Thursday, August 15, 2013

NYC Before & After

If you haven't yet had a chance to visit Paul Sahner's blog NYC Grid, now is a good time to start. He recently launched a "Before & After" feature in which he re-creates shots from the Library of Congress' collection of 20th century New York City photography--and then he binds those photos to his own with a "before and after" bar you can slide back and forth.

It gives you a momentary feeling of control over the city and its changing.

Slide the doohickey to the left and watch the city get boring as shoeshine men, neon signs, and well-dressed ladies vanish before your eyes.

Slide it to the right and watch the dull city of today magically disappear, replaced by puffing Camel signs, juice drink stands, and sailors on ice skates.

(Don't miss Paul's 1961 collection, too.)


Ellen Fagan said...

"Slide the doohickey & watch the city get boring..." I love you, Jeremiah. You GET it.

Philip McGregor Rogers said...

What a lot of people dont realize or notice about modern life is sticker vandalism.

Looking at the subway photo and scrolling back and forth you see the sticker on the subway sign. No sticker vandalism on any old photo.

I agree with you that the good ol days were better in some ways. And that is an extra reason why.

I know sticker vandalism is far worse in NYC than in Chicago. But it is not an insurmountable problem.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Wow - a treasure trove of film footage and photographs this week. These are amazing. It always interests me to see how the streets look with far fewer trees. I'm definitely not against green in the city, but it does change the mood of the place and the kind of pictures you can take. When I moved in to my current block, there was barely a tree around, and older residents were very opposed to planting, partly nervousness about root damage etc., but also because trees spoiled the views. Certainly you see the lines of the streets and buildings in a sparer way, and you see street action better.

chummy's mum said...

"Slide the doohickey to the left and watch the city get boring as shoeshine men, neon signs, and well-dressed ladies vanish before your eyes." LOVE YOU JEREMIAH!

esquared™ said...

But these weren't the similarities I was hunting for now; I was looking for them in people's faces, and I'm obliged to say I found hardly any.
I'm certain it wasn't a matter of clothes, of makeup or its absence, or of hair styles. Today's faces are different; they are much more alike and much less alive. On the streets of the eighties I saw human misery, as yous see it today; and depravity, hopelessness, and greed; and in the faces of small boys on the streets I saw the premature hardness you see now in the faces of boys from Harlem. But there was also an excitement in the streets of New york in 1882 that is gone.
It was in the faces of women moving along the Ladies' Mile and into and out of those splendid stores. Their faces were glad to be just they were alive in that moment and place. It showed in the faces of the people I saw in Madison Square. You could look at their eyes as they passed and see the pleasure they felt at being outdoors, in the winter, in a city they liked. And the men of lower Broadway hurrying along the walks, conscious of time and money, stopping at noon to check the precision of their watches Western Union's red time—ball, their faces were often abstracted; some were worried; some were greedy or anxious, other complacent and going-to-live-forever. All sort of expression just as today, but they were also interested in their surroundings, pausing to check the temperature at Hudnut's giant thermometer. And above all, they carried with them a sense of purpose. You could see that: They weren't bored, for God's sake! Just looking at them, I'm convinced that those men moved through their lives in unquestioned uncertainty that there was a reason for being. And that's something worth having, and losing it is to lose something vital.
Faces don't have that look now; when they're alone they're blank, and closed in. I passed people in pairs or larger groups who were talking, sometimes laughing, occasionally more or less animated; but only as part of the group. They were shut off from the street around them, alien and separate from the city they lived in, suspicious of it, and that's not how New York was in the eighties.

(From Time and Again by Jack Finney)

Brendan said...

That's a great passage, esquared, thank you. I read Time and Again when I was in my early teens and had never been to New York, and of course it went right over my head. I'm going to need to dig it up.

Conan1982 said...

After looking at those photos from the past what *sane* individual would want to live in this *modern* world?

Anonymous said...

My Grandfather and Father told me the city was better back in those days. Look how sloppy people dress these days. No dignity at all. Sad.

People show up to a restaurant wearing T shirts and shorts, when they should put on a suit jacket and collared shirt.

For some reason dressing well has been demonized and associated with wealthy wall street types. It's calling having SELF RESPECT. If you look around you will see clearly nobody has self respect anymore like they did back then.

Anonymous said...

