The testimony given by the photography of Gregoire Alessandrini

One of the most charming aspects of New York is its perennial changing, but no one ever pauses to reflect on the cost of that.

A lot of people lived in New York during the 80’s and 90’s, but they were just living there without understanding what great opportunity they had.

Other people, instead, were more lucky: “I had the intuition of being the witness of a vanishing world – Gregoire Alessandrini says – Here and there, one could see the remains of a golden era, of a certain idea of New York. A mythical time, where one could stumble into Basquiat, Patti Smith or Debbie Harry at the corner deli. [….] But you could still walk around any corner, any downtown dive bar and find the signs and remains of this legendary NY. Just like if the city was waking up with a bad hangover from all the past parties and eccentricity.”

 © G. Alessandrini


© G. Alessandrini

Gregoire Alessandrini is the person behind NEW YORK CITY 1990’s, a blog archive of photos taken by himself between 1991 and 1998.

With its 42,911 total pageviews, the blog is a time machine that takes us in a New York that doesn’t exist anymore, but the most fascinating aspect of his work is the deep wistfulness present in every photo, the kind of sadness of who knows that the “period where everything seemed possible, cheap, simple and wild!” is going to end any time soon.

 

MintoNY: Are you a professional photographer?

G. Alessandrini: I am a video director and producer working at Louis Vuitton in Paris. Photography has always been part of what I do. 

I had a chance to go to NY as a film student and I started exploring the city from one end to another… always carrying my old Nikons with me. “New York, just like I pictured it!’ was a perfect sounding line when I discovered Manhattan for the first time in the late 80’s.

When in NY, I worked as a journalist, correspondent for french magazines  and I used to take a lot of photos to illustrate my articles. When in NY, I also worked as a set photographer on feature films and music videos.

MintoNY: What’s your relation with New York like?

G. Alessandrini: {New York is} A city I felt already knew though a personal exploration of american movies, rock vinyls, art and photography books.

I wonder sometimes what my life would be like today and what kind of individual I would be if I had never lived in New York city. It is said that a French person staying more than 10 years in Manhattan will undoubtedly become mad. Good thing I only stayed for 8 years!

I met my wife in NY and my daughter was born there… So NY will always be part of my life…

MintoNY: What do you look for when you take a photo?

G.Alessandrini: I like “graphic” photos, geometry….and also images of things and places that look that they won’t exist later on. Things that are about to disapear… When shooting these images in NY in the 1990’s, I already felt that I was photographying things that will get lost and maybe even forgotten.. I just didn’t know to what extent!

MintoNY: Do you have any favorite kind of subject?

G.Alessandrini: New York was a great topic in itself at the time (and probably still is but in a totally different way)… I loved the streets, the people, the excentricity of the city, the old signs and neighborhoods that made me feel like I was in some movie: the west side, Alphabet City and the Lower east side, Harlem

The High Line ©G.alessandrini

The High Line
©G.alessandrini

alphabet city bu G. Alessandrini 02

©G.alessandrini

alphabet city bu G. Alessandrini 03

©G.alessandrini

lower east side by gregoire alessandrini

©G.alessandrini

I didn’t pretend to be a professional photographer but […] You could just point your camera anywhere and shoot… old Heith Haring murals, employ 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.

meatpacking by gregoire alessandrini 01

©G.alessandrini

 ©G.alessandrini

©G.alessandrini

 ©G.alessandrini

©G.alessandrini

 

I moved from Paris to NY to become a film student in the early 1990’s. NY became my second city…Everytime I arrive in Manhattan, I feel at home. Even today, in a city that changed so much…and that I sometimes have a hard time recognizing…

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Sometimes people prefer to stay in their comfort zone, probably because they are afraid of changes, but in life changes are one of the few certain things, especially in New York. Of course the city is completely different from what it was like 100 or 30 and 5 years ago when was so dirty and dangerous and charming, but people change and New York evolves with them.

Probably the next generations will look back with nostalgia on the current NY, just like we do thinking about the 70’s or 90’s. Anyway we can’t predict the future but we have to know the past, because it’s the only way to understand and appreciate the present.

And thanks to the work of Gregoire Alessandrini we have a great evidence of 8 years of New York’s life.

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Please remember that all images on this post are © G.Alessandrini – Reproduction without authorization strictly forbidden

Contact: greg_alessandrini@yahoo.com

website: http://galessandrini.blogspot.fr