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.
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
Inside the World Trade Center
Looking out from the World Trade Center
- The Urban Lens: Travel back to the gritty Meatpacking District of the ’80s and ’90s
- The Urban Lens: Langdon Clay’s 1970s photographs of automobiles also reveal a New York City in decay
- VIDEO: Rick Liss’ ‘No York City’ Encapsulates the Grittier New York of the ’80s
All photos courtesy of Terry From Sydney/Flickr