Bread Store, 259 Bleecker Street, Manhattan by Berenice Abbott
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240)
Its epic skylines, bright lights and bustling population make our city legendary, but it's our neighbors and neighborhoods that make it incomparably resilient. The tragedy of last week’s explosion in the East Village quite literally hits close to home for me. I’ve lived just two blocks south of the site for more than twenty years, putting that particular stretch of Second Avenue at the very core of the tiny radius every New Yorker carves out for themselves. (You live on 9th and 1st? Your NY and my NY, they're similar but different.)
Last week, that core was shaken by an event whose first moments brought back a flood of familiar memories and feelings. Immediately after the explosion, people were running toward the scene to help those in need, pulling people out of basement grates and off of stuck fire escapes. As the tragedy unfolded, we witnessed the very best of New Yorkers, their instincts honed by the split seconds and small distances that shape our closely intertwined destinies. As Sarah Larson wrote in The New Yorker: "Living in New York intensifies the common life experience of having daily pleasures and terrible accidents coexist in close proximity." It's mere chance that separates the two.
A tragedy like this reminds us of the vanishing New York we lament every time another Duane Reade takes over, every time a condo rises where a smattering of small buildings once were. The East Village is still a patchwork of century old buildings, housing a diverse population. At street level, myriad small shops are restaurants run by proprietors and staff who show up daily, work hard and also play cameo roles in the daily pleasures of countless New Yorkers.
It is this New York City, one of grit, growth and interconnectedness, that Berenice Abbott worked tirelessly to document in the 1930s. She photographed many different angles of the city, from rooftops to waterfronts and many storefronts and small businesses in between.
Today, neighborhood bakeries like Zito's are mostly gone, but Abbott's captured what's so precious about the mom-and-pops that remain. The woman you can spot in the window of Bread Store, 259 Bleecker Street, Manhattan was surely someone who played her role and had her regulars the same way today's shopkeepers do. She had neighbors upstairs, visitors with whom she exchanged hi-how-are-yous daily and myriad unremarkable moments that fed the rhythm of that shop, that building, that block and that neighborhood.
Those moments are what make living in New York City worthwhile, the smallest of regular connections in the midst of its chaotic swirl. Today's edition honors those moments, and its proceeds will support the dozens of people who lost so much in a single instant. 50% of net profits from this print will go to the Mayor's Fund for relief efforts in the East Village. Please join us in giving a little bit to the many who lost so much.With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + 20x200