Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Burton's NYC

Recently, an exciting collection of vintage New York photos has turned up in the Vanishing New York Flickr pool. From photographer Carl Burton, they show a ragged city filled with slumped brick walls, neon, hot dog stands, and nudie joints.

Carl Burton, behind Klein's on Union Square

He's got some fantastic 1980s street portraits, mostly taken in Hell's Kitchen, including lots of tough kids, biker guys, and a group shot of hippies with one girl in a t-shirt that says: "Born on a mountain, raised in a cave, truckin' 'n fuckin' is all I crave." She'd just come in on the train from Long Island.

A set of black-and-white shots lends a noirish air to the city, a world of topless dance parlors and crumbling movie palaces.

Carl Burton, Fanelli's 1979

Carl told me, "These day's I'm not doing as much work on the street as before--I used to get up early in the morning and lug my 4x5 Deardorff around New York, looking for good stuff. The change is astonishing, and I now think that I've put together a small historical archive of the city."

His Broadway and Beyond set shows several scenes of Times Square in full color in the 1980s.

Carl Burton

Said Carl, "New York is certainly a more civilized place these days, but, visually, during the 70s and 80s--periods of economic difficulty--it was much more exciting. The whole theater district was beautiful in its decline. It was seedy and had a melancholy beauty that has largely disappeared. I'm glad that I had the energy to get up early and shoot."

This shot's got it all--adult bookstore, Nedick's, a bank of phone booths--everything vanished:

Carl Burton

Carl says he's interested in re-shooting some of the sites he documented in the 1980s. "I've more or less abandoned film these days, except for my Fuji 6x17. But when I look at the prints made from large and medium-format film, I'm thrilled by their beauty. It's like the difference between the sound on LPs and CDs."

Carl Burton

Further Reading:
NYC '75 by DeWolf
Getting Lost in the City


Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Ah, the back of S. Klein's. Used to crawl there a lot. On Irving Place & 14th St was Clancy's Bar which was my drinking hangout in the 70s, boy, was a lot of beer consumed there. A seriously heavy drinking bar. I'd stagger out of Clancy's and totter up 15th St where I'd collapse on the short freight stairs of S. Klein's department store and in the 70s it was all boarded up and ready to be torn down. For some reason I'd sit there an hour or two just sit and stare at the non-activity of the night. If I didn't collapse I'd eventually stagger home to sleep. Oh God, memories take me back...please...Your pics are divine.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the Times Square Howard Johnson's. I miss that delicious chicken pot pie!

Melanie said...

I love the 1980's street photos--they show the real grit and facing up to the fact that this is not the most perfect world but we are surviving..on small faces that says alot. Thanks Burton.

Little Earthquake said...

Amazing the way he can speak in boldface like that.

EV Grieve said...

Quite a stash of photos... Thanks to Carl for making them available on Flickr (And I GUESS to you for posting about them...)

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Thanks. Beautiful photos, beautiful old city.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i'm curious about the billboards in the times square shots. they are clearly an art project and not advertisements. does anyone know what they were for?

Marty Wombacher said...

Great photos and memories! Thanks for sharing them. I was in Times Square the other night and was thinking how I'd love to have a beer at the old Howard Johnson's bar in the back in all its orange glory.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

In my novella 'My Father's Semen' anthologized in "Cruising for Bad Boys" STARbook Press, a 16 year old boy comes into NY looking for his gay father just as the 42nd St movie house are all shut down with strange lettering appearing in marquees up above. I quote from a few, but can't remember any. The book has it:

Laura Goggin Photography said...

These are fantastic, thanks for sharing!

James Taylor said...

Looking at these photos I think what's really interesting is how the scale (for want of a better word) of New York has changed, at least in a superficial sense.

Take the FUJIFILM and TOSHIBA neon signs from the Times Square series, or even S. KLEIN in Union Square, and how they dwarf the stores and people below. My mind thinks of other signs in the area long gone: CANON, PANASONIC, even the old "I found it at the COLONY" sign.

These days a gigantic blinking logo isn't enough. International corporations don't want to advertise themselves as such (at least in the western world), and so the vastness and indifference of the city's brazen commercialism which has been lost. Ironically, in attempting to appear more approachable what replaced it is even more obnoxious.

Art said...

After they closed down the porno theaters but before they were torn down the city invited artists to post on the marquis. The only one I remember is "it's wrong to be killed for a stupid reason," or something like that.