A conservancy official in New York City was cleaning out an office in late 2017 when they came across two cardboard boxes. Inside were 2,924 color slide photos of NYC parks, shot in 1978 and then forgotten for exactly 40 years.
The photographers were captured by New York Times photographers in parks across the city between August and November 1978 at a time when the press corps was holding a labor strike. Then-Parks Commissioner Gordon Davis decided to hire eight temporarily-unemployed Times photographers for the documentary project.
The photographers were Neal Boenzi, Joyce Dopkeen (the first female staff photographer hired by the Times), D. Gorton, Eddie Hausner, Paul Hosefros, Robert Klein, Larry Morris, and Gary Settle.
“The late 1970s were a time of reckoning in which the disco Studio 54 and the New York Yankees, led by a swaggering Reggie Jackson, reigned supreme,” NYC Parks says. “But rising crime, urban flight and decay led to a sense that the city was growing unmanageable. This was all set against an energy crisis, spiking inflation, and a mood President Carter described as a national ‘malaise’ just a year later.
“It is this moment in all its complexity and contradiction that these eight photographers captured, in unconventional images, a time capsule of visual candor and insight.”
NYC Parks’ Director of Art & Antiquities Jonathan Kuhn has curated a new exhibition titled “1978: The NYC Parks/New York Times Photo Project.” It features 65 of the nearly 3,000 photos that were discovered and will be on view at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park from May 3rd through June 14th, 2018. You can also find a selection of the photos online over at the New York Times.