Photo journalist Ken Paprocki shot these images just as New York City was reopening.
These were taken all over the city below 57th Street; Lower Fifth Ave, Battery Park, Chinatown, Tribeca, Chelsea, Gramercy Park, Midtown, The Meatpacking District, SoHo, Union Square, Washington Square Park, The West Village and Greenwich Village.
If you think they’re a bit repetitive with very few people with every storefront boarded up, that is kinda the point.
I lived in the city for 37 years, up until 3 years ago when I moved to the Catskill Mountains, 2 hours northwest of the city. Seeing these images is shocking to a New Yorker, or even those who just love and visit the city. I had seen many protest photos, but seeing how the coronavirus quarantine coupled with the widespread boarded up storefronts and the aftermath of the looting makes me sad, to say the least. Not that the city won’t bounce back.
Paprocki is used to shooting war-torn parts of the globe and parts of Manhattan from block to block, uptown to down, seem like a cease fire that has people emerging after months of hiding. I asked Paprocki how these scenes of Manhattan compare to a war zone. He said,
“I don’t want to cause any uproars, but I would say that in both cases you don’t see the bad guys in the open… the Taliban are hidden and it seems the looters came out of nowhere and vanished.
I was working the nights of the looting – I had no idea it was going on… but I imagine things could’ve gotten dicey for a guy biking around with a $5000 camera snapping photos of the pillaging...”
“One thing I noticed about Afghanistan is how few bad guys it takes to destabilize a country. The vast majority of people just want to live their lives in peace, work, find love, raise a family, enjoy life.
People are generally busy, especially New Yorkers, so they walk past these signs with little notice, a glance at most. But what strikes my eye, visually, are how the signs compare and contrast with the human condition…
- the Covid-19 sign and the homeless guy who’s just trying to make it to the next day.
- the black man walking in a kind of resignation past the sign of a 12-year-old who was killed.
- the guy walking past the law sign about the high concept of the welfare of society contrasted with the guy with a sign that says need something to eat, the most basic human need.
- FTP and NYPD sucks vs the homeless guy on 5th Avenue in front of a placard about a residential 76-story condo to be built behind him as he holds up a sign that says,
‘Let’s not get tired of doing what is good.’
The optimistic signs that say…
‘Justice is love in action’ and ‘We Love Manhattan’ compared to ‘Homeless Veteran PTSD Pregnant wife – Hungry Need Clothes God Bless Thank You’across the street from Macys
It’s all kind of heartbreaking when you think about it long enough.”
EDITOR’S NOTE FROM WOW: This post or does not imply the damage to private property is comparable to the civil rights injustices committed by police. WOW supports the right to protest against police brutality.
(Photographs, Ken Paprocki)