In 1980, Brian Rose, in collaboration with Ed Fausty, photographed the Lower East Side of Manhattan with a 4x5 view camera. It was the neighborhood’s darkest, but most creative moment. While buildings crumbled and burned, artists and musicians came to explore and express the edgy quality of the place. For more than two decades that work sat unseen in Rose’s archive as he went on to other projects, most notably his long-term documentation of the landscape of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall.
After the wrenching events of 9/11, Rose was drawn back to New York as a subject for his camera. He began thinking about making a response to what had happened to the city, one that would take a longer view of the impact on New York and beyond. Eventually he decided to return to where he had begun-the Lower East Side-the place where so many Americans traced their roots. The old neighborhood tucked beneath the bridges, lying at the feet of the pinnacles of power, would serve as a barometer of change and continuity.
From the outset it was clear that this would not be a simple before/after take on the place. While keeping an eye on the earlier photographs done in 1980, Rose sought to rediscover the place with fresh eyes, with the perspective of time, change, and history. The result, Time and Space on the Lower East Side, is a set of photographs that looks backward and forward, that posits the idea that places are not simply “then and now,” but exist in a continuum of decay and rebirth.
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