Times Square at Night, 1908-2018

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I avoided Times Square when I lived in New York. Most of the city’s residents do – the Square’s too crowded; it’s too loud and bright and far too commercial. That was my general opinion for years, and still is, more or less. But right now I’m missing it.

I didn’t come to appreciate that garish tangle of streets until last year. I returned to the city for a work trip and was put up at a hotel on 46th street and 8th avenue, not far from an AA meeting I enjoy and a few doors down from the Scientology HQ, which I didn’t even know existed. Mel Brooks was performing two buildings further east, closer to 7th avenue and the runoff of Times Square proper.

It was the perfect summer night for a stroll. The Square was as white hot bright as ever; it was chaotic and cacophonous. A replica Back to the Future DeLorean drove by and life-sized cartoon characters jostled for change as a light drizzle fell. It was past 11, but despite the hour and weather, people were still everywhere, strolling, hustling, and gawking – thousands upon thousands of the reasons I once bypassed the so-called Crossroad of the World at all costs.

Today those crossroads are quiet as the Big Apple continues battling the pandemic. As my own lockdown continues I find myself wishing I could be back in the time before, right there in Times Square’s throbbing center – and I’m sure other people do, too, even New Yorkers.

Until we can be there, here are 23 images of Times Square at night, all taken between 1908 and 2018. A lot happened in those 110 years – two world wars, a Great Depression, some recessions, HIV, 9/11, the Great Recession, a super storm, and a whole lot of other shit – and Times Square stood strong: a tinsel testament to humankind’s tenacity and audacity; a glittering epicenter for all people. It will be so again, and will be for decades to come, come hell or high water, for better and for worse. And I look forward to being in the thick of it.

Scrollable version of the slideshow below.

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Found in the LOC: 28 Pics from WEB DuBois’ 1899 Show

In 1899, WEB DuBois, a man many of us associate with writing, traveled around America, compiling a collection candid pictures of African Americans living their lives at the turn of the century; these images were then sent oversea to Paris, where they were displayed at the  Exposition Universelle of 1900, under the name “Exhibit of the American Negroes.”

It’s a harsh name, but where similar shows in the past had othered black people, trying to denote their “difference” from white people, DuBois’ show both showed diversity among black people — a revolutionary concept for some people back then and, sadly, today — and exhibited the stunning banality of everyday black life. Of course, we Americans know that in the background there was hideous racism and the ever-present threat of violence, which makes the composure in and of these pictures all the more remarkable.

Here are 28 of the nearly 400 in DuBois’ show; many of these were taken by DuBois collaborator Thomas E. Eskew, and all were shot in and around Atlanta, some, I believe, not far from where I live now… All were found over at the Library of Congress.

(And for more Found in the LOC, click here.)

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Found in the LOC: 21 Vintage Pics of Sled Dogs

Dogs are far more than man’s bets friend; they’re also our best assistants! First used in hunting expeditions at least 15,000 years ago, dogs became herders around 4,000 BCE, branched into health services, ie seeing eyes, in the 1500s and started fighting crime in the 1880s, when English bloodhounds were used to track Jack the Ripper.

But no interspecies cooperation is as intrepid and romantic than dog sledding: traversing long, often forbidding terrains with a pack of dogs, the use of which first began around 9,000 years ago. In honor of all the canine drivers and their hard work, here are nearly two dozen images of canines giving humans a helping hand. [I bet you thought I was going to say “paw.”]

Revel in their adorable utilitarianism, AFTER THE JUMP.

Above, a dog team delivering provisions in Alaska c. 1900.

(For more Found in the LOC, click here.)

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Found in the LOC: 21 Marion Post Wolcott Photos

The fact that Marion Post was a woman was novel for a professional photographer circa the 1930 — and trust it caused some consternation among some of her male colleagues, like the guys at the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin who pissed in her developing chemicals. Even after bawling them out, thus earning their begrudging respect, Post was still regulated to the “women’s beat,” i.e. fashion shows and society events. The paper even ran a piece called “Strange Jobs for Women,” with photojournalist as the headliner; a portrait of Post ran alongside it. It was therefore a huge relief for her when Post was invited in 1938 to join the Farm Security Administration, the government agency tasked with documenting life in post-Depression America. Post was their first full-time female photographer. (Dorothea Lange, who joined in 1935, was only part-time; the women met exactly once.)

The FSA was a perfect spot for Post. She had planned on becoming a teacher — in fact was studying child psychology in Vienna when she first dabbled with photographer, documenting the rise of fascism circa 1932 — and had worked in a few classrooms prior to that Bulletin gig, freelancing only when she could find the time. But her early work was prescient of the direction her career would take: Post snapped shots of the poor kids who resided near her upstate home and, in 1937, did principal photographer for Elia Kazan’s pro-labor film The People of the Cumberlands. Her extracurricular images she took of the rural people, published in the New York Times Magazine, helped lead to the Tennessee Valley Authority. The FSA’s struggle-centric mission was very much in her wheelhouse.

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