New York/Lower Manhattan

Maiden Lane from the FDR Drive, 1981 — © Brian Rose/Ed Fausty

Google street view of Maiden Lane from the FDR Drive

In the previous post I began discussing Through the Lens of the City, NEA Photography Surveys of the 1970s by Mark Rice. From 1978 to 1981 the National Endowment for the Arts funded documentary photography projects around the country. I was a participant in the Lower Manhattan survey, which began in 1981. In the appendix of the book is a list of all the surveys, but my name (and Ed Fausty’s) is not included among the photographers doing the New York project.

The quick explanation is that one of the original participants, Evelyn Hofer, was unable to take part–for reasons I can’t recall. Although my memory is fuzzy, I believe that Sy Rubin, another of the photographers, asked me and Ed Fausty to step in. Sy, who at that time ran the Midtown Y photography gallery–an important gallery and photographer’s clubhouse–knew us from the Lower East Side project, and was one of the organizers of the Lower Manhattan survey. I am only one of many photographers mentored by Sy Rubin, a man of great generosity with a discerning eye. Sy Rubin died a few years ago.

The Lower Manhattan survey project was eventually exhibited in 1984 at Federal Hall on Wall Street. I have not been able to find much about it on the internet, but here is an article that ran in the New York Times–and proof that Ed Fausty and I were indeed included:

It is interesting that Lower Manhattan is described in the article as humming with activity, “more so recently – when it seems never to shut down – than in past years when keyed to office hours.” It is true that artists had moved into many of the smaller commercial structures of the area, but compared to the present, the Financial District was desolate after hours and on weekends. Moreover, there are no longer any “musty, narrow byways.” Narrow streets, yes–one of the pleasures of walking the area is retracing the original Dutch layout of New Amsterdam. But musty, no. The picture above was taken from the roadway of the FDR Drive on a Sunday morning. Try doing that now.

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