There’s something fascinating about seeing photographs captured on film, especially when they bring back the melancholy of the past through the lens of a talented photographer. Seeing the unmistakable colors of photographic film, the subtle vintage patina, the impeccable composition – you are instantly transported to that era, whether you have experienced it or not. In this case, it’s 1980s New York, and the photographer is Janet Delaney.
Looking at the images, it’s hard to believe that these photographs had remained locked in a box for 30 years, and only recently revealed to the world. It’s a mesmerizing portrait of 1980s New York.
Taken from 1984 to 1987, this series of images captures a special and tumultuous time in the Big Apple, as it included the AIDS epidemic, the rise of the graffiti culture, the last years that small businesses were still present all across Manhattan, the golden age of hip-hop. Even though Delaney lived in sunny California and San Francisco, she managed to perfectly capture the grittiness and unique, raw beauty of New York during just a few short trips to the city. As she now recalls, “I longed for the unexpected, haphazard encounters Manhattan had to offer”. To catch these special moments on film, she used the famous Rolleiflex camera. Designed to be compact and easy to handle while held at the hip, this medium format camera allowed Delaney to take her fascinating photographs unnoticed. “These split seconds silently frame my point of the past, a past full of incidental moments that combined together to form a very personal record of a shared memory”, she says. Looking at the images, it’s hard to believe that these photographs had remained locked in a box for 30 years, and only recently revealed to the world. It’s a mesmerizing portrait of 1980s New York. People go about their day, seemingly unaware that they are being watched. A man eats his breakfast while reading the newspaper, a couple lost in a loving gaze while they are both caressed by the sunlight, an artist paints an urban landscape on a canvas that mirrors the backdrop. In an image full of gray and muted blue tones, the majestic Manhattan Bridge is superimposed over a gloomy sky, while in another, the sun lights up both the red brick buildings and the modern steel and glass skyscrapers rising from behind. This collection is an enchanting look at the past seen though the eyes of a gifted artist, with each image a work of art caught on film.