Monday, March 12, 2018

'99 Snapshots

The following is from photographer Michael Berman:

’99 Snapshots is a documentary project about people I met and photographed in 1999. I met them on sidewalks and in places of business in each of Manhattan’s many neighborhoods. I am now re-photographing and interviewing as many of the 300+ original people as I can find, seeking details about who they were in ’99, who they are now, and their thoughts on multiple topics including New York but also big ones like life and the passage of time. Because I encountered the people in 1999 randomly, the group as a whole reflects demographic diversity. I aim to turn this into a book and a documentary film.

Marian and Lindsay, Harlem

I’m able to find many people on my own, using social media and the phone book (I have their 1999 names). But some people I can’t find, so I post “ISOs” to the project’s Instagram feed, with hopes that people might help out.

Sometimes I find out that a person has died. If possible, I want to include them anyway. So I try to find out about them by speaking with people who knew them. I feel it's important to pay homage to who they were.

Here are a few examples from the project of people who I have found. There are more on the Instagram feed.

Nina, real estate broker. That might be the biz she’s in, but she has real problems with how much real estate costs have skyrocketed. She’s read “Vanishing New York." She acknowledges that the cost of an apartment in New York has increased too much for many people. When asked what could be done about this, she said: “Oh, god. I wish I knew. I don’t know if there’s an answer really. It used to be that city planning was a big thing. But now it’s all being done behind closed doors. The profit motive is just too strong, and it seems to outweigh everything.”

Abdul, food cart operator on lower Broadway. When I photographed him in ’99 he was one of only 2 small carts on the northern edge of what is now Zuccotti Park (then it was called Liberty Plaza Park). Now he’s across Broadway and he’s one of about 7 carts there. I asked him when it expanded to more food carts at that location and he said soon after 9/11, because tourists started coming and the area got a lot busier. He told me that several years ago he fell and injured his foot. Now he has a muscle that doesn’t work properly. He has health insurance but cannot take time off for surgery because recovery would be six months, and that would be time without income. He is married with 4 children.

Here's Jon, an advertising exec on the creative side, waiting to catch his train from Grand Central in 1999. Jon now works from home in Connecticut and has his own small agency.

James, in 1999, worked at the Empire Diner. In 2018, he’s living in Park Slope, making paintings and working as a personal assistant.

Below is a photo of someone who passed away several years ago. When I photographed him in ’99, he said his name was Michael Peterson, but I believe he later went as Michelle Rostelli. Michelle was a regular fixture on the Lower East Side, and lived on Rivington Street. She loved making the rounds of the local businesses there. She helped herself to coffee and cookies at Sugar Sweet Sunshine, and they never let her pay. They have a memorial sign in her honor on the wall when you walk in.

If anyone who reads this knew Michelle/Michael well enough to talk about the person she was, please contact me to do an interview at (Note: I prefer on-camera, and will ask you to sign a release.) I’m also told that there may have been a film about her. If anyone knows who the filmmaker is, or how to locate the film, I’d love to find out.

See more on Vimeo



samadamsthedog said...

Just sayin', these are great. 'New York, Then and Now", for people.

John K said...

Wonderful idea and work, Jeremiah, and I please keep us posted about the book and any exhibits that developed based on this project.

Goggla said...

Great idea. I look forward to the book and film.