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Work / Photography

Janet Delaney photographs the quiet moments in 1980s New York City

Janet Delaney captures New York city in the 1980s but rather than the big landmarks and tourist spots, the photographer focuses on the people that dwell within its lofty buildings and busy streets. Having photographed San Francisco from 1978 to 1986, Janet seized the opportunity to travel to New York, “my plane fare was covered because I was a courier for DHL packages at the time,” she explains. Using her twin lens Rolleiflex, Janet hoped the city would offer her something different. “It seemed to me that in the 1980s New York was so much more lively… I was enamoured with the flow of people in the streets and the way private lives are lived in public spaces,” says Janet. “The scale and the density of the buildings felt unique to me because I grew up in a car-strewn suburb of Los Angeles.”

The clothes, the technology and the whole vibe is wonderfully nostalgic, but the filmic quality to Janet’s photographs brings a warmth and subtlety to them. “These images speak to a time when things had begun to improve and before the ubiquitous appearance of chain stores that tend to deaden a city with their prefab predictability,” says Janet. “My daughter lives in New York now and I still bring my Rolleiflex but it is more challenging to find the public spirit of the city now. Thanks to technology, everyone is encased in their privately curated worlds.”

These New York City images are one of many city-themed series from Janet, having also captured Bejing, New Delhi and San Francisco among others. “Photographing on the street, and in particular strangers, creates a heightened state of awareness for me. I feel closer to my surroundings, connected to the moment and to the people who may enter my frame,” explains Janet. “I photograph to experience this fleeting intimacy with both people and place. Photography allows me the chance to break the barrier that surrounds me for at least an instant.”

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987

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Janet Delaney: New York City 1984-1987