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Gregoire Alessandrini p4

Photographer Gregoire Alessandrini talks about photographing people in New York...

READERSVOICE.COM: There were a lot of interesting streetscapes you photographed in the city in the 1990s, like the diners, McHales Bar, Grace and Hope Mission, and the little places like the Veterans of Foreign Wars place run by Sgt Joseph Lopacki. Maybe streetscapes now would be as interesting to people in 20 years time; do you think they would be?

GREGOIRE ALESSANDRINI: This is a very good question and it’s very difficult to know the answer. I am tempted to say no when I see the new buildings that are being currently built in New York. Besides some incredible buildings by world famous architects like Renzo Piano or Franck Gehry, most of what is being built right now seems very dull. Boring glass towers that all seem to look the same as Jeremiah Moss describes in his great book Vanishing New York. New York is a great city because of its diversity and it now seems that there is a kind of uniformity of everything that comes up. The city might be really losing what gave it its great originality right now. But I guess time will do its work and I might be proven wrong in a few years.

RV:There were some good shots of people, like the night scene of the guy smoking a cigarette outside the Exotic Chinese Food place; and the guy with the cigar in the Upper East Side, and the woman walking the pig down the street, the guy operating the ride at the street festival in Losaida and the old couples. Do you enjoy photographing people the most?

GA: Being a bit of a shy person, it took me a long time to dare to photograph people in the streets. Especially in New York where I didn’t know how people would react. This is one of the reasons why there are so many pictures of signs, streetscapes, buildings and architectural details in my collection! I am always amazed when I see the work of street photographers like Bruce Gilden who are literally in people’s faces to take their pictures [Face, a book of closeups of people’s faces, by Bruce Gilden]. I now wish that I had more shots of people, especially in Harlem, which was such an amazing and different world to me!

RV: Do you still live in Paris and do you go around the streets taking pictures now?

GA: I went back to Paris in 1999 and I’m indeed still very much into photography. Today’s digital cameras are really great to use and allow many things that were so hard to do with film photography. You can now take pictures even with very little light and Photoshop enables you to correct so many flaws your pictures may have. I mostly enjoy taking photos when travelling abroad for work or leisure…
I’m very surprised and also happy to see that many people are now going back to film and I recently bought a few rolls of 35mm film to use with a wonderful Fujifilm Panoramic TX1 camera. Something that I had not done for more than 20 years!

– Check out galessandrini.blogspot.com for photos of New York in the 1990s.
– Copyright Simon Sandall