Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Roy Colmer

Roy Colmer, the photographer who captured more than 3,000 New York doors in the mid-1970s, passed away on January 24. His wife, Claudia, says that he'd been in poor health for months.

Last year, I talked with Roy about his doors, a sweeping collection that gives you the real sense of walking through the city on an average day, at a brisk pace, just trying to get somewhere. The doors are not special, not set up to be admired, in some ways barely noticed. They just are.

from Doors of New York

As Roy explained, "I was not concerned with the particular street, historic or architectural importance of the door." He was also not interested in creating anything that wasn't simply there.

"In the mid-1970s," he said, "no one noticed when I was photographing on the street. This gave me a great sense of freedom. I did not wish tension or drama to appear in the project."

New York City, 1984 - 1986

Beyond the doors, Roy also photographed the movie houses and the street life of New York City. In 1988, he received a Guggenheim for this work. Some of his New York photos are in the MOMA collection. A handful were collected in a slim volume called New York City, 1984 - 1986.

While Printed Matter has put out a number of small books of his work, there has been no major Roy Colmer collection published. I'd say it's about time.

Inside New York City, 1984 - 1986


marjorie said...

Amen. I hope a publisher steps up.

Silent E said...

I am Roy's sister in-law. Thanks so much for posting this nice tribute to him. He was an extremely talented photographer, and I remember him photographing on the sly, so no one would notice him. He was very good being invisible when shooting his subjects. His doors project is a wonderful documentary of the city.

Thank you for helping keeping his work alive and remembered.

Elissa (Claudia's Sister)

Anonymous said...

Time for a retrospective of his work and Saul Leiter's...

Unknown said...

I was saddened to read of the passing of Roy. I worked with Roy during the 1980's at several different publishing companies and we became friends. He was extremely kind and generous in his time and talent. He was extremely creative in a number of fields and yet was modest and humble in his achievements. I remember visiting Roy and Claudia's Tribeca loft after my wife and I had dinner with them and thinking we had entered a magical creative universe. They were both lovely people.