Description

In 1981 Raymond Depardon travelled to New York. The photographer had spent the preceding months in a psychiatric hospital near Trieste, Italy – a stay he describes as having lasted “a little too long”. Depardon had been there to resolve ‘personal confinement issues’ which he attributed to his two years covering the civil war in Chad. Using photography to continue his recovery he made two large projects in New York over 1980-81: Manhattan Out – unobtrusive street photographs of strangers passing by, and ‘Correspondance New-Yorkaise’ – a collection of humorous observational notes on the city which were published in series in the French newspaper, Libération. This photograph – one of his best known of the period – offers a view of the Empire State Building from Manhattan’s East Side and wryly nods to the stark contrasts the city embodied. Economic success on Wall Street had fuelled a speculative real estate boom, but crime and unemployment were still issues many New Yorkers had to contend with on a daily basis. It would be another decade of regeneration before New York began to resemble the city we know it as today.

Raymond Depardon is a photojournalist and filmmaker who has spent much of his career photographing both his native France and conflict zones around the world.

Depardon first picked up a camera on his family’s farm at the age of 12. This early interest parlayed into an apprenticeship with a photographer-optician in Villefranche-sur-Saône, before the 16-year-old Depardon moved to Paris in 1958.

There, Depardon joined the Dalmas agency and began a career reporting on stories across the globe – from the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to the 1974 kidnapping of the French ethnologist François Claustre in northern Chad. After shooting this story Depardon continued to photograph Chad’s civil war, and in 1977 won a Pulitzer Prize for his work in the country.

The following year, Depardon joined Magnum Photos and continued his reportage work. This took him first to Glasgow, commissioned by The Sunday Times to contribute to a series on neglected European cities, and then to the United States. Throughout 1981 and 1982 he travelled the country, photographing the landscapes of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and California, and the people of New York City.

Depardon spoke very little English and spent much of his time alone, wandering the city and shooting from the hip. “It is interesting to realise that most Americans I captured on photos were looking at the lens, and were therefore aware of their picture being taken,” he said of his work during this period, “I was convinced at the time that I had them fooled.”

This photograph, a view of the Empire State Building from Manhattan’s East Side, was taken in 1981. Economic success on Wall Street had fuelled a speculative real estate boom, but crime and unemployment were still issues many New Yorkers had to contend with on a daily basis. It would be another decade of regeneration before New York began to resemble the city we know it as today.

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