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Mean Streets
December 22, 2011 12:15 AM   Subscribe

Mean streets: Stark photos show behind-the-scenes life of police patrolling crime-ridden New York in the 1970s.
posted by Ad hominem (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Barney Miller

Awesome shots. I wish there were more!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:30 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


They are currently on display at The Museum of the City of New York. I'm definitely going to check that out.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:40 AM on December 22, 2011


Something about the way those captions are written grates on me...

But, then... Daily Mail...

Great photos, though.
posted by Jimbob at 12:56 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look at these smug pricks. I bet they're the ones giving Serpico a hard time.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:29 AM on December 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Look at these smug pricks.

Holy cats, it's The Wire '78.
posted by Spatch at 1:46 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is so French Connection. And this is so Dog Day Afternoon. And this is so Panic In Needle Park.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:40 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great photos, but wtf, the Daily Mail?
posted by ciderwoman at 3:54 AM on December 22, 2011


"Something about the way those captions are written grates on me... "

Yeah, I looked at the photos, read the captions, and then came here to the thread to see if anyone else reacted to them like I did. Because, to me, there's nothing whatsoever "stark" or "possibly offensive" or what-thell-ever about these photos. They're good photographs of cops doing their jobs in the early 70s.
1972: 'New York City' is one of many astonishing photos from a 1970s study that give a fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes working life of police officers
It's two cops and a woman in a miniskirt, all three sitting down in a briefing room in school-like desk-chairs. The woman's back is to the camera and the cops aren't looking at her, or her legs. The camera is.
1979: 'New York City' was taken a time when the city was facing near bankruptcy and was notorious for spiralling crime rates and social disorder on the streets
It's some people hanging on to a streetlight while some cops talk on the sidewalk next to them.
1972: 'New York City' is one of many photos Mr Freed did not want to offend people with - rather his intention was to perform a sociological study
It's a cop and another guy in a stockroom in a clothing store. The other guy is writing something on a piece of paper while the cop looks at the camera. I wasn't offended.

And the pièce de résistance:
1978: 'New York City, 9th Police Station Back Room used for Questioning People' shows a policeman putting together a report with a typewriter
A cop typing a fingerprints form. In the background, some people are talking amongst themselves around a bench under a window. Another cop at a nearby desk is writing something on a piece of paper while someone sitting next to him watches.

Yeah, these are some stark, gritty photographs of the mean streets.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:47 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah the captions are strange, and why the focus on not offending people. They are interesting to me at least from a historical perspective.

The Daily Mail doesn't mean much to me, just where I saw them.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:18 AM on December 22, 2011


I put the exact same captions on an elementary school report about Miners and Their Craft.
posted by swift at 5:21 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ad hominem, the DM usually just runs stories about house prices, benefit cheats and how everything you eat will / won't give you cancer. 1970's NY cops aren't their kind of thing normally. (they are very web savy though, their website is stupidly popular)
posted by ciderwoman at 5:28 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The more I think about it, I think some of those captions were written without ever seeing the photo, they are mostly just a re-wording of the title of the picture, or some random fact or quote about the photographer or the city.

Caption a required field on the CMS maybe? Whoever is responsible for putting these together was a bit slapdash about it. Upload the photo, make up plausible caption.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:29 AM on December 22, 2011


The captions are blah, but the photos are very cool.
posted by Forktine at 6:15 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The clothes on the detectives are priceless. The sideburns on these cops even better.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:58 AM on December 22, 2011


The American version of Life on Mars did a great job of recreating this era.

Something about the way those captions are written grates on me…

Calling most of the photos "New York City" was odd.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2011


To anyone who enjoyed these photos, I recommend The Police Tapes, a 1977 documentary for which filmmakers were given unprecedented access to follow around Bronx cops on the beat with handheld video cameras. It's like watching Cops through a time machine.

Yet the best part is listening to the clips of the Bronx Borough Commander, Anthony Bouza, talking about his job and his responsibilities. He came across as an extremely intelligent and empathetic human being, when I expected to see little more than corruption and brutality. There are some scenes on the street and in the precinct that are upsetting. Unsurprisingly, most of the cops were very resistant to being filmed on the job; the documentary exists today because Bouza ordered them to comply.
posted by heatvision at 7:42 AM on December 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


The text may have been cribbed from this slightly-better-flowing HuffPo version of the same material. It's the way it's split up that makes it awkward.

Because, to me, there's nothing whatsoever "stark" or "possibly offensive" or what-thell-ever about these photos.

It's hard for us to put ourselves in the same context today. The city had seen several waves of major riots. The Bronx was burning itself out a building a day. The city's finances were on the verge of imploding. Crime in NYC had become a national joke with The Out-of-Towners and Law and Disorder. The reputation of the city was that of one spinning out of control, the inmates running the asylum.

We also have the secure knowledge that New York made it. It didn't become a Blade Runner dystopia. The financial underpinnings were fixed. The crime rate declined. Even the subways got nicer. We also have some nostalgia now for the 1970s movies that depicted this gritty period.

The context of the publication in London was British fears that their capital soon would follow in New York's footsteps. As such, the reaction at home was one of foreign critique and meddling. Yeah, they were probably too sensitive, but this was just one of many hits they felt they were taking from all directions.
posted by dhartung at 8:30 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look at these smug pricks.

Jesus, broad brush much?
posted by IndigoJones at 9:33 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


IndigoJones, to be fair, most of the NYPD force seems to have been against Serpico in that period... which is why he was set up and left for dead, and the perps, his coworkers, were never seriously investigated. Sure, a criminal pulled the actual trigger, but they set him up and left him there.

So, odds are the broad brush painted well. Sadly.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:47 PM on December 22, 2011


"The American version of Life on Mars did a great job of recreating this era."

I was thinking much along those lines. Love the checked sports coats and the smoking.
posted by MikeMc at 3:00 PM on December 22, 2011


Is that a young Andy Sipowicz I see on the far left?
posted by MikeMc at 3:04 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


(they are very web savy though, their website is stupidly popular)

For me, the Daily Fail is like the jumbo-sized bag of pork rinds of the internet: I keep going until the content is all gone, I feel vaguely disgusted when I'm done and swear never again, and then some time later...
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:39 PM on December 22, 2011


I look at those pistol holsters and thinnk "How the fuck did they keep their service revolver from falling out when they ran?" It's kinda stunning how much less hardware they toted around back then.

When I think "NYPD in the 70s, right after I think Barney Miller, I think Kojak.

I think it was Dennis Farina, himself a former cop, who said that Barney Miller was one of the most accurate portrayals of day-to-day life in a station house he'd ever seen.

Jesus, that was an ugly decade. Men actually put that shit on thinking "Not only am I gonna wear this to work, there's a non-zero chance I might get laid later tonight by someone who saw me wearing this first".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:22 PM on December 22, 2011


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