[Five older women crossing the street with marquees for pornographic theatres in the background, New York City, 1970s].
This collection includes 96 black and white photographic prints and one color print. The photographs are undated but were taken circa 1970's. Almost all of the images depict the area in or around Times Square; a few were taken in Central Park or elsewhere in New York City. The photographs are arranged by subject matter. "Street scenes" depict crowds and businesses in and around Times Square, and capture the seedy melange of pornographic movie house marquees, sex shops and eccentric characters that characterized the area in the 1970's. "Street vendors and businesses" depict food carts, street photographers, ticket salesmen and the display window of a sex shop. "Portraits" depict primarily young men posed on the streets of Times Square. Also included are a few portraits of women, couples, teens and children, and eccentric characters. "Police officers" includes portraits and candid shots of police officers on the streets, primarily in Times Square (includes one color print). "Drug culture" includes pot smokers and an LSD festival. "Protesters" includes groups and individuals protesting a variety of political and social issues including labor, education, war and sexual equality. "Celebrities and officials" include portraits of Mayor Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Diana Vreeland, Morley Safer, Mohammed Ali and Saturday Night Live cast members John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Dan Akyrod, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, and Laraine Newman. "Phone booths and subway entrances" show people posed in front of these elements.
Kenneth Siegel (1949-1994) was introduced to photography as a young boy by his uncle, Cornell Capa, a photographer and the founder of the International Center of Photography in New York City. After completing a Bachelor's degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Siegel worked for many years as a film editor at New York's Channel 9 before becoming a full-time freelance photographer. During his career as a photographer, Siegel worked for a number of important clients including the Democratic National Committee, the New York Times, St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, Prep for Prep, and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Rarely without a camera around his neck, Siegel delighted most in photographing people -- particularly the people of his beloved New York City. His largest body of work documented the places and faces of New York's Times Square and Central Park in the mid-1960's through the early 1980's, a period when New York was both politically charged and culturally diverse.Many of Siegel's photographs from this period feature gatherings of young activists on the streets of New York and in Central Park, protesting the war in Vietnam, advocating for women and worker's rights, and freedom of lifestyle. The images taken in or around Times Square vividly depict the pre-gentrified area as a seedy melange of pornographic movie house marquees, small stores, restaurants, and sex shops populated by colorful habitues sporting tattoos, offbeat clothing, and street-wise expressions. Siegel's knack for capturing the spirit of the times and the personalities of the individuals he photographed is evident in his portraits of young men, city cops, couples, far-out characters and everyday people hanging out on "The Deuce," as Times Square was known. Many of Siegel's photographs from this era were taken at night, thus adding to the gritty quality of the work. Siegel, however, approached his subjects with a certain camaraderie and a sense of identification that lets the viewer know he was not a voyeur, but rather among people he thought of as friends. "Most of the portraits are of people I know, usually by street name," Siegel explained. "They all knew me or knew of me often asked me to take their portrait. I could not have made these images without their cooperation. They express their need for recognition and I graciously oblige them." Siegel's work is rounded out and contrasted by the "other" New York of politicians, celebrities, and high society events.
New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400.