For the past three decades, Clayton Patterson, working with his partner Elsa Rensaa, has built a large archive of approximately 2,500 hours of video, hundreds of thousands of photographs and a unique collection of ephemera that focuses on the people, culture and history of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His archive documents a dramatic period of change for this area of New York City. In addition, as an editor and writer, he has produced books on the cultural, radical political, and filmmaking history of the neighborhood.
While most known for videotaping the Tompkins Square Police Riot on August 6-7, 1988, from 1990-93, he produced with Rensaa 52 30-minute and 3 60-minute Clayton Presents programs that were broadcast locally on Manhattan Cable and Paragon Cable TV stations. During his years living on the Lower East Side, his video and photographic work has captured hundreds of cultural events (concerts, theatrical performances, poetry readings, art openings, outdoor festivals), political gatherings and police actions (demonstrations, riots, Community Board meetings, evictions, arrests), interviews with notable residents and many other significant happenings that describe daily life in this geographically small but historically and culturally rich area.
From November 1986 until August 1988 alone he shot over 250 performances at CBGBs, Pyramid Club, the Tompkins Square Park Bandshell, Irving Plaza, the Ritz and other venues around the city. Bands and performers included Bad Brains, Murphy’s Law, Living Color, Phalse Prophets, Citizen Kafka, Poptarts, Ludichrist, Circus of Power, Krackdown, Brain Eaters, Sick of it All, War Zone, Phoebe Legere, Joey Arias, Quenton Crisp, Peter Kwaloff, Brian Damage, Steve Buscemi, Joe Coleman, Kembra Pfaler and Samoa.
As Patterson admits, the Tompkins Square Park tape changed the direction of his work and his life. Afterwards, he became actively involved in neighborhood struggles and he began the Clayton Presents cable shows in 1990 to use his video to expose problems and advocate for change. Show topics included the clearing of the homeless from Tompkins Square Park by the police, anti-drug marches in the neighborhood, the demolition of the Tompkins Square Park Bandshell, police assaults on various buildings inhabited by squatters, marches on the 9th Precinct station house, raucous Community Board 3 meetings, and Lower East Side street gangs. He also continued to document cultural events in the neighborhood and added footage from interviews and performances into his shows. Besides rock concerts, this video included drag performances from the Pyramid Club and Wigstock Festival, tattoo culture events, benefit art auctions for AIDS health service groups, and interviews with notable figures such as Jim “the Mosaic Man” Powers, writer Richard Kostelanetz, Yippie Dana Beal, actor Taylor Mead, kabbalahist Lionel Ziprin, artist Boris Lurie, gardener Adam Purple, filmmaker/musician Nick Zedd, and guitarist Johnny Thunders.
For more information or to help support the processing and preservation of the archive, please ►email Clayton Patterson.
Archiv: 2000 Videotapes, 3/4 Million photographs, used by a number of Authors, Students, the Smithsonian Institute, and for International projects. Produced fifty-six 30 min. and 10 two 1 hour Clayton Presents a weekly or special Television series on Manhattan Cable and Paragon Cable TV Systems. Hundreds of real life documentary videos: riots, drugs, artists, poets, drag queens, magic, tattoos & body modification, religion, police actions, neighborhood people, parades, street activity and so on, Tompkins Sq. Park Police Riot (Video-3 hr. 33 min.) Aug. 6-7, 1988. Video footage included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Archives, Dinkemsville Footage 15 used by HELIOS PRODUCTION, CNN, A Current Affair, Witness Video (NBC), Inside Edition (CBS), Street Stories Court TV, CNBC, Entertainment Tonight, Paramount Pictures, Rakowitz Story, CNBC-TV.