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Guide to the Eugene Gordon Photograph Collection
1960-1989
  PR 248

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals, June 2006; with additions by Aaron Stempien, 2010.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 10, 2011 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents Note

The Eugene Gordon Photograph Collection contains black & white gelatin silver prints from 1970-1990 (bulk 1975-1980) of street life, religious groups, buildings, and public events of New York City. In general, the photographs show New Yorkers going about their lives in a vibrant city. Gordon's images highlight the shifting ethnic makeup of NYC.

Street Views includes general views of city life as well as more specific attempts to document neighborhoods. Many of the photographs of Times Square juxtapose adult theater marquees with business people or document the often hand-drawn massage parlor signs common to the area in the 1970s and 1980s. Gordon's eye for the absurd and ironic is evidenced by one photo that depicts a man sleeping on the sidewalk in front of a street mission sign that proclaims "Jesus Saves." Photographs of Harlem highlight street-front churches as well as restaurants and stores.

Views of neighborhoods of the outer boroughs focus on the ethnicities of their inhabitants. In the case of Jackson Heights and Flushing, the multi-ethnic mix of residents is emphasized; a photograph shows the sign of a medical practice with surnames of at least four different nations represented. Photos of Greenpoint, Brooklyn depict broken down cars and buildings. Photographs of Long Island City include several views across the East River, looking toward the United Nations.

Miscellaneous views include an exterior shot of an outdoor ballet rehearsal at Lincoln Center, the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, and a southerly view showing the buildings along 59th Street.

Buildings includes several photographs of the demolition of St. Peter's Lutheran Church to make way for the erection of the Citicorp Building on Lexington Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets. Views of the United Nations show the statue beating the sword into a plowshare, gifted by the Soviet Union. Building interiors include the Metropolitan Opera.

Events includes parades, festivals, and exhibitions. Photos show the outdoor food carts of Little Italy's San Genaro Festival in 1974. This heading includes photos which were taken during the August 26, 1970 Women's Strike for Equality demonstration and parade. They show women and some men walking down Fifth Avenue. Women of all ages and races are represented in these photos, as are many of the humorous and/or angry signs they carried. Photos of the 1988 Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade show participants with a "Free Sharon Kowalski" banner. A comic book exhibit held in the Hotel Biltmore in the early 1980s is also documented. Other photos show an anti-Apartheid rally, and an election rally for Michael Dukakis, the 1988 presidential candidate.

Religious Groups contains small photo essays on some of New York City's religious groups and communities. Gordon asked to photograph these ceremonies and was granted access. Hare Krishnas are shown worshipping in the Rada Krishna Temple in Brooklyn, as well as selling literature and singing in the streets of Manhattan. Gordon documented a congregation of Sikhs worshipping at the Gurdwara Sikh Cultural Society of New York in Flushing, Queens.

Subjects includes a variety of scenes that do not fit neatly into the above headings. They include photos on subjects as diverse as auctions, construction scenes with unidentifiable locations, a pet cemetery, traffic court, food related and drug related images.

Arrangement

The collection is ordered into five series.

  1. Series I: Street Views
  2. Series II: Buildings
  3. Series III: Events
  4. Series IV: Religious Groups
  5. Series V: Subjects