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1970: The Bowery #1: Sleepers

By KingBee
Good morning all, and many thanks to those of you who have stayed with me thus far on my 1970 nostalgia trip. Don't worry: I'm now wrapping things up and the next half-dozen or so shots will see an end to it!

Those of you who are of a certain age may recall that back in the first half of the 20th century there was a US comedy outfit which went by the name of “The Bowery Boys”. The "Dead End Kids", as they were otherwise known, were indeed from the Bowery, a dodgy district in lower Manhattan. Home of many music halls in the late 19th century, the Bowery was allowed to slide into economic depression and in the 1920s and 1930s was regarded as an impoverished area far removed from the world of comedy. In the decades following the Bowery became New York City's "Skid Row", an area known for its high concentration of down-and-outs and which was viewed as a high-crime, low-rent part of the city best avoided. For many years none of the city fathers paid much attention to the area, and it wasn't until the 1990s that entrepreneurs began to capitalise on the development potential of the place and the entire Lower East Side of Manhattan started to get a makeover (a bit like London's East End, really). The gentrification continues to this day.

The following images were taken by me in the Bowery in 1970, armed with little more than my trusty Pentax and a packet of fags for handing out in order to break the ice and gain the trust of my intended subjects. A few of these have been uploaded before but I wanted to put them up again to round off this short exposition of what was a very special year for me, photographically speaking. They are among the most important images in my collection.

For those of you who haven't seen any of these images previously, you may find a couple of them a tad harrowing. They are a potent reminder of what life was often like in the not-too-distant past for those unfortunates who simply ended up on the wrong path.

Tags: Photo journalism Manhattan New york city Bowery

Voters: mike9005, ChristopherA, FabioKeiner and 50 more


mike9005 Avatar
1 Aug 2020 9:43AM
Have things changed much! Great mono.
FabioKeiner Avatar
FabioKeiner 10 111 1 Austria
1 Aug 2020 9:48AM
very necessary reminder - but today life for the poor is far worse in USA! just mind crack victims in black ghettos, just mind opioid addicts in traditional 'middle/working class' areas in the midwest...
the bowery may be history, but nowadfays we got a 1000 boweries all over ameruca, the beautiful.
(not to mention england's broken and since thatcher's terms devastated regions in mid/north england or in scotland...
Chinga Avatar
Chinga Plus
12 123 3 United Kingdom
1 Aug 2020 9:50AM
Powerful photography !!
hobbo Avatar
hobbo Plus
12 1.8k 4 England
1 Aug 2020 9:50AM
I seem to recall reading a book called.... THE BOWERY BOYS..... or....was it a film?

A real hard hitting shot, quite remarkable considering it’s must have blended well to gain their confidence....

It’s detestable what booze, drugs and tobacco is capable of..... ....

VincentChristopher Avatar
So sad that we appear to have not move on 😢

But you have undertaken a good “ documentary “ image and pulled our hearts

Badgerfred Avatar
Badgerfred 16 39 Wales
1 Aug 2020 10:01AM
Excellent Bob, remember watching The Bowery Boys in the cinema in the 1950's it was a long series,
leo_nid Avatar
leo_nid 6 12
1 Aug 2020 10:45AM
a fine piece of photojournalism
cats_123 Avatar
cats_123 Plus
19 5.2k 31 Northern Ireland
1 Aug 2020 11:16AM
Excellent journalism...a sharp reminder
mrswoolybill Avatar
mrswoolybill Plus
16 4.6k 2635 United Kingdom
1 Aug 2020 11:20AM
The sleepers seem so young. The image raises questions - what sort of childhood memories did they have? What became of them? Are any still alive?
Superb PJ.
canoncarol Avatar
Excellent capture and narrative.
woolybill1 Avatar
woolybill1 Plus
16 39 79 United Kingdom
1 Aug 2020 11:30AM
Superb, Bob. No more words needed on the page, we're all thinking them.
SlowSong Avatar
SlowSong Plus
15 11.1k 30 England
1 Aug 2020 11:34AM
The image says it all. So sad, even to the point that some have to sleep on the bare flagstones. Brilliant piece of work; look forward to seeing more.
AlfieK Avatar
AlfieK Plus
6 1 1 United Kingdom
1 Aug 2020 12:24PM
Excellent thought provoking documentary photography.
Minty805 Avatar
Minty805 Plus
7 55 11 United Kingdom
1 Aug 2020 12:53PM
It's all been said, really, but a very telling example of life on the downside. Will it ever really change?
Sylviwhalley Avatar
1 Aug 2020 1:34PM
Great capture, I don't think things have changed, in fact probably worse now with worse to come. As long as governments are more concerned with power and making money rather than the welfare of their citizens, I can't see much change happening.
Daisymaye Avatar
Daisymaye Plus
15 26 25 Canada
1 Aug 2020 2:23PM
My goodness what a sad sight. You were brave to go there by yourself. Maybe best though. I bag of food would have been very much appreciated and a smoke too. Great photo journalism.
Lillian Avatar
Lillian Plus
14 23 17 United Kingdom
1 Aug 2020 3:24PM
that is one very impressive statement image Mr King!!
powerful and well done for the work put into getting and then showing us
Ms King Wink
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 88 Norway
1 Aug 2020 5:01PM
No words needed, Bob, your image speaks volumes by itself.
MikeGillingham Avatar
A superb image and an excellent explanation.

MediumSizeUnavailable Avatar
1 Aug 2020 9:20PM
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
1 Aug 2020 10:00PM
'Uptown got its hustlers, Bowery got its bums:
Forty-Second Street got Big Jim Walker
He a pool-shooting son of a gun,'

A lyrical image of extreme deprivation, which reminds me of Jim Croce's song.
lifesnapper Avatar
2 Aug 2020 6:52AM
Nothing changes...

carmenfuchs Avatar
i remember the smell down there. hadn't thought of that in ages. great image. Grin
bliba Avatar
bliba Plus
17 1 2 Austria
7 Aug 2020 2:32PM
photojournalism at it's best


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