Following the Street Photographers Who Shot Bloody, Dirty, “Once Upon a Time” New York

February 28, 2014 | Eugene Reznik

Cheryl Dunn’s Everybody Street sets out to be a kind of definitive documentary on street photography, shadowing some of the most legendary practitioners — from Jill Freedman and Mary Ellen Mark to Bruce Gilden and Elliot Erwitt, as well as ANIMAL favorites Martha Cooper and Boogie. Its focus is their experience on the streets of New York — the city where the form was arguably first created a century ago, and arguably best practiced in its latter half — explored through a mix of archival footage, stills, digital video and 16mm black and white film. (The film screens Monday at SVA.)

Cheryl Dunn
Boogie in action. (Photo: Cheryl Dunn)

Around the 1970s, this brand of not-quite-journalism, maybe-art photography — which features prominently in collections of major institutions like the MoMA and what their new Chief Curator of Photography Quentin Bajac calls, “that descriptive, documentary,” style — reached a kind of golden age. It coincided with a period of urban decay in New York as well as a period when many journalists began stripping away old pretensions of objectivity.

At the time, some of the best known street photographers could be found shooting on alternate sides of 5th Avenue, catching the same late-afternoon sun, sometimes even the same scene, though from different view points. Often shot with wider, larger-than-life lenses, sometimes from oblique angles, the images became as much or more about the experience of an event by a photographer than the unfolding of the event itself — being there, making decisions, performing.

“The experience of observing and engaging with these masters was certainly a privilege because I  think the greatest knowledge comes from fine details and nuances,” Dunn tells ANIMAL. “My aim was to then share those insights through the film.”

The legendary Joel Meyerowitz (who will be doing a Q&A with Dunn moderated by TIME’s Director of Photography Kira Pollack after the screening on Monday), once described encountering such details when he recalled his own formative experience of meeting master photographer Robert Frank, which lead him to follow suit: “I watched him execute this work and it was amazing,” he told Leica Camera. “He moved and photographed, and it was all so physical and balletic, and magical.”

“Everybody Street,” directed by Cheryl Dunn, screens at the School of Visual Arts in New York on Monday, March 3 at 7pm. RSVP everybodystreet@alldayeveryday.com. Join the director (@cheryldunn7) for a Twitter Q&A with TIME LightBox at 3pm on Friday, February 28 via #AskLightBox. (Images by the artists courtesy of Alldayeveryday. Lead: Boogie)