I used to drink in a bar in the village called Lion’s Head. It was full of newspaper people. The Village Voice was around the corner, and a lot of guys from the papers would come and drink. It was a great bar full of great bullshitters. I knew a fireman that drank there occasionally and he had done a book. I thought, “Wow. That could be a really good story, about firemen.” I was so against that frigging war and I thought, what’s the opposite of a soldier going and killing people they don’t know? A fireman saving people they don’t know. I got permission, and finally ended up with a rescue team that covered all of the Bronx and Harlem.
Do you find New York today less photogenic than it was a few decades ago?
Photogenic is such a subjective word. I never get tired of street photography, and I really do believe that Manhattan street photography in particular is unique and always will be, precisely because of the mix of people on the street and in the subways from all over the world. So a striking Manhattan street photograph might include a juxtaposition of a business person next to a homeless person next to recent immigrants. New York is eight million people from all over the world living in relative peace, which is hopeful for the whole world, that people in such close proximity can get along.
“Since I’m inarticulate, I express myself with images.”
I’ve always had a thing for documentary photography especially when it comes to people and street life. Those pictures work like a time machine and make it possible to give you an idea or a feeling of a time period you weren’t part of. I have never been to Harlem (not yet), but from the photos there is a vibrancy to it, that is hard to explain. I love the style, the little spontaneous snapshots that picture people in their normal, not perfect, yet great way! Especially due to the big 70`s comeback in fashion and the stereotype hippie outfits all over the place, it’s nice to see something authentic and real from that time, and a different impression than the white long haired woodstock girlie that seems to be all over the lookbooks these days! (c) Jack Garofalo