19 vintage photos that show what New York City looked like in the 1980s

NYC in the 1980'sJanet DelaneyNew York City during the 1980s was a very different place.

The New York City of the 1980s is quite different from the city we know today. Homicides were at near-record highs, the crack epidemic was raging, and NYC had not yet experienced the wave of gentrification that has marked it in modern times.

Janet Delaney grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, but she always wanted to experience the city life. Though she never officially moved to the Big Apple, she took several trips and ended up taking some beautiful photos there.

Below are some of her photos that depict what New York City was like decades ago.

Jack Sommer contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.

Delaney started taking one-week trips to New York in the mid-1980s.

Janet Delaney

'When I visited New York during these years, 1984 to 1987, I was happily taking photographs because I was in love with the place,' she told Business Insider.

Janet Delaney

During one trip, while she was staying at a friend's loft, she came back at 3 a.m. and realised she had forgotten her key.

Janet Delaney

She decided to spend the rest of the night drifting around lower Manhattan.

Janet Delaney

Once dawn hit that day, she took the Staten Island Ferry back and forth to kill time.

Janet Delaney

She took this shot during the ferry ride.

Janet Delaney

Of this couple onboard, she said: 'They never acknowledged me, they were so lost in each other. I was the only other person on the bow of the ferry, but we never spoke.'

Janet Delaney

Her New York City host was Barbara Mensch, another photographer who had a studio by the Brooklyn Bridge and South Street Seaport.

Janet Delaney

Mensch helped guide Delaney through downtown. Delaney found her guide's love for the city infectious.

Janet Delaney

As Delaney was photographing, she focused on the idea of how a city goes through changes over time.

Janet Delaney

At the same time she was taking these photos in New York, Delaney was finishing up a project in San Francisco that covered the changing demographics of that city.

Janet Delaney

The photos are not just about Delaney's eye and what she saw, but also a way of examining how different types of people were represented or seen in society at the time.

Janet Delaney

She also did interviews with the people she saw, meaning that her photos can be seen as fine art and social documentation.

Janet Delaney

One thing she looks back on now -- and realises she didn't appreciate as much at the time -- was how unique small businesses were before Manhattan filled up with chain stores.

Janet Delaney

'This really homogenized the experience on the street,' Delaney said. 'And as the cost of living in Manhattan rose, it seemed the place became a bit more predictable.'

Janet Delaney

She has always been, and continues to be, drawn to New York.

Janet Delaney

But she has not photographed it in the same way since this project from the '80s.

Janet Delaney

'At one point, in 2005, I took a class in New York for a few weeks and thought I would also photograph,' Delaney said. 'But it was clear to me that the grind of living in New York made it difficult for me to see the place.'

Janet Delaney

Her work has made an artistic and social statement that has stood the test of time.

Janet Delaney

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