15 striking pictures of New York in a grittier era

Photographer Richard Sandler misses the 80s in New York.

“You could say, ‘look how f—– up New York was in the 80s, look at all this graffiti,’ but also it was very beautiful,” he says. “The layering of randomness, of one person’s tagging over another, and it would go on for months and years, and it started to look like Jackson Pollock.”

Sandler’s new book, called “The Eyes of the City,” features shots he took from the late 1970s through 2001.

“The 60s, the 70s, the 80s were really cool because people hung out on the streets and the street was their backyard, the street was their living room,” he says.

Back then, Sandler, who earned money as a photojournalist, was constantly taking pictures. “I’d take the subway into the city, five rolls of film, get out on the street, and just shoot,” he says.

The New York-born artist stopped taking photos for a while after the 2001 terrorist attacks, focusing instead on documentary film. “After 9/11 I put the still cameras down because the sound on the street, the protests and the marching and the soul-searching and the mourning and the arguing that went on in New York, the sound was more important,” he says.

Today, Sandler says cell phones rob the streets of its vitality: “You’re not participating in the life of the street when you’re on a phone. Also people look boring when they’re on the phone …. When they’re smiling, it’s because they’re talking to somebody and it doesn’t really relate to anything else.”

Recently, he says he has started taking a lot of photos again, including many around his new home in the Catskills: “A lot of them are street photographs, and a lot of them are not so street oriented. Because I live in the country, I’m photographing skies and moons and trees.”

Enjoy the following photos from “The Eyes of the City,” courtesy of powerHouse press.

E. 34th St., NYC, 1980

'Three Furs, Three Do's,' NYC, c. 1981

'Waiting Line,' Studio 54, NYC, 1981

'Black Nannies, White Tykes,' SoHo, NYC, 1982

W. 32nd St., NYC, 1983

Donnell Library, NYC, c. 1984

'Van Cleef,' NYC, 1986

'Mortality,' 57th St. 1986

'Woman in Next Car,' NYC c. 1987

'Two Faces,' 5th Ave., NYC, 1989

Grand Central Terminal, NYC, 1990

'WTC, Crescent Moon,' NYC, 2000

'Hasid and Hipster,' NYC, 2001

'Feed Me/Hungry,' East Village, NYC, c. 2001

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