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Mean Streets

NYC 1970-1985

The black and white photos in Mean Streets, collected here in print for the first time, offer a look at the infamously hardscrabble NYC in the 70s and 80s captured with the deliberate and elegant eye that propelled Grazda to further success.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the institutions of power in New York had failed. A bankrupt city government had sold its power over to the banks, and the financiers' severe austerity programs gutted the city's support systems.

Most of the city's traditional industries had already left, and those power brokers in charge of the new system retreated to their high rises and left the streets to the hustlers, preachers, and bums; the workers struggling to get by; and a new generation of artists who were squatting in the empty industrial buildings downtown and bearing witness to the urban decay and institutional abandonment all around them.

For the tough and determined, the quick and the gifted, the prescient and the prolific, a cheap living could be scratched out in the mean streets.

Renowned photographer Edward Grazda began his career in that version of NYC. The black and white photos in Mean Streets, collected here in print for the first time, offer a look at that desolate era captured with the deliberate and elegant eye that propelled Grazda to further success. It's a version of New York that has been all but scrubbed clean in the financially solvent years that have followed, but the character of the city has been indelibly marked by the scars of those years.

Edward Grazda was born in Queens, New York (1947), and got his BFA from RISD in 1969. He has photographed in the USA, Latin America, and Asia. Published books include: Afghanistan Diary 1992-2000 (2000), NY Masjid: The Mosques of New York (2002), A Last Glance: Trading Posts of the Four Corners (2015), Mean Streets: NYC 1970-1985 (2017), and On the Bowery: NYC 1971 (2019)–all from powerHouse Books. Grazda's work is in the collections of the MoMA, The Met, New York Public Library, and SFMoMA in San Francisco. He has taught at Harvard, Boston Musuem School and the International School of Photography (ICP) in New York City. Once a proud denizen of Bleecker Street (photographer's row), he now lives in Chilmark, MA and Providence, RI. 

"Mean Streets: NYC 1970-1985 is an important reminder to take off the smartphone-induced blinders."

– Cool Hunting

"Grazda's camera doesn't look away from the humanity in front of it - good, bad or ugly - and his discerning eye gives us wonderful visual political and social commentary that is open to interpretation and debate."

– F-Stop Magazine

"Kick-ass documentary street photography. Plain and simple."

– Ed Templeton for PhotoBookStore Magazine

AS SEEN IN: 6sqft, Creative Boom, Flavorwire, Guillotine, Timeline, and The New York Times Listed in 'Season's Top Photography Books' by The New York Times Book Review.

More books from this author: Edward Grazda