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Union Square is a literal and figurative intersection of life in downtown New York City. It is the “union” of Bowery, or 4th Avenue, and Broadway. First established in 1839 - and redesigned in 1872 by Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux - it has changed from a location for theater, to aristocratic homes, to commercial establishments. The name Union has itself changed from designating a geographical point to now being associated with the labor movement. The first Labor Day rally was held there in 1882 and, later, many other such rallies. Whatever the time period, it has been a gathering place for people of all persuasions to express their passions and views, to mourn and celebrate, to join or be alone in the crowd.
The photographs in this book were taken in Union Square during the period 2000 to 2021. They show the nature and spirit of the Union Square community, and depict attitudes, emotions, trends and individual responses to various events. After September 11, 2001, Union Square was a place for people to express their mourning and remembrance for those who were lost that day. In 2008 and after people expressed their anger over the Great Recession by way of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It served as a gathering place a number of times for expression of outrage concerning racial injustice. After 2016, it has been a center for protest against Presidential excess, authoritarianism and injustice. The photographs in this book tell a story of this period.
People still went about enjoying their lives throughout these tumultuous times. Some of the photographs portray regular patrons such as chess players, musicians and the Farmers Market while others are descriptive of the location itself. The images in this collection had an impact on me. What drew me to some of them was a recognition of the importance of simply documenting these events. Others capture the emotions that people experienced while going through these times.. Photography is visual literature.
To me, black and white photographs reveal more of the essence of a thing than color photos. The gradations of shade of black and white allows for more of a focus on the exhibited expression and emotion. There is a universal timeless quality which seems appropriate for the subject of this book and the feelings and events on the following pages.
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