Social Isolation

New York Lawrence Schwartzwald is a New York based photographer. An interview about the Corona-situation in Big Apple
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Social Isolation

Foto: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The german version of this interview has been published here.

Lawrence Schwartzwald is working as a freelance photographer based in Manhattan for decades. 2018 he gained international recognition for publishing his visual book "The Art of Reading" at Steidl, Göttingen (Germany). It is distributed worldwide.

So far, it was the most popular residental area, now Manhattan is a zone which is characterized by isolation. New York has been attacked by Corona. At the time of the interview (28th March 2020), 28% of all US-Corona infected were based in NY.

Lawrence, you are a professional photographer in Manhattan, New York, for decades. Is this the most changing situation in your city you can remember?
Just now, President Trump has announced a likely two week quarantine for New York. Dismal news to add to an already dire situation. The most challenging for me, and for most New Yorkers, is social isolation, since I already live in a very quiet part of Manhattan (Battery Park). More restaurants, even the ones open only for take-out and delivery, have been closing.

Mental Health is under Attack

Compared to 09/11, what is different?
After 9/11, most New Yorkers knew someone who died from the attack of the Towers. Last week, a well known photographer, Robert Herman (author of The New Yorkers), who lived a block away from me, killed himself by leaping into the courtyard of his building as a result of social isolation and ongoing mental health issues. A former colleague from the New York Post is hospitalized in serious condition and and there are others in critical condition I am acquainted with.

What has changed in your everyday life?
It took a while, but I finally have been able to track down N95-masks and gloves for my protection.

"Everyone is afraid"

To be a photographer, you observe your surroundings. Are you on tour? What did you experience?
The situation in New York seems to get more difficult each day; each bit of optimism withers with reports of overwhelmed emergency rooms and the rising numbers of the infected. I don’t see yellow taxis anywhere. Everyone is afraid.

Do you feel aggressions in public, maybe in the supermarkets?
The supermarkets, which were overwhelmed a week ago, have quieted in my vicinity, with more rules in place re safe distances between customers and fewer shoppers at a time. But in other areas of the city, it is more problematic. Many New Yorkers have left the city for Florida and the suburbs, so it is noticeably quieter.

Are you able to run your business now?
For the past year, I have been quietly working of a series of candid portraits of Readers at the landmark, iconic four-story Strand Bookstore on 12th street and Broadway with an emphasis on style and fashion. L’Oeil de la Photographie published my portfolio of these images in November of 2019. I have been a denizen of the Strand for nearly fifty years and it is now closed indefinitely. Heartbreaking.
Paris Photo/New York (formerly AIPAD) at Pier 94, scheduled for April 2-5, has been postponed. I was thrilled that Throckmorton Fine Art Gallery in NYC was going to offer my iconic image of Tupac Shakur showing off his THUG LIFE tattoo across his chest from 1994 at their booth. Very disappointed and don’t know when and if it will be re-scheduled.

Born in New York in 1953, Lawrence Schwartzwald studied literature at New York University. He worked as a freelance photographer for the New York Post for nearly two decades and in 1997 New York Magazine dubbed him the Post’s “king of the streets.” Books and literature have shaped several of his photo series including “Reading New York” and “Famous Poets,” both self-published in 2017. 2018, the renowned german Publisher, Gerhard Steidl, published his book "The Art of Reading", which advanced to a worldwide bestseller.
Schwartzwald lives and works in Manhattan.

Lawrence Schwartzwald: The Art of Reading. Steidl Publishers, Göttingen 2018. 28€

17:17 01.04.2020
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Jan C. Behmann

freier Autor • "Von Ihrem Tun und Wirken, läse ich gern weiter.“ Peter Handke.
Jan C. Behmann