What possess those with a singular vision? Those that see something large and significant when most see nothing at all, sometimes, and by some standards, less than nothing. What does it take to identify a moment, capture an essence or value a life that is seemingly insignificant within the glow of the big picture? How does one begin to gather the pieces that make up an unseen whole before they are no longer there to touch?
Maybe it takes someone from the outside to see the inside of the "outside" as in the case of Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower Side as seen through the lens of the living legend Clayton Patterson, and documented by the team of Ben Solomon, Dan Levin, Jenner Furst and Marc Levin.
Much like Jacob Riis* pioneering use of "flash" photography to penetrate the darkness and squalor of New York's most desperate slums to expose social injustices and human suffering during the 1880s, Clayton Patterson was to use the video camera to expose the underbelly of a brutal NYPD and give not only faces, but voices to L.E.S. gangs and dealers, crack heads and crack whores, homeless and artist, punk rockers and drag queens, anarchists and self appointed community leaders to become the muckraker* of the 1980s.
This is a truly powerful film for anyone that lived in New York, the East Village and the L.E.S. during the late 1980s and experienced or witnessed the Tompkins Square Park and Squatter riots, the merciless cruelty of crack, heroin and AIDS, and the everyday struggle of those born to survive or succumb to the hard knock life. It would also be an important film for those who would otherwise like to remember to forget about this era as they leave the air conditioned comfort of Whole Foods with their yoga mat and a bag of organically grown fair-trade baby arugula for air conditioned comfort of their luxury condo that used to be a vacant lot filled with cardboard box shelters and the smell of urine. Remarkably, the revolution, as well as the evolution, can now be downloaded or projected, thanks to little brother.
Limited edition prints of Clayton Patterson's still photography work can be acquired through KTF Gallery.
* Muckracker is a term coined by Teddy Roosevelt to describe Jacob Riis, who he also proclaimed to be "the best American I ever knew". I wonder if Ed Koch will ever describe Clayton Patterson and his companion Elsa Rensaa are the best Canadians New York has every known?