About this project
See the book prototype here
The Meatpacking District in 1985
It was the winter of 1985, and I was casting about for something new to photograph. I had completed projects about the Lower East Side and the Wall Street area, and later that summer I would travel to Europe and begin shooting the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. For reasons I cannot recall, I walked over to the west side with my camera and spent several days photographing the Meatpacking District.
Early in the morning the Meatpacking District was a vast open-air scene of carnage. Sides of beef were hung from hooks that slid along overhead conveyors. Men in bloodied white coveralls grappled with the carcasses. By mid morning the hubbub of the city’s meat market subsided and the cobblestone streets took on a look of abandonment, astonishing in the heart of such a great metropolis.
The High Line
In 1985 the high line was a nameless unused rail viaduct that ran down the west side of Manhattan all the way into the West Village. It cast ominous shadows over streets and vacant lots. The elevated rail line once served the docks and factories lining the Hudson River, and replaced the tracks that once ran directly down Tenth Avenue—Death Avenue they called it then.
The Project Continues
I never printed any of my Meatpacking photographs. Other work took precedence, and the negatives sat in a box, almost forgotten. In 2012 I pulled out the box and began scanning. I was stunned to rediscover these images, made with little artifice, unforced in their clarity. I posted a number of them on my blog, and at the urging of many, decided to repeat the original views as well as find new ones of this profoundly transformed neighborhood.
So much has changed in the meatpacking district and the adjoining gallery area of Chelsea that I hesitate saying anything at all. What was once urban desolation is now the epicenter of fashion and art in the western hemisphere. The stench of meat and blood that once permeated everything has long dissipated, and black SUVs and sports cars now rumble through the cobblestone streets.
The High Line is no longer a rusting hulk, but… I’ll let you fill in the blank. I love it – it’s a perfect conjuncture of preservation and contemporary architecture. I hate it – it’s too crowded much of the time to be fully enjoyed. But what can you do? This is New York. You cannot live here if you cannot abide change.
Metamorphosis will be a companion to my earlier book Time and Space on the Lower East Side. Working again with Golden Section Publishers, the book will include a series of before/after images from 1985 and 2013 and a number of newly made images of the Meatpacking District. It will be available in a hardcover trade edition and a limited edition with slipcover and 8x10 print. Your help is needed to make this unique book possible.
See the book prototype here
Risks and challenges
I have worked with publishers in the Netherlands and the United States, and Metamorphosis will be my fifth monograph. My last book, Time and Space on the Lower East Side, was successfully funded by Kickstarter, and the book has sold over 1,000 copies. My publishing partner Golden Section and I have a great deal of experience with the process of book production, and we are confident that Metamorphosis will be completed and ready for shipment by July 2014.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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