|Time Traveling on the Upper West Side, 1971 (click text here to go to film)|
Take a Walk
New York is made for walking. And it’s a city that lends itself to image making, from still photography to home movies. To see the city from a “common” or everyday point of view seems both literally and figuratively quite pedestrian. But with the passage of time, that point of view becomes magical, offering viewers the opportunity to time travel and walk through the streets of Manhattan in another era.
Here are just a few of my favorite films shot on the street. They are surprisingly modern in many ways, but in so many others, they come from a place (a time, a city) that no longer exists. The post-industrial eye is so familiar with the mediated image, but actual historic footage can be surprising. It often bears very little resemblance to the images we consume in television and films.
This film is an amazing string of still photographs taken as the photographer walks north along the city streets. The jump cuts, jittery shots, and altering perspective create a vivid experience that mimics the point of view of a real person on the streets of New York.
This film, shot in Times Square in 1951, pictures NYC in gorgeous black and white. The shots of restaurants, traffic, signs and theatre marquees are spectacular; but interjected into the movie is a chilling reminder of the state of world affairs: we watch as an air raid drill takes place. The later shots foreshadow the haunting Cold War film, The World, the Flesh and the Devil, set in New York City.