David was working on his series of street people portraits during a very chaotic time in New York City. The city was in a massive financial crisis. Ed Koch was the mayor. Crime had exploded and Studio 51 was at its height of popularity. With all this going on, the city streets gave David a wondrous array of people to meet and photograph.
David's description of the project:
I took these photographs in Manhattan and Brooklyn in 1975-1979.
At that time, New York was a mecca for artists, writers, and musicians, and a center for high fashion and commerce. It was also a place of grinding poverty and urban decay.
I lived in a cockroach-infested railroad flat on the corner of West 98th Street and Broadway, a neighborhood that was literally falling apart around me.
I explored the streets and subways of Manhattan, carrying with me an SLR I’d bought in high school and a Robot Star II camera. Originally used by the Luftwaffe to record kills, this tiny German device captured square-format images on 35mm film and its wind-up spring could actuate the shutter multiple times per second. It was the perfect camera for street photography.
I saw myself as a correspondent to the middle classes, able to step into a realm invisible to most of my fellow New Yorkers and then return, I hoped, with something of value. I called what I was doing “slow journalism.”
In late 1977, I moved to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, adjacent to Bedford-Stuyvesant, where, in exchange for doing renovation work, I lived rent-free. I thought I’d set the street people project aside, but instead, I found myself drawn to the rich visual tapestry of Brooklyn’s much different street life, and I recorded what I saw.
In 1979, I left Brooklyn, eventually landing in Boston, where I attended a graduate program in creative writing. Then life happened. Instead of finishing the street people book, I eventually became a psychotherapist, a career from which I’ve recently retired. I put the street people project away again — permanently, I thought.
I was mistaken.
These people, these places, and this project have stayed alive inside me, like a long-buried secret I couldn’t tell but also could not forget. In a recent move, I unearthed the box in which I’d stored some 5,000 negatives from my time in Manhattan and Brooklyn. With some trepidation, I slid a strip of negatives out of a stained glassine envelope and loaded it into the negative holder of a flatbed scanner. I held my breath as I clicked “Scan.”
Most of the images were perfectly preserved, as alive as they had been the day I created them. Over the next year, I scanned them all. The people and places they depicted, and the young photographer who had created them, all breathed a collective sigh. “At last,” they said. “At last.”
A link to where yo can purchase the book is below.