New York street photographer shares unseen pics in extended exhibition

Street life: Kids slumped on the train, a candid kiss and smoky Grand Central Station are among trove of images taken over more than two decades that capture ‘race and class’ in New York City

  • Extended exhibition shows the contrasts of life in New York City, 1977 – 2001
  • Photographer Richard Sandler captures race, class and tension of the Big Apple 

Over nearly 25 years, Richard Sandler’s photography exposed dramatic contrasts of class and race in one of the world’s wealthiest cities.

Now, the Bronx Documentary Centre in New York will host an exhibition of work from the artist’s monograph, The Eyes of the City.

Visitors can step into Sandler’s personal history of New York, 1977 to 2001, which includes previously unseen shots, until an extended date of 26 March 2023.

A native of Queens, Sandler’s street photography gives a rare window into the realities of everyday life in the Big Apple.

Photographs show the tension inherent to America’s largest city, tired commuters boxed in on a noisy subway, couples finding romance in the quieter moments, and families forced to confront the reality of the city’s large homeless population.

The exhibition also features three of the artist’s films, capturing the different experiences of a transitional period of gentrification in Times Square and East Village from 1999 through 2006.

Sandler moved from photography to exclusively making films after 9/11, most recently directing Radioactive City in 2011.

The exhibition will run Thursday to Fri 3-7pm and Saturday to Sunday from 1-5pm at the BDC Annex, 364 E. 151st St, Bronx, NY 10455.

SUBWAY KISS (1987) – Commuters in sunglasses ride a dirty subway in New York. They sit with arms folded or hands locked. Through a cracked window, a couple share a kiss on the platform. Sandler explained: ‘This photograph was extremely lucky: I boarded the train in the middle of the carriage, then I walked to the end of the car where I saw the couple about to kiss on the platform and the two guys with shades in the foreground. I made two pictures with the doors open. Then the doors closed, and to my amazement the glass was cracked exactly where the kissing couple’s faces lined up. I knew that was the best picture of the three frames. Sometimes the photo gods throw you a bone and you make a picture that becomes an instant metaphor’

GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL (1990) – Photograph shows a busy station at 1:49pm. Silhouettes of professionals, families and shoppers can be made out in the iconic station walking in different directions. Light from the terminal’s tall windows obscures the busy figures below. ‘I am a hardcore street documentarian and my path was, and is, to “take the pulse” of the city and offer something of a diagnosis in pictures’

RR TRAIN (1982) – Motion blue shows the moment a woman reaches out across three stationary children sleeping on each other on the New York subway. On one side, a woman wears a summer dress near an open window. On the other, a smartly dressed man sits quietly to read. ‘Most people assume that the three black kids are related to the black woman on the right, but that’s not the reality,’ said Sandler. ‘The dozing kids were on the train with the white woman and I took a few pictures of that scene, first. Then the woman on the right got on the train, saw me making a picture, was angered by that and tried to block their faces from my camera’

WEST 32ND STREET (1983) – A family walk down West 32nd Street in New York. A man holding the hands of two well-dressed children looks back as the children notice a barefoot homeless man asking for change on the floor. 

CC TRAIN (1985) – A woman stands on a train holding bags and clutching the pole in the middle. Three people around her, all sitting apart, turn to look at Sandler as he takes her picture. 

SUBWAY NOIR (1987) – A well-dressed man sits alone reading a newspaper on the subway in New York. The space around him is marked with loud and unintelligible graffiti tags.

ARGUMENT, 5TH AVENUE (1983) –  A man and a woman are seen arguing on the prominent Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The woman’s face is obscured as she places her hands on her hips. The man facing her opens his hands. His face also cannot be seen. Bystanders walk on without acknowledging the scene.

NANNIES AND TYKES (1982) – Four women are photographed walking with strollers in Soho, New York City. Three seems to acknowledge the street photographer while another looks to her right. All four children seem distracted by Sandler.

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