One of my Christmas presents this year was was a great book of photographs, called “Gotham Remembered: Manhattan in the Nineteen Seventies“. It’s by one of my favourite photographers, Harry Bonham Houchins. Yeah, yeah… i am a “tiny bit” biased since he is my brother but I’d love his work even if I hated his guts (which I don’t — hate his guts, I mean).
Harry has worked in a variety of photographic mediums. I can recall being in his darkroom working on some of his Dichromate photography, back in the 1980s, when I visited him for the first time (long story… Papa was a rolling stone) and his taking photos with his view camera (can’t recall now what format, Sandy. Fill me in) when we went up to BC to visit our Dad.
Harry grew up in New York City. The photos in his book were taken during a six month period in, as the title states, the 1970s.
My first visit to New York City was in 1975, during the height of the garbage Strike, just a few years later than the period the photos were taken in the slide towards the bankruptcy that brought about the strike. I visited again in the 1978 or 1979 — the Punk-era graffito-ed Big Apple and finally living in, pre-9/11, the Bronx. But I always felt that I should have been born there. For years I thought I had been conceived there when my Mom was living there with Harry’s and my father, in Greenwich Village. Mom said shattered that belief when she told me that I wasn’t a gleam in my parent’s eyes for at least another year, after they married and Dad moved back up to Ottawa where Mom was living before her hiatus in NYC. I’m not sure which was more traumatic, finding out that I wasn’t a product of New York or not conceived out-of-wedlock.
So to say that New York holds a fascination for me is and understatement. I love the history, I love the streets and I love experiencing New York through my brother’s camera.