The Urban Lens: Wayne Sorce’s vivid photos capture the spirit of 1970s and ’80s NYC

November 17, 2017

Dave’s Restaurant, New York, 1984. © Wayne Sorce courtesy of the Joseph Bellows Gallery

6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, the Joseph Bellows Gallery shares the late Wayne Sorce’s “Urban Color” series. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].

Chicago-born photographer Wayne Sorce began capturing the people and places of urban landscapes while at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1960s. In the late ’70s and early ’80s he took large-scale color photos of his hometown and New York, capturing “a formal exactitude, the light, structures, and palette of these cities within a certain era,” according to a press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery in L.A. where this “Urban Color” series is currently on view. Not only do the vivid colors help express the spirit of the city at this time, but the way Sorce incorporates people exposes a unique energy in which they serve as “both inhabitants, as well as sculptural forms relating to a larger composed scene.” From Manhattan barbershops and restaurants to the gritty, industrial streets of Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, the photos transport the viewer to a bygone NYC.

Bee Gee’s, 1984

Parklane Hosiery, 1985

Chock Full of Nuts 1984

Varick Street, 1984

Barbers, 1985

L.B. Oil 1984

Brooklyn Bridge, 1985

Vinegar Hill, 1988

Vinegar Hill, 1985

Vinegar Hill, 1985

Urban Color is on view at the Joseph Bellows Gallery through November 30th. Find out more information here.


All photos © Wayne Sorce courtesy of the Joseph Bellows Gallery

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  1. A

    Great photos. The one showing the Brooklyn Bridge surrounded by cars is from when the city used to old docks at Fulton Ferry to store impounded cars. That area is now a multimillion dollar redevelopment site, with a Shake Shack, many stores, the PierHouse development, and more.

    Here’s another photo of what the area looked like back then: