When I moved to New York in 1981, although I was completely unaware of it, it was at a very special moment in the City’s history. Also completely unaware of it having any special significance, the place I found to live was a loft in downtown Manhattan, in fact on its most southern street at the river’s edge called South Street. My loft was on the top floor, and I overlooked both the huge old galleon permanently moored there called The Peking, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge which fast became my favourite bridge and my favourite view in the world.
I loved the area I had found myself in as I even found many New Yorkers who, when they asked where I lived and I told them, would respond in surprise. “South Street? Never heard of it!” I loved having found somewhere even locals didn’t know about, especially as I also loved the oldness and crumbling quality of it all. Sadly, it was that very quality that had caused a huge development company to acquire the entire area with the intention of turning it into a modern tourist centre, pulling down where necessary, but at the very least giving facelifts to the point of unrecognizability, the very buildings that were amongst my favourites.
So much did I fall in love with this city, especially this tiny part of it, for the first time in my life I went out into the streets to paint it. I became a sort of New York Monet, and certainly hoped I might do for New York what Monet did for Paris. After quite a short while however, I realised the developers and demolition were moving ahead faster than I could paint, and so I went around taking a few photographs of my most treasured corners, thinking that if the worst came to the worst at least I would be able to finish off my series from those photographs. Some even included the Twin Towers, which had quickly become the first really modern building in the world I actually loved and, on one clear bright sunny day, I had been to its roof and over-looked this tiny island that had so totally captured my heart.
This is the small series I was able to create of that unforgettable time and place in New York’s history.