Contemporary art photographer Jeff Cowen who has become widely known for his unique, painterly portraits and collages, but in the 1980s, earlier in his career, he captured several striking images of New York City’s drag queen culture. The images, now housed at the New York Historical Society are accompanied by a small written piece by the artist.

Cowen talks about “The Stroll,” the area along 17th Street and 9th Avenue west to the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District on Gansevoort — “a haven for the largest transvestite subculture on the east coast,” struggling with poverty, homelessness, frequent assaults on sexworkers, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse.

Cowen was working for artist Larry Clark at the time, who went on to direct Kids. (Photos: Jeff Cowen/New-York Historical Society)