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Artist's Statement: Brian Rose in NYC's Evolving Meatpacking District

By David Schonauer   Thursday July 17, 2014


Today, there is still a Meatpacking District in Manhattan, but the name is merely a vestigial reminder of another time. The neighborhood is now filled gleaming hotels, boutique clothing stores, and high-priced restaurants, but in 1985, when photographerBrian Rose spent several days photographing there with a 4x5 camera, it was a scene of working-class carnage where men in white butcher coats cut carcasses up into steaks and chops for restaurants elsewhere in the city. That was in the daytime. At night, the neighborhood’s name took on a different meaning as hookers prowled its dark streets. Rose’s new book Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013, which updates his earlier images with photographs taken last year, vividly documents the area’s change—and, in a sense, the larger social and economic evolution that has transformed New York. Today, as part of PPD’s onging Artist’s Statement series, Rose explains how he came to create the work.

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Artist’s Statement
Brian Rose: Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013


In the winter of 1985, I spent several days wandering the streets of the Meatpacking District with my 4x5 view camera. It was different city then. Edgier, less peopled. While the meat market bustled in the early morning hours, it slumbered, almost abandoned, by day.

I never printed my photographs of the Meatpacking District, and the negatives sat forgotten in a box. Last year, I scanned the negatives and was stunned to rediscover these images, made with little artifice, unforced in their clarity. It was like looking at New York as a stage set while the actors were away taking a break.

In the summer and fall of last year I re-photographed the Meatpacking District repeating many of the earlier images and making a number of new ones. The result is a collection of images showing the profound transformation of the neighborhood from abattoir to epicenter of fashion and art.

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