New York Film Locations

 





New York City in the 1990s

20 February 2017

If you have ever wondered what New York City was like during the 1990s, then look no further than the incredible collection of extraordinary photographs taken by French photographer Gregoire Alessandrini. Born in the late 1960s, Gregoire grew up in Paris and was introduced to music and films at a very early age due to his parents working as rock critics, and though his early memories of watching live performances of Blondie, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie from the shoulders of his father have since faded, the memories from his visit to New York in the 1990s have loyally stayed with him.

otsoNY recently caught up with the acclaimed photographer to find out what attracted him to the city. "It had always seemed an obvious destination for me," explained Gregoire. "New York was a place I already felt I knew through a personal exploration of the American movies ‘Taxi driver’, ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and ‘Manhattan’ to name but a few."


Gregoire Alessandrini

Upon his first visit to New York in the late 1980s, Gregoire explored the entire city taking pictures with his AF35 Canon camera that his mother had given him as a gift. "New York was just as I had pictured it," he smiled, recalling the memory. "As soon as I could afford it, I bought some better camera gear; a Nikon FM2 and a F3 HP wich allowed me to take pictures discreetly with its removable viewfinder. I had a 35mm and a 50mm lens which were perfect for the type of images I was taking. Kodachrome and Illford HP were always my favourite kinds of film."

In the 1980s and 90s New York City went through a period of change, and it was during this time when Gregoire began to take more and more photographs as he felt like he had the intuition of being witness to a vanishing world. "Here and there, I could see the remains of a golden era, of a certain idea of New York, a mythical time that I dreamt of, where I could stumble into Basquiat, Patti Smith or Debbie Harry at the corner deli. It was a period where everything seemed possible, cheap, simple and wild!"

Gregoire continued, "I would turn a corner and enter any downtown dive bar where I would find signs and remains of this legendary New York. Just like if the city was waking up with a bad hangover from all the past parties and eccentricity. You could just point your camera and here you went…old Keith Haring murals, empty lots, graffiti and RIP murals, crazy people and wild parties, cinematic atmospheres in the desolate Meat Packing District, 42nd street sleaze still alive, old signs and store fronts."

As the decade neared its end, Gregoire returned to Paris and stored all of his negatives and colour slides in an old suitcase. It wouldn't be until 2012, some 20 years later before they would once again see the light of day following a brief return to New York. "I had the chance to go back to New York for film shoots and what I witnessed was just how much the city had changed," explained Gregoire. "This sudden transformation of downtown Manhattan had started before the twin towers went down but it seemed to have accelerated at an incredible pace. I was shocked to see just how much the Meat Packing District had changed. Yes, it was clean and nice and all... but I felt like it had lost so much of its character, of its great cinematic personality.” The cobble-stoned streets and loft apartments of the Meat Packing District featured heavily in the 1987 thriller, “Fatal Attraction” starring Michael Douglas as a happily married New York City attorney who engaged in a one-night stand while his wife and child were out of town. The woman played by Glenn Close, who had an apartment on Little West 12th Street, refused to end the affair and subsequently terrorised the attorney and his family. This area has since been redeveloped and many of the storage rooms have been replaced by trendy restaurants, whilst lofts have been modernised. Other film projects to have used the area include “Coyote Ugly”, “Living Out Loud” and “Sex and the City”.

Returning home to France and looking to the Internet, Gregoire discovered that the transformation of New York City had turned into a widely discussed topic. "There were many websites documenting the disappearing New York neighbourhood landmarks with various associations fighting the chain stores and the real estate developments in Manhattan, and so I started to scan my old negatives to post them online, and I’m sincerely glad to know that my photographs taken between 1991 and 1998 are still very much of interest to nostalgic New Yorkers and to the new generation of New Yorkers.” With a certain optimism in his voice, Gregoire concluded, “Though I don’t recognise it as much as I did, New York still holds something magical for me, and even though I’m now living in Paris, I’ll always see New York City as my home.”


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini


Photo by Gregoire Alessandrini

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