was covered inside and out including on the floor, ceiling and all the seats.”


Centre and Canal Streets


East 42nd Street


Outside Grand Central


Times Square


Inside the World Trade Center


Looking out from the World Trade Center

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All photos courtesy of Terry From Sydney/Flickr

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