Striking Black-and-White Photos of Mid-Century New York City’s Vibrant Street Life

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We see a lot of photos about New York in the ’70s and ’80s when the city was grimy as can be and boasted a thriving underground arts scene. But mid-century NYC was just as fascinating, particularly through the eyes of former census taker and advertising copywriter Jonathan Brand, who photographed city life during his walks. His new book Lower East and Upper West: New York City Photographs 1957–1968, published by powerHouse Books, features 104 black-and-white images of New Yorkers engaged in everyday life, from the Bowery to Riverside Park.

The images are far from mundane, however, as New York City rose to prominence as the cultural center of the world in the 1950s. Things took a dip in the ’60s, and Brand’s photos capture this, too, showing life in the streets during the postwar decline.

See a preview of Brand’s work in our gallery, and attend a presentation of the book on Thursday, February 15 at the POWERHOUSE Arena. Fellow artist Mark Berghash will lead a discussion on Brand’s work, followed by an audience Q&A. Find out more info about the event and RSVP over here.

Boys on East Houston Street, 1960 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Orange juice stand, 1960 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Family out for a walk with collie, 1960 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Woman with her hand on her hip, holding a cigarette, 1963 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Theater in the Street performance, September 21, 1963 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Vermont family on a motorcycle, 1957 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Four related girls, one holding a cat, 1957 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Store vendor with watermelons in shopping carts, 1966 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Pontiac Bonneville and its proud owner, 1965 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Monika in sunglasses, 1963 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Two young men waiting at the corner, 1965 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Mark Berghash on his bike, taking a break from his painting studio, 1964 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Gentleman resting at the side of a building, 1967 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Window dresser striking a pose, 1960s ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

“7up your thirst away,” 1965 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books

Jenny, Ulrika, and Monika on Swedish grandmother’s bedspread lookingout the window toward Broadway at West 89th Street, 1967 ©Jonathan Brand, ‘Lower East and Upper West,’ published by powerHouse Books