Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Doors of New York: 1976

Get ready to have your mind blown--and the next several hours of your life lost. A reader recently connected me to photographer Roy Colmer's collection of New York City doors in the NYPL digital gallery. It consists of 3,000 photos of doors (and 120 intersections), all in Manhattan, all taken in 1976.


I got in touch with Mr. Colmer. He told me that it took him one full year to complete the project, "This included the indexing, developing negatives and prints" on 3,000 doors. He chose the doors, and the intersections, at random.

As he told me, "I was not concerned with the particular street, historic or architectural importance of the door." He simply walked, pointed, and shot. Whatever got caught in his lens, that's what got caught.

B&H Dairy

From downtown, Chinatown, Mulberry Street, the Bowery, through Soho and the Village, across East 7th Street and up Second Avenue, back and forth across 14th Street, through Midtown to the Upper East and West Sides, the photographer takes an exhaustive, exuberant, obsessive look at the city.

Gem Spa

The kitchen supply shops of the Bowery and the construction material suppliers of Bond Street. The slums of Prince Street and the burnt-out wrecks of East 2nd between A and B. (On one of those wrecks a sign reads "Save This Building for Our People.")

Foam rubber suppliers, sellers of extra long neckties, hosiery dealers, diamond appraisers. Candy stores. Sheet music stores. Kodak stores. Dance schools. Luncheonettes.

Chinese take-out places, pickle shops, and "girls girls girls" nudie joints.

Sellers of plastics and sellers of lace. The endless, endless discount shops of 14th Street bursting with wares. Coin dealers. Handkerchief stores. TV and radio repairmen. Kosher delis. Barber shops.

Essex Street's suppliers of Hebrew religious articles--bar mitzvah sets, skull caps, antique Judaica.

Soho full of nothing but textile warehouses. Sellers of "drapes, festoons, jabots." The textile by-products of the Walter Yokel Co.

Stationery stores. Metal processors. The Gloria Umbrella Company. A store with the name "Clogs of Course," because, of course, they only sell wooden clogs.

And Woolworth's with its luncheonette.

And people. Amid the restaurants and tobacconist shops and banks and bars, there are people. In shirtsleeves, in fur coats, in plaid jackets, in wide neckties, in plaid pants, in bell bottoms and on it goes.

It's a wonderful collection. Some doors you will recognize, many you won't. Some have numbers, many don't. Many are just doors, dull and boring to look at it. But look at them anyway. Look at all of them. Get lost in them.

(Mr. Colmer's work is also on sale at Printed Matter.)


Efrain John Gonzalez said...

wonderful stuff. a window.... or better yet, an open door to a lost past.

Anonymous said...

So cool to see my apartment building doorway!

Ms. said...

Brilliant...and thank you for sharing this Jerry. It's a gem (like you).

BabyDave said...

Holy Mackerel, what a project. Yes, you can just get lost in these images.
Hadn't remembered "Dr. 107" on Mercer Street in years. And the post office door on Church Street looks like the entrance to a twin-spire apartment building on Central Park West.
Yes, hours of gazing will go by, but thanks for you and your reader for bringing these to greater attention.

onemorefoldedsunset said...


mch said...

Do you remember that French movie aways back (1976) with the magnificent Romy Schneider, A Woman at Her Window (Une femme a sa fenetre)? These pictures put me in mind of that movie, without the "her" or "sa" (how about "the" or "la")? Windows, doors, as two-way views, paths, between discrete and unique individuals who share, in their criss-crossed ways. A wonderful way to think about the richness of many things, including city life.

allan said...

On September 20th my book "Door Jams: Amazing Doors of New York City" will be released. I've been taking photos of NYC doors for about 7 years (I thought I was an original!). Check out my website - With the rapid pace of gentrification upon us it seems to me that ALL of New York (save the dwellings of the super rich (i.e.: Beekman, Sutton Place, etc.) is "vanishing".