I commute daily into New York City from Connecticut, and even on the days that I am off I try to spend as much time as possible in the city. NYC is blank canvas that never stops changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. There is always a new place or corner to be explored and it never gets boring. Change is good, but it's sad to see some of NYC's old architecture fading and being replaced with new architecture.
This past Monday, November 23rd, I spent my day off walking around the East Village, Lower East Side and Soho with my camera and captured some of the street art that is all over Lower Manhattan. As mentioned above, NYC keeps changing quickly and graffiti has an even shorter lifespan. Up on the wall one day, gone the next. Some see it as vandalism, I see it as art and something that gives NYC its identity. I've had a fascination with graffiti dating back a long time to my teenager years back in Germany. I even tried it out myself, but saying I had any talent for it would be a huge overstatement.
For years I wondered what sparked my interest in graffiti and New York. All I remembered was a scene from a movie that I watched when I was very young, not even in my teens yet, and back in the days when I lived behind the iron curtain in Halle (Saale) in East Germany. I vaguely remember the movie being about graffiti and hip hop, and that it played in New York City. I must have watched the movie once (back then we didn't have a VCR and there were no repeats), but it had a huge impact on me because for years I would remember a particular scene from the movie.
The scene played in the NYC subway. I remember one of the main characters painting one of the subway cars, an altercation with another character, and the main character being electrocuted by the third rail. For years and years I tried finding the movie, unsuccessfully. Well, I finally figured out the name of the movie. Seeing all the graffiti in the city earlier in the week sparked my curiosity and I did some more research. The movie is called "Beat Street" and it was released back in 1984. Needless to say, I went straight to iTunes and bought the movie. Doing some more research I also found out that the movie was very successful in Germany, both West and East Germany, and it is being credited with introducing the hip hop and graffiti culture in Germany.
I am biased, I am an 80s kid, but if you like movies and documentaries that were filmed back in the days in NYC, I highly recommend "Beat Street", "Wild Style", "Style Wars" and "Deathbowl to Downtown". They are certainly on my Thanksgiving movie list this year.
Locations: East Village, Lower East Side, Soho
Tip: If interested in skateboarding, be sure to check out Shut at 158 Orchard Street, my favorite skateboard shop and a NYC original
Camera: Leica M-A
Lens: Leica Summicron 2/35
Film: Fujifilm Superia 800 and 400
Metering: Film metered at 200
Processing: C-41 press kit