In New York in the 1970s, the photojournalist and author Allan Tannenbaum rented a room in a communal Fort Greene brownstone for $45 a month (there was a darkroom on the top floor). He worked as a bartender and taxi driver and motorcycled to Soho while looking for work as a photographer, until one day in Ken’s Broome Street bar when he noticed the SoHo Weekly News on the bar’s cigarette machine. He interviewed with the paper a few weeks later and became its photo editor and chief photographer.
Tannenbaum’s photographs are now iconic of the era (example: one portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken ten days before Lennon’s murder). “I would hang around West Broadway and Spring Street on a Saturday or go to Central Park, Washington Square Park,” Tannenbaum says. “It was such a dynamic, interesting, groundbreaking scene.”
His fourth book, Grit and Glamour: The Street Style, High Fashion, and Legendary Music of the 1970s, out this week, showcases the fashions within every aspect of New York in the ’70s, including nightlife at the Mudd Club, street style, and the music scene. Debbie Harry wrote the book’s foreword.
The collection shows changing styles of the era, like women in clunky shoes and floppy hats, men in plaid suits, and everyone wearing so much polyester. Fittingly, Tannenbaum’s photographs inspired the costumes for American Hustle. The photographer remembers East Village gangs, congo players at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and punk looks that started with the Ramones. Then came Betsey Johnson, disco styles, and Space Age looks like jumpsuits, miniskirts, and futuristic geometric patterns.
“I’m overcome with waves of nostalgia looking at these pictures, just the feeling of the time,” Tannenbaum, now 71, says. “I was young and I loved New York.” He eventually became an award-winning international photojournalist working in places like South Africa, Burma, and the Middle East.
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Photos from Grit and Glamour: The Street Style, High Fashion, and Legendary Music of the 1970s, published by Insight Editions. © 2016 Allan Tannenbaum / Polaris Images. All rights reserved.