Clayton Patterson Captured the LES

photo by Clayton Patterson

photo by Clayton Patterson

Clayton Patterson’s show “L.E.S. Captured” is still up at Alife in New York City for another couple of weeks (through Nov. 8). In case you missed the article in the New York Times, he’s been a resident and documenting the Lower East Side since the mid-80s, when the neighborhood was…um…just a little bit different.

His film Captured documents a neighborhood and community that has all but vanished in the 21st century. (And the video he shot of the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riots got him into some hot water with the NYPD.) His Front Door Book came out earlier this year and contains portraits of neighborhood personalities in front of Patterson’s door at 161 Essex Street. Most of those people have been forced out of the area due to gentrification. The NYT’s article kind of sums things up:

“History” is the key word, he said. “For over a hundred years, the Lower East Side was a magic crucible where people were inspired to great art and ideas. The Lower East Side probably changed the history of America five hundred times.”

In just the last decade, he believes, he has seen the end of that era, as soaring real estate prices have largely emptied the area of its artists, bohemians, radicals and immigrants. The third annual Howl! Festival of East Village Arts, now through Sunday, seems to him as much a nostalgia trip as a celebration of current artistic and intellectual life.

“What we have here now is bars and college students vomiting on the streets,” Mr. Patterson sighs. “Nothing will rise out of it. It’s all vacuous and lacking substance. When I go out my door now, I don’t see anyone I know. I see the loss of a community.”


~ by Valerie Palmer on October 26, 2009.

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