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From Manhattan Doorsteps to Brooklyn Living Rooms, a Photographic Map of 1970s New York

Roy Colmer, East 7th Street between 2nd Avenue and Cooper Square (1976)
Roy Colmer, East 7th Street between 2nd Avenue and Cooper Square (1976)

Two 1970s photography series that chronicled the urban landscapes of New York City are now accessible on interactive maps through the New York Public Library’s ongoing Photo Geographies project. In Doors, NYC, Roy Colmer photographed around 3,200 Manhattan doorways from 1975 to 1976. Around the same time, Dinanda Nooney was going door-to-door in a neighboring borough for At Home in Brooklynvisiting and photographing the interiors of people’s homes.

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Map of Roy Colmer’s Doors, NYC (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic) (click to enlarge)

Selections from both are currently on view in the NYPL’s Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photographs exhibition in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue. The Photo Geographies are the initiative of David Lowe, a specialist in the NYPL photography division that has previously charted Chester Burger’s stereoscopic slide transparencies from his world travels and Fay Sturtevant Lincoln’s architectural photographs.

In a blog post last month announcing the At Home in Brooklyn map, Lowe described the brief, intimate portraits Nooney took of Brooklyn residents. There’s Johnny Redd who owned both VIP Sewer Cleaning and Verify Investigation & Protection Services at 416 Waverley Avenue, and rode a Harley so customized it looked “as if it were wearing a chrome Oscar de la Renta ball gown.” There’s also Conrad Milster, chief engineer of the Pratt Institute’s steam power plant, where he still works to this day making the retrotech run. Nooney even visited the Park Slope residence of Gerard Basquiat and Nora Fitzpatrick, although their 18-year-old son Jean-Michel was out at the time.

Dinanda Nooney, George & Mary Williamson. 7826 Colonial Rd., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. December 2, 1978; James & Veronica Shipp. 665 Macon St., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. March 25, 1978.
Dinanda Nooney, George & Mary Williamson. 7826 Colonial Rd., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. December 2, 1978; James & Veronica Shipp. 665 Macon St., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. March 25, 1978.

Along with Colmer’s photographs of the doorways, gates, loading docks, and even bricked up former entryways of buildings both residential and commercial, the Photo Geographies offer an accessible time capsule of New York in the 1970s. Similar to the Photogrammar platform launched last year by Yale University that organizes more than 170,000 Library of Congress photographs from the Great Depression onto a map of the United States, the cartography returns the geographic context that was central to both of the wandering photographers’ work.

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Map of Dinanda Nooney’s ‘At Home in Brooklyn’ photos (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)
Roy Colmer, 5th Avenue between West 52nd Street and West 53rd Street; 1st Avenue between East 92nd Street and East 93rd Street (1976)
Roy Colmer, 5th Avenue between West 52nd Street and West 53rd Street; 1st Avenue between East 92nd Street and East 93rd Street (1976)
Dinanda Nooney, Anthony & Anita Dellasala, daughter & granddaughter. 1122 75th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. July 27, 1978; John & Elinore Koechley. 122 76th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. December 26, 1978.
Dinanda Nooney, Anthony & Anita Dellasala, daughter & granddaughter. 1122 75th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. July 27, 1978; John & Elinore Koechley. 122 76th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. December 26, 1978.
Dinanda Nooney, Yvonne Ladato at home. 8820 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. August 6, 1978; John & Elinore Koechley & family. 122 76th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. December 26, 1978.
Dinanda Nooney, Yvonne Ladato at home. 8820 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. August 6, 1978; John & Elinore Koechley & family. 122 76th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. December 26, 1978.
Dinanda Nooney, Roy & Martha Zirillo & children. 85 76th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. July 26, 1978; Steve & Beatrice Roman. 6510 7th Ave. & 65th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. August 14, 1978.
Dinanda Nooney, Roy & Martha Zirillo & children. 85 76th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. July 26, 1978; Steve & Beatrice Roman. 6510 7th Ave. & 65th St., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. August 14, 1978.

Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography continues at the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, Midtown East) through January 3, 2016. View the interactive maps of Dinanda Nooney’s At Home in Brooklyn and Roy Colmer’s Doors, NYC online. 

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