President Gerald Ford, on October 29, 1975, never told the city of New York, then on the verge of bankruptcy: “Drop Dead.” But that is how the 15-cent New York Daily News characterized his speech. Ford’s words took on a life of their own despite his efforts to clarify his view.
Indeed, as my Pan Am flight landed from Paris, at John F. Kennedy airport, New York City then was living a near-death experience after years of irrational fiscal management. The city was borrowing heavily to pay its workers; the police had gone on strike just before NYPD Detective Frank Serpico, made international headlines about department-wide police corruption. The basic services, roads, public transportation, electricity -- the famous blackout of July 1977 was about to unravel -- were in total disarray. Last but not least, American Airlines was among some of the Fortune 500 companies that had decided to move its headquarters from the financial centre that is New York.
In between pitches, in the middle of Major League Baseball’s World Series, Howard Cosell, the ABC Sports commentator, dropped his now well-known line: “The Bronx Is Burning” before returning to comment on the pitch count of that inning. Except like Ford, Cosell never uttered those words but that is how people remembered his remarks as he was going back and forth from the game to commenting on the large fire in an abandoned building not far from the Bronx-based stadium.
And yet, in this chaos, three months before I arrived, the city had thrown a magnificent Operation Sail in the New York Harbor to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the United States and a year later the Yankees won the World Series. Even though the newspaper’s lead headline stuck in everyone’s memory, Ford message -- who was one of the few Republicans to like New York -- was correct and clear: ‘New York, it’s time for you to put your house in order and be fiscally accountable’. Mayor Edward Koch was elected with this mandate (that he fulfilled) making New York financially responsible again in the three terms he served.
Of course, coming from France a few months after President Ford’s speech, I was largely blissfully unaware of the news concerning this city on the downswing. Blinded by photographic passion, I focused on my visual hopes. The light of New York, intense and brutal at times; other times soft, sweet, delicate, almost magical when light bounces off buildings to crystallize people. The sense of place struck me like no other to let the mighty and fiery charm of this mesmerizing city overtake you. Enthralled by the depth and generous colour of Kodachrome film, I started photographing the city with a passion and awe that has never mellowed.
The photographs in this exhibit were taken in the months and years that followed President Ford’s speech.
Statue of Liberty, New York CityPOS FF 167 01$1,995.00 SubwayPOS FF 167 02$1,050.00 The Montauk Hotel, BrooklynPOS FF 167 03$1,050.00 McAnn's Bar, Wall Street, ManhattanPOS FF 167 04$1,050.00 St Marks Place, ManhattanPOS FF 167 05$1,050.00 Sunday morning, Clinton Hill, BrooklynPOS FF 167 06$1,050.00 Clinton Avenue, BrooklynPOS FF 167 07$1,050.00 Times Square, ManhattanPOS FF 167 08$1,050.00 Wall Street, ManhattanPOS FF 167 09$1,050.00 Lower East Side, ManhattanPOS FF 167 10$1,050.00 Memorial Day 5th Avenue, ManhattanPOS FF 167 11$1,050.00 World Trade Center - The Bent Propeller by Alexander Calder - ManhattanPOS FF 167 12$1,050.00 Herald Square, ManhattanPOS FF 167 13$1,050.00 Avenue of the Americas, Manhattan POS FF 167 14$1,050.00 Gansevoort Street, ManhattanPOS FF 167 15$1,050.00 Queens Plaza, QueensPOS FF 167 16$1,050.00 Scribner's Book Store 5th Avenue, ManhattanPOS FF 167 17$1,050.00 Greek Coffeeshop, Forty Third Street, ManhattanPOS FF 167 18$1,050.00 Meatpacking District, Westside, ManhattanPOS FF 167 19$1,050.00 One Hundred and Six Street, Harlem, ManhattanPOS FF 167 20$1,050.00 Fulton Fish Market, ManhattanPOS FF 167 21$1,050.00 Coney Island Boardwalk, BrooklynPOS FF 167 22$1,050.00 Saint Patrick Cathedral, ManhattanPOS FF 167 23$1,050.00 Madison Avenue, ManhattanPOS FF 167 24$1,050.00 Guggenheim Museum, ManhattanPOS FF 167 25$1,050.00 Third Avenue, ManhattanPOS FF 167 26$1,050.00 Seventh Avenue, Times Square, Manhattan POS FF 167 27$1,050.00 Greenwich Village, ManhattanPOS FF 167 28$1,050.00 Club 21, ManhattanPOS FF 167 29$1,050.00 Wall Street, ManhattanPOS FF 167 30$1,050.00 Eight Avenue, ManhattanPOS FF 167 31$1,050.00 Ninety Third Street, Upper East Side, ManhattanPOS FF 167 32$1,050.00 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side, ManhattanPOS FF 167 33$1,050.00 Times Square, ManhattanPOS FF 167 34$1,050.00 Prospect Heights, BrooklynPOS FF 167 35$1,050.00 Storm over Rockefeller Center, ManhattanPOS FF 167 36$1,050.00 Kenmarre Street, ManhattanPOS FF 167 37$1,050.00 Pierre Cardin and Anna Winter Studio 54, ManhattanPOS FF 167 38$1,050.00 Washington Avenue, The BronxPOS FF 167 39$1,050.00 Park Avenue, Brooklyn POS FF 167 40$1,050.00 Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn POS FF 167 41$1,050.00 The Village, ManhattanPOS FF 167 42$1,050.00 South BronxPOS FF 167 43$1,050.00