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The Forty-Deuce

Times Square of yesteryear captivates with a gritty glamour...

The Forty-Deuce
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There’s a fascinating glamour to these photographs; this is not public caught in the moment, more subjects portrayed how they chose to be perceived, and there’s something utterly engrossing about that...

I’m a little obsessed with the gritty, seedy New York of old (perusal of a recent feature on Steve Siegel’s photography of 1980s New York will fill you in on all that), so you’ll no doubt understand my excitement about the publication of Bill Butterworth’s photographs of early-eighties The Forty-Deuce (42nd Street). Where Siegel’s images showcased a city teetering on the edge, Butterworth being a working photographer (selling 8×10 color enlargements to the subjects) means that there’s a fascinating glamour to these photographs; this is not public caught in the moment, more subjects portrayed how they chose to be perceived, and there’s something utterly engrossing about that.

There’s peep shows, b-boys, tat shops, record stores, pimps, prostitutes, beaten up arcade halls… as New York author Carlo McCormick points out in the book’s introduction; while The Great White Way and the Crossroads of the World are just some of the many monikers Times Square has gone under, Sodom and Gomorrah on the Hudson or Slime Square may be more appropriate for the Forty-Deuce that Butterworth captured.

You all know the end to this particular tale, Mayor Giuliani and Mickey Mouse transforming the area beyond all recognition, and that makes the images of a long-gone outsider community, that the likes of Butterworth and Siegel documented so candidly, all the more important.

Recommended listening;
Loose Joints – Is It All Over My Face?
Alan Vega – Saturn Drive
DJ Kool Herc – B-Boy

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From The Forty-Deuce: The Times Square Photographs of Bill Butterworth, 1983-1984
edited by Hilton Ariel Ruiz and Beatriz Ruiz,
published by powerHouse Books.

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