While retrieving an old hard drive featuring many of the negatives from my film camera days. I notice an image that was somewhat foreign to my eyes. One that captured my imagination while dialing back to my days of living in the storied NYC neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen. At the time, I was going out to see bands two to three times a week. Although I went to clubs and bars throughout the tristate area. CBGB’s and The Continental were more or less, second and third homes for me.This particular image caught my eye, perhaps due to my often lamenting, wishing I had taken more time to photograph the attendees and personalities that often hung outside the clubs. Upon close investigation. I came to the conclusion that it was The Continental, a downtown, east village bar on 3rd avenue, just off St. Marks place. My other guess is, due to the ethnicity of the woman filming the action. That it might have been the Asian/Female fronted punk band Yellow Scab. As much as I’m guesstimating. Finding an image I don’t remember taking or seeing, was cooler than an eskimo sitting by a campfire. Though the picture was taken some twenty five years ago. Noticing it for the first time gave it a new shine.
Influences and Origins
The other night, I came across a documentary about New York City photographer Ricky Powell (R.I.P.). Perhaps best known for his raw images of NYC personalities and the up and coming graffiti and hip hop scenes. Powell, was, amongst many artists whose art and images inspired me to pick up a camera and document the world around me. The documentary features many of the highs and lows while remaining focused and very interesting. Overall, it had me thinking about organizing, printing, and even attempting to display my work at a local gallery. With so many other, perhaps more important, tasks on my to do list. The reality that I don’t know anyone outside my immediate neighbors in the area. Chances are slim for any exhibitions. Still, I plan on consistently sharing my images on the internet and with anyone who’s willing. The image below was taken more than ten years ago when I lived and worked in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Lost and Found
My journey as a photographer has endured its share of bumps and bruises along the way. Though I had had a few images published and had my first paid gigs a few years before. I had very little knowledge of putting a cohesive portfolio together. I was a hobbyist and an enthusiast. One that had become passionate of the art, but had little grasp of how to get from A to B. Somewhere in my twenties, I picked up a second job working nights at an East Village record store. The owner, himself a published stock photographer became somewhat of a mentor, giving me the green light to build a portfolio from the continuous flow of interesting characters who came in the place. Good, bad or ugly, I was photographing and documenting much of my city life. Many, if not most of the people who took me up on my offer to use them as my instruments of creativity would meet me at a certain time and near place. I was more than happy to share prints with those who agreed to meet up. At the time, I was working with a very basic Nikon film SLR film camera that another boss gave me a few years before. While revisiting some old image files. I found a folder marked “slides”. I recall shooting almost exclusively with slide film at the time. While I don’t remember this particular woman’s name. I recall the session taking place within the lower east side’s Tompkins Square Park. In indulging myself in looking through old files. I’m surprised to find so many keepers.
Tupac Mural L.E.S.
Going through old slides, I found this image of a Tupac Shakur memorial mural that appeared shorty after his still unsolved murder in Los Angeles. Over the years I’ve come to love, and respect Tupac’s legacy to hip hop and life in general. Looking back, I’m grateful for making an effort to protect my slides and negatives.
Revisiting my time as a film photographer in Hell’s Kitchen.
Looking back, I’d say my journey as a photographer began during my early days in Hell’s Kitchen. Though I had been fascinated with taking pictures since my teens. It wasn’t until I was occupying a one-bedroom in the heart of the west midtown area of Manhattan that my then boss gave me his old Nikon EM SLR along with some film and a couple of photo books that my hobby turned into an obsession. I quickly began documenting my surroundings while graduating from one-hour photo chains to professional printing services such as Duggal and B&H. Within a short time, the towels and sheets that fit neatly in my apartment linen closet were displaced by boxes of photos and trays of slides. My trips to places like Duggal and B&H quickly quadrupled. From my eight years in Hell’s Kitchen to my married life in New Jersey and Washington state. My passion and obsession for photography never waned. My need for living space grew, and the number of photo boxes, enlargements, and ane studio gear morphed. Quickly realizing less is more, I used the premise of moving to digitize all those negatives, slides, photo boxes, and albums before tossing them in the garbage.
As I begin to get the digitized photos back, I can see the vast progress I’ve made over the years. Kicking myself, in a sense, for holding on to the past for so long. Undoubtedly, many photos accurately documented the time and people. Most of it, unfortunately, was junk. Luckily though, there were a few that jogged some serious memories. Photo’s that still show a measure of intent and purpose.
