When an infamous SOMA photographer turned her lens on New York City


Janet Delaney bet her claim on a series of photographs called the “South of Market” taken in the SOMA district of San Francisco, which is undergoing rapid gentrification between 1978 and 1986. The publication of the new monograph “Red Eye to New York” (Mack Books, 2021) reveals a series of works that photographers simultaneously produced at the “South of Market” in Manhattan.

Delaney worked as a courier in the 80’s, flying across the coast and using the reliable square format Rolleiflex to shoot at work idle moments, mostly in the morning at Big Apple. In her monograph essay, Amanda Maddox once described New York Avenue C as “a landscape of the moon with empty blocks and hollow tenement shells” by writer and artist Lucy Sante. It states. I think this has been a familiar sight since Delaney was taking pictures with SOMA. But apart from this inspiring similarity, New York photography stands on its own and has the essential uniqueness of the city.

The main difference is intimacy, or lack of it. When you think of SOMA’s photographs, you can think of many portraits of San Francescan taken at home or at work, in addition to records of street scenes and rapidly gentrifying infrastructure. Almost all New York photos were taken on the street, and pedestrians rarely allow eye contact with the camera. When they do, it’s a gaze from a suspicious whore (“North of New York City, Deli Counter”, 1986), or children who don’t know more (“4 children, 2 children”). Doll “, 1985). .. The cityscape captured by Delaney is also unwelcome. Industrial, desolate and estranged.

I have been to New York twice. I wanted both times. When I’m in Manhattan, I feel like I’m in a trap that scares me. The brutal flatness of the long boulevards and street towns instills a kind of dizziness for me. Delaney, also: What she best captures is this disorientation filtered through the miserable eyes of an overnight flight. Is it possible to attach a breathy lens to the camera? Some pictures wonder to me.

Double exposure at “Broadway Lafayette Station” in 1984 is approaching. What are we looking at? Men passing by on the left side of the frame, oncoming vehicles, posters with wheat pasted, signs, and New York-signed subway letters are displayed with colored dots. We are looking at everything at once. It’s the feeling you’re coming from the subway and spinning to get your bearings.

Janet Delaney, “Wall Street”, 1984. (Photo courtesy of Janet Delaney and Yukinom Gallery)

Delaney can control the confusion by limiting it to a square frame. Her camera angle looks like she’s looking sideways at the city and never buys it completely. Think of photography as a way to reintroduce a safe distance between yourself and your place or situation. “Wall Street” in 1984 best captures this tactic. A calm, ominous photo showing two businessmen walking down the street. Their dark shape is thrown into the solemn and concrete facades of skyscrapers in the early morning light.

Delaney curated a selection of supplementary works by Yukinom photographer Nick Lawrence entitled “The Lower East Side Teenagers of the 1960s.” The title is self-explanatory. These kids are cool. It’s not as available as the city itself, and you rarely see Lawrence’s camera. You almost wonder if they even noticed he was standing there. The same is true for the city’s attitude towards Delaney. But there is a beautiful dichotomy of these pictures. New York never accepts them completely, but by closing their eyes on their existence, it allows them to observe. Don’t worry about me, I’m just looking.

If you go:

“Janet Delaney: New York in the 80’s”

Where: 1295 Alabama Street, San Francisco

when: Wednesday to Saturday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm, January 15 to February. 26th 2022

contact: (415) 823-2990, euqinomgallery.com


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