Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sixth Ave. Panorama

I can't remember exactly when was the first time I saw Todd Webb's gorgeous photograph "6th Avenue Between 43rd and 44th Streets, New York, 1948," but it was years ago, maybe at MOMA, and I immediately fell in love with it. More than anything, I wanted to fall into it.



Now the photograph has been blown up nearly to life-size, and hung in the windows across the length of the International Center of Photography.

Stretching across several panels, the panorama reveals the entire west side length of the block from 66 years ago. It's incredibly crisp, showing every detail of the record shops, art supply stores, and bookstores, the light lunch joints and neon-sign restaurants. The second-story businesses specialize in typewriter repairs, a school for "talking picture operating," a Spanish-American billiard parlor.

Most of the people walking on the sidewalk are men, with only two or three women among them, and they're almost all in hats.



Gazing at it, the image feels like a window into the past, a fantasy disturbed only by the passersby of 2014, looking down into their phones, not paying attention to what's in front of them. If only you could step through the glass and into that lost world.




11 comments:

laura r. said...

the 2nd photo is amazing. it still looked like that for @ least 20 plus yrs after 1948.

Anonymous said...

And Im sure that even back then someone was wringing their hands
and lamenting the passing of "Ol'
New York" and lambasting the new stores with their loud obnoxious neon wah-wah,boo-hoo,rending
their garments and beating their
breasts Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa,
Mea Caca Culpa Dulpa....

BrooksNYC said...

Jeremiah, I love it when you post comments by the idiocracy, and without further commentary, allow the idiocy to speak for itself.

Incredible photo. I, like you, would give anything to jump into that world.

Walter said...

You're absolutely right, Laura. In 1970 I lived in a rooming house at 120 West 44th Street, and this picture is exactly how I remember Sixth Ave. On some of the street signs it also said "Avenue of the Americas", though I never heard anyone refer to it by that name.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised to see the "Avenue of the Americas" sign. I always figured that was 1960's nonsense.

Renée M. said...

I am 56 years old, so this photo predates my birth by at least 10 years, and I think it's telling that I would feel more comfortable in 1948 New York than the one that exists now. That street is a glass box jungle today. Is that really an improvement? The city is becoming nothing but office buildings, hipster condos., chain stores and trendy hot spots. We're living in the "Biff's World" of "Back to the Future II". Or as someone else so aptly put it, "Bloomberg's dystopia".

Gojira said...

I want to buy 9 cent records and to shoot a few rounds at the Spanish American Billiard Parlor, followed by one of Christy's Healthy Drinks, and then I want to hop into one of those giant two-tone cabs and go to my 1948 apartment, never to see the New York of the 21st century again. That is what I want.

laura r. said...

isnt west 44 st. restuarant row? or it that west 46th? mid town now is not managable.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah/Brooks/Renee M

Please keep some historical perspective when you opine how wonderful NYC must have been in 1948 and how you want to jump into that photo. if you were a white male WW2 vet it was great. if you were black/asian/latino/gay/lesbian it wasnt fun at all. Please remember this is pre civil rights act- discrimination was legal for housing/employment-abortions were in alleys- women didnt go to college or work - they stayed at home and had kids- if a woman was raped/assaulted the NYPD didnt bother to do anything- and the subway wasnt air conditioned either

Anonymous said...

I think this is a beautiful photo, but as a lesbian and a working woman, there is no way I would want to jump back to the New York of 1948!

Walter said...

West 46th Street was considered "Restaurant Row".
West 44th Street housed the famous Technicolor Motion Picture Lab and some other movie related facilities.