Recently, I attended the west coast premier of Everybody Street, a documentary about New York street photographers by filmmaker and photographer Cheryl Dunn. Unsurprisingly, the Monday night showing at Cinefamily sold out and was greeted by a very enthusiastic audience, half of whom were presumably east coast transplants like myself.
I was familiar with only a few of the dozen or so photographers that are featured in the film, so it was a great history lesson for me. I was equally enthralled with the personal stories of the artists and the tales behind the photographs they took over the last five or six decades.
Of particular significance for me, were the photographs of New York in the 70s and early 80s. I remember driving through the city with my parents and seeing all of the burned out buildings and abandoned cars. I remember what Times Square looked like, pre-Giuliani, and I remember the tent cities filled with homeless people.
What I didn’t see back then, was what went on behind the closed doors of every block we drove past — the poverty and crime and hopelessness — as well as the strength and resilience of the people who struggled to survive there. All of those things can be seen through the many lenses that make up this film.
The images of children playing, quirky New Yorkers with their dogs, and all of the other larger than life characters that inhabit New York had me grinning from ear to ear. They made me miss New York more than I thought I could. I also really loved Jill Freedman’s photographs of the FDNY and NYPD. They showed another side of each organization that many people don’t ever get to see.
From a production standpoint, this film is absolutely seamless. Hundreds of photographs are beautifully stitched in between the interviews and sidewalk segments and the soundtrack is a pitch perfect representation of the pulse and groove of New York City. I really can’t say enough good things about Everybody Street. It is truly an engaging and inspiring documentary. It made me want to pick up my camera and start shooting.