Once again I found myself at the corner of Bowery and Stanton waiting for a taxi. I had a guitar slung over my shoulder and two bags, one full of groceries. I noticed that a group of people had gathered in front of the gallery video screen in the storefront of the old flophouse, the Sunshine Hotel. Gold painted figures dancing. During the day, the video screen is hard to see in the glare, but in the fading light of evening, it becomes relatively brighter. A last glint of sunlight touched the metallic skin of the New Museum just down the block.
A couple of months ago I did a similar photograph standing in the same spot–also waiting for a taxi–and my first thought was that there was no reason to repeat myself. But no cabs were coming, and I continued to watch the scene unfold. I put my bags down on the pavement and fumbled for my pocket camera. I could not move more than a step or two in any direction because my stuff was lying in the street. But I began to consider a shot that included the motorcycle parked to the right. People stopped briefly to watch the video, then scattered this way and that. A man and woman in helmets arrived and mounted the motorcycle. A man veered toward me and the composition coalesced around him.
From On the Bowery, a film by Lionel Rogosin
I realized as I took the photograph that I was standing just a few feet to the right of the spot where Lionel Rogosin’s cameraman filmed the scene in On the Bowery where the drunken protagonist Ray Salyer slaps a woman and then stumbles up the stairs into the Sunshine Hotel, a Bowery survivor now surrounded by the most conspicuous of art consumption. On the Bowery is a remarkable film, half staged, half documentary, suggestive of much contemporary photography.
I wrote about the film here.