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Philip Trager’s Photos Offer New Perspective on 1970s New York Architecture

Photography By
Grand Central Terminal, 1978 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
Grand Central Terminal, 1978 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)

 

The New York City that comes to mind when thinking of the 1970s isn’t a glamorous one. Economic stagnation and high crime levels ensure ’70s New York is generally portrayed as dark and gritty place (see HBO’s Vinyl, Scorcese’s Taxi Driver, or Bruce Davidson’s Subway photo series).

Yet the images by Philip Trager offer a different feeling. His architecture photography, often described as “place portraiture,” highlights the essence of the city that stands the test of time. Trager first rose to prominence photographing dancers in a simple but game-changing way with his environmental portraits of dancers outside, an unprecedented approach at the time.

From the New York Life Insurance building, 1979 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
From the New York Life Insurance building, 1979 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)

 

The new book, New York in the 1970’s, features recently discovered negatives from Trager’s architecture projects and reveals Trager’s concentrated attention on the interaction between the city’s buildings and the dynamics of the street. He presents Manhattan in a way that’s nearly devoid of all life, yet also luminous and dream-like, shattering the conceptions of the city during that low point. Despite Trager selecting the negatives for purely aesthetic reasons, the images serve as a superb historic record as well.

The book, which features 64 of these until recently undiscovered black-and-white photographs, will be released on October 25, 2016. New York in the 1970’s, published by Steidl, is available for pre-order here; before you do so, enjoy a short preview of the book below. For those in town, Trager will be signing copies of this and other works of his at Strand Bookstore on Saturday, October 29, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Find more info on that event here.

Times Square at Duffy Square, 1977 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
Times Square at Duffy Square, 1977 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
From the Empire State Building, 1978 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
From the Empire State Building, 1978 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
West 122nd Street, 1979 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
West 122nd Street, 1979 (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
Cover of Philip Trager's New York in the 1970s (Philip Trager, published by Steidl)
Cover of Philip Trager’s ‘New York in the 1970s’ (published by Steidl)