this past weekend i was having a discussion with friends about how great our parents and grandparents family photos were, compared to the endless and often crappy iPhone photos we haphazardly churn out these days. when i look back at photos i took pre-digital days (i still used a film camera when i was at university in the early 2000s) they were more considered, and certainly keepsakes in comparison to the thousands of pics on my camera roll.

so when i saw these exquisite photographs by photographer Janet Delaney, taken in NYC in the eighties, i felt like i really needed to revisit my film camera.

Throughout the 1980s I made many trips to New York City. Having grown up on a quiet street in the young suburbs of Los Angeles, I longed for the unexpected, haphazard encounters Manhattan had to offer. I traveled with my twin lens Rolleiflex, a camera that allowed me to make photographs unannounced. I spent my days trolling the streets, delighting in the close contact I had with strangers. I brought these stolen observations back to California, printed them, and put them in a box on the shelf. Thirty years later, as I revisit these images, I see that they allow me to travel once again, now back to another era. These split seconds silently frame my point of the past, a past full of incidental moments that combined together to form a very personal records of a shared memory.

Delaney is, of course, an exceptionally talented photographer. make sure to check out the entire series and also have a look through the rest of her work on her website.

also, damn, NYC was a bit of a mess back then!

Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987 Janet Delaney: NYC 1984-1987

all photographs by Janet Delaney.

23 Comments

  1. I’ve been scanning old family photos lately, and some of them have been simply incredible. Others are blurry and not quite so great, but there’s something about how much they were treasured that really makes the all the more precious, regardless of quality.

  2. These are great! And yes, as much as digital is great and everything, if you don’t print anything, they kind of don’t really exist. Before digital I had real pictures, and now I don’t. I’ve decided to only carry a film camera and my phone on me, in hope to force myself to shoot more film. If it wasn’t for Instagram it would be much easier to go cold turkey and shoot film all the way, but it’s so damn handy to shoot with the iPhone, and make it look nice in VSCO. But I think I owe it to myself in my old age, and my family, to make sure there are physical memories from times past. Especially as 22% of all external hard drives fail after a few years!

  3. Haha, as I scrolled through the photos I thought, “Oh? How were they a mess?” then I got to the picture with the trash in the street LOL This feature makes me want to bust out my Rolleicord VA more often…

  4. Fran Shenker Reply

    completely love these photographs , there is such a different sensibility to film …. other photographers I love are Saul Leiter , Fred Herzog and Vivian Maier xxx

  5. Yeah it was a mess but at least it wasn’t owned by trust fund babies. Gentrification is throwing out the people along with the trash.

    • Great to see these! I lived in NYC in those years — from 1984 to 1988, to be exact. And I couldn’t afford it then — even though the city was indeed a bit of a mess. Recently I saw an exhibit of another batch of Janet Delaney photos — these were taken in the South of Market area in San Francisco in the late 70s and early 80s. (I’ve lived in SF for the past 20 years or so.) There were quotes alongside the photos from residents bemoaning the development that was going on then. I agree that what is happening now in NYC and SF is mind boggling, but living in cities has never been super easy — not for me, anyway.

  6. Thank you for this post! The pictures are really amazing. Street photograph is one of my favourites but also this vintage colors only the film can have.

    XXX

  7. i took Janet’s B&W film class at UC Berkeley. so wonderful to see her work on one of my favorite blogs. she was a great instructor and obviously a very talented artist. sadly i think they shut down the film lab the year after i graduated. i still shoot film because of her class. film is not dead – please do pick up a film camera again!

  8. These pictures got soul! And they remind me of my favorite book, The Stand by Stephen King, which plays in the late 70’s.

  9. During the 1980s I visited NYC a number of times. These photos are spot-on, saving not just the imagry, but the true feel of the city at that time. Kudos!

  10. Hi Just stumbled upon your site. I was drawn to it because I saw that you were featuring my photographs. Kind of you to acknowledge this work. I just want to point out one small detail: my last name is spelled Delaney, with two e’s. And yes, I am still shooting film though it is not easy!

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