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Interview

Gregoire Alessandrini p3

Photographer of 1990s New York streetscapes and people Gregoire Alessandrini talks about some favorite books and authors…

RV: What are some of your favorite books of all time, fiction or non-fiction?

GA: I studied literature as a student at the Paris Sorbonne before heading out to New York for film school. At the time I was literally obsessed with Charles Baudelaire [Les Fleurs du Mal, or The Flowers of Evil] and Antonin Artaud [The Theatre and its Double]. Two poets/writers of a very different kind and times but who always have fascinated me. Today I read a lot of thrillers and murder stories. I’m really fond of Japanese crime master writer Natsuo Kirino [Out] as well as British writer John Burdett: an English man who writes incredible stories set in Thailand [Bangkok 8, Vulture Peak]. As with any good mystery novel writer, his brilliant plots are used as a pretext to depict the life and the society of today’s Thailand.

RV: In your documentary Looking for Stephen Sprouse, which you produced and co-directed, people like Debbie Harry were talking about the fashion scene of the 1980s, and how it was a small community in a way, and everyone knew each other, and it wasn’t super-commercialized and it was more creative. And there was interaction between fields, with people absorbing ideas from each other. Do you think that New York might have lost a lot of this attitude now, or will it always be there?

GA: I truly believe that the cost of living in NYC today makes it a very different place than what it always was. You now have to be extremely wealthy to live in New York. In the early 90’s, you could still rent a room in the East Village for a few hundred dollars. Clubs were cheap and there were many bars or restaurants where you could hang out without spending too much.
Could a young Basquiat or Martin Scorcese be able to make it in today’s New York? I really don’t think so! I really wonder how any young aspiring artists who are now experiencing New York are getting by. The way of life described by Patti Smith in her book Just Kids is definitely from another era. I think I got to experience the end of these times. The atmosphere of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s New York was also a great inspiration for artists from all around the world. On the other hand, the city seems to still keep some kind of an attractive dimension for many young people who are discovering it today. Maybe my point of view also has to do with nostalgia!

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-copyright Simon Sandall