Taken on 48th street and 10th avenue shortly after a snow storm. You can hopefully see the emphasis on the reflections the puddles give. You should also get a rare view of a traffic-free New York City street. Not bad for a photo I took more than twenty-five years ago.
United By… (Al Gaydos)
I first met Al when he was playing bass for New Jersey’s Dog Tired. A punk band heavily influenced by bands such as the Pogues and Still Little Fingers with lyrical muscle that might find itself swimming with more emotive bands such as Dischord Records Rites of Spring and Embrace.
When I moved to Manhattan in 1994, I began to see more and more of Al. I always and still do, consider him a good friend. Enjoying going to see him in a number of bands including The Fury’s (Who eventually changed their name to The Truents.) and (pictured here.) The Deviators. Though I haven’t seen Al in years, I’m sure if we ran int0 one another, we’d be able to pick up just where we left off. If interested, you can find more information about Dog Tired, The Truents and The Deviators on Discogs. I’ll leave a link just below.
United By… (The Turbo A.C.’s)
My initial introduction to New York’s Turbo A.C’s came at a random New Jersey bar. On that particular night I was visiting a friend whose New Jersey thrash core band happened to be playing. With my hopes to get a bus back to the city dashed, I turned to the only band heading back to New York City that night. The alternative of sleeping on my friends bedroom floor was my only other option and to be honest, I’d hitch a ride with a serial killer before choosing to do so. Luckily, Mike and Kevin were more than happy to oblige with the caveate that we stop at local dinner before hitting the Lincoln Tunnel and escaping to Manhattan to secure our freedom.
After that night I stayed in touch with Kevin and Mike as I began to explore the punk revival happening in and around New York City’s the Continental. Of all the bands I went to see there, I found their music to be most relatable. Often reminding me of bands such as The Hellacopters, Supersuckers and Hard-Ons.
United By… (Lady Luck)
The ’90s were often a strange time for New York Hardcore and what was, for the most part, post-core. While bands like Quicksand, Into Another, Burn, and Orange 9mm each thrived to some extent. There were many more that seemed to flicker, yet quickly burn out before making much of a name for themselves. I got to see many of these acts at places like CBGB’s, The Wetlands, Brownies, and The Continental, to name a few. Lady Luck (pictured below) was one of those bands. Featuring a cleaned up looking Roger Miret (Agnostic Front) on bass and his wife Denise on vocals. They recorded a ‘7-inch ep for Mendit in ’97. A split LP in ‘ with another promising band named Fully the same year and a full length ‘Life in Between’ in 2000. I only saw them this one time at what was pretty much a hippie club in the Tribeca area of Manhattan. I remember Denise having a beautiful voice and, if memory serves, they delivered an excellent set, but as someone who was used to seeing Miret work the stage covered in sweat, tattoos, and screaming into the mic with a sense of primal rage. Seeing a subdued version with slicked-back hair and a velour shirt was just a little too surreal for me.
United By… (Candy Snatchers)
Though some of my negatives haven’t stood the test of time, my memories have remarkably held up pretty well. At the time this image of New York City’s The Candy Snatchers was taken at 3rd avenues The Continental. I had just begun dating my future wife and working nights at a record store a few doors down. At the time, the Continental was hosting a lot of great bands that seemed to fit into the cities punk rock revival. During a relatively short time, I got to see bands with names like The Deviators, The Turbo AC’s, The Suicide King (Featuring Nick Marden of the legendary Stimulators, The Snake Charmers and (pictured here) the Candy Snatchers. The Continental was tiny with the bar on the left and the stage in the back. Like most of Manhattan, the Continental and the adjacent St. Marks Street bare little or no resemblance to the once edgy character it was once known. The last time I visited the area, The Continental was a yuppie bar, and St. Marks was lined with trendy restaurants and frozen yogurt chains. What I liked most about this particular band was that element of danger tthey always seemed to carry. That kind of Stooges vibe. Being in my twenties at the time. I liked the element of anything can happen at any time. A stark contrast to today, where so many people at shows are more engaged with their phones and social media, than the actual event.
Communication and the Lost Art of Listening
Everybody has a story to tell. Rich or poor. Young or old. Black or White. We all come from diverse backgrounds and have lived different lives. Yes, we’re all related to this earth and one another to a certain degree and share a common bond, but in so many other ways, we are unique. As I get older, I’ve tried to become less of a talker and more of a listener. Though it’s taken a lifetime, I’ve come to understand and embrace that the only time we learn is when we listen. So, after years of talking, I look forward to the hopes I can become a better listener.