25 year old Tod Papageorge arrived in New York City in the late 60s as a budding photographer. He lived in a rent-controlled apartment with his wife, and would meet his photographer friends daily to take photos all over the city. His reportage style street photography was shot in black and white, but they convinced him to shoot in colour so that he could get more magazine work. The resulting images are published in Dr. Blankman’s New York, two years of images shot on rich, saturated Kodachrome film with a Leica camera.
“Photographing in the street with a Leica doesn’t have much to do with planning. You walk out the door and—bang!—like everyone else, you’re part of the great urban cavalcade. But unlike everyone else, you’re carrying an amazing little machine that, joined with a lot of effort, can pull poetry out of a walk downtown. All of the failed pictures you’ve ever made, all of the other photographs you’ve ever loved, even songs and lines from poems walk with you too, insinuating themselves into your decisions about what you’ll make your photographs of, and how you’ll shape them as pictures. The process, if anything, is intuitive rather than the product of planning—although the fact that very few people have been able to produce this kind of work at a high level also suggests how difficult it is. In other words, intuitive may not be an adequate word for describing the stew of wildness, dogged work and hard thought that goes into producing the best of this kind of photography.”
The name of the book is rooted in his image of Dr S.H. Blankman’s optometrist clinic and the sign in the window, “EYES EXAMINED”. Papageorge went on to shoot for many years at the famous Studio 54, and was the director of photographic studies at Yale University for 34 years. Dr Blankman’s New York is currently out of print.