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Visual Discord

What happens when your visual memory of a place confronts the visual reality of today? The discord can be a bit unsettling.

I frequented and lived in Greenwich Village (New York City) from around 1958-68 before moving to California. Even tho I only expected to stay in Berkeley for a few years, that's turned into nearly a lifetime now, with only occasional visits back to the "old country".

My photographs of the 60's in the village are out there on the web for all to see, and I'm digging up more and releasing them to the internet tide. (See my photo blog.) 

Two photographs from that period have caught a number of viewer's imagination... Sheridan Square in 1970 ... which were taken during an emotionally charged trip back to NY from Berkeley. I was 26, and not sure if I should move back to the city, or stay longer in California.

I've gotten a lot of email from people all over the world referring to these images. And I've used Google Maps to see the street views of what that spot looks like today.

And today I got an email from a New Yorker who was moved to go to that exact spot and capture the same images as they look now. So here they are. You can compare and contrast. Click on each to open a larger image in a new window.

First, the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue in October, 1970  and today.

Sheridan Sq 1970Sheridan Sq 2007

Sigh. The first image is the one that is permanently in my mind. I crossed that street so many times, in rain, sun, snow, in the dark. And I can remember clearly the sound of cars over those ancient cobblestones., and what it felt like to walk across them.

The image today looks so ... boring. Except for the Village Cigars sign (where I bought my Gitanes and Gauloises), little of any character remains. It looks so ... suburban!

Here's the other image. Looking east down Greenwich Avenue over to Sixth Avenue:

Greenwich Street 19702007

The big hulking Women's House of Detention is gone, replaced by a park. Also gone is the Traveler's Garage and the banjo bar "Your Father's Mustache". So are the 19th C tenements on the left. And, you can hardly see down the street to 6th avenue. 

It is painful to try to superimpose then and now in my mind. Only emphasizes how lost in time those impressions are now. So much happened on those streets, at least in my lifetime. They seem wiped clean, along with the cobblestones.

Thanks to Tim Donovan for the photos of the scene today. 

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