These images truly are amazing, and I am a true sucker for these kinds of "then and now" comparison images. However, while I share a lot of the nostalgia for the New York visible in the pictures that everyone has, especially as a native who was born just as this version of the city was fading (1980), I feel like I have to point out that the "everything was better then!" attitude in the article and in some of the comments is a bit... Well, absurd.

That quote that "esquared" posted above is proof enough of the problem with that attitude. Someone writing in the 1970s talks about how much "better" and "more real" things were in the New York of the 1880s, and the intent of sharing that quote seemed to be to show how all of us in the 2010s going on and on about how much better things were in the 1960s, 1970s, are right. ...Huh? Or, to put it another way...

40- OR 50-SOMETHING MAN IN THE 1950S: This new "rock and roll" music is horrible! Pathetic compared to the amazing artistry of jazz music in the '20s! Now, that was music!

40 OR 50-SOMETHING MAN IN THE 1970S: What is with current music? And that "disco" thing? Ugh, what crap! Rock now is nothing compared to the passion and intensity of classic rock in the '50s and '60s! Now, that was music!

40 OR 50-SOMETHING MAN IN THE 1990S: What the hell is "rap"? They aren't even singing! That's not music! Even Disco is better than this! Give me '70s rock any day. Now, that was music!

40 OR 50-SOMETHING MAN IN THE 2010S: What the heck happened to rap? It's all awful now! And this crappy pop music is nothing compared to pop and rap in the '80s and '90s! Now, that was music!


C'mon, guys! We can fight for a farer, more equal and less tourist-infested city, without being nativist grumps who constantly insult anyone currently alive! Things are different, yes, but that doesn't automatically mean that the past was better, and things today are all horrible. I mean, am I allowed to like my smartphone, enjoy the greener and safer city of today, and be welcoming to visitors, while simultaneously supporting landmarking initiatives, small mom and pop businesses, and trying to educate visitors that they are in visiting a real place that people live in, and not some New York-themed amusement park?

laura said...

anon 1:13pm, i was thinking the same today. i am several thousand miles from NYC. the fast food signs, obese, loud music, shreiking cell phones, screaming lunantics anwering those fXXking phones, insatiable consumerism. i saw women w/backless halters w/all the back& stomach flab, hanging tattoos, dirty jeans. these are not poor people, they are tourists w/shopping bags of shit. everyone else looked slovenly & naked as well, all ages, all ethnicities. i did see several elderly women who were well groomed. they were very poor, but dignified. they were selling straw baskets walking around. i expect more from NYC. since its the summer, i wonder if these people are tourists? or maybe some are delivery people? i like to see bill cunninghams photo slide shows, from 57th & 5th. not all the people he photographs are wealthy. i remember when maids were ematulate. we had a day worker, she wore a white uniform, a hair net. she took the subway from bed sty to midwood. & whats up w/ the lena durham character in "girls"? trailer trash, is that cool? fill me in. (i want carrie bradshaw, see? becareful what you wish for). i remember the dirty hippy types, is this the modern version? think you for listening, i had a bad day. imagine being trapped in a resturant, surrounded w/THIS?? (all of the above).

Eric Brasure said...

In most of these pictures, the older city looks empty and dead. I much prefer lots of people enjoying a park with tall trees then a few scattered people dressed all in black walking around it. I agree with you much of the time, but these photos provide no real evidence that the city is more "boring".

Gojira said...

Look how clean the streets are - no wads of gum, papers, soda cans, pizza boxes. People had pride in themselves, in their city, because in those days it was still possible to feel that anything WAS possible - that you could rise up through the ranks and break out of your class. Now mostly we are all just wage slaves working for the indifferent corporations that run everything; we are usually dressed like shit, absorbed in our technology rather than in the world around us, and we treat what was once the most interesting city on the planet like a trash dump. How deeply sad. Anyone out there working on a time machine? If so, please hurry.

laura said...

eric 4:37 the city had crowds of people in the old days. the photos chosen were not taken @ rush hour, or a holiday or a saturday. what i dont like about modern NYC, is that its almost ALL full of people. meaning that there are few empty spaces to breath. @one time you would walk thru zillions of people then have 10 or so blocks of quiet. i liked soho when it was industrial, or meat packing district. now its all malls chains tourists. quiet rsisdential areas are now college campuses. besides being claustrophobic, its boring. so much sameness. but i do like trees.

Anonymous said...

I loved the smoking Camel ad. And the ladies with the big hair!

Anonymous said...

In addition to gojira's comment, no Citi Bikes, iZombies , and lines for Cronuts.