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INTERVIEW WITH CLAYTON PATTERSON
By LOTJE SODDERLAND
submarinechannel.com on March 30, New York 2009
Since 1979, renegade photographer Clayton Patterson has dedicated his life to capturing the mutating subcultures of New York’s Lower East Side. Recently released documentary Captured, weaves together his unique footage - from the gangster kids who brought us graffiti, to CBGBs, the legendary home of punk, to the Starbucks and Ed Hardy homogeny that now characterizes the area, Mr Patterson has been the arbiter of the area’s cultural heritage. Captured is now available on DVD and will be screened at various underground venues throughout Europe this Spring and Summer.
We enjoyed an inspirational phone conversation with Mr Patterson as he introduced us to some of his fascinating insights into the rise and fall of contemporary culture.
■ Can you tell us how you started out filming on the Lower East Side?
■ What do you think was special particularly about the Lower East Side that fostered this level of diversity, individual expression and creativity?
All that has now been lost, those layers that were left here over 150 years and all their riches, have been simply wiped out.
■ Was there a defining moment that solidified your status as the Lower East Side’s official archivist?
Coming from an obscure situation and a poor family it was amazing that you could have an influence on society - that was really exciting for me.
■ What led to the creative downturn and standardization of the area?
We also always thought when we got rid of the drugs it would be a great neighborhood. But the reality was, when we got rid of the drugs, the money came in and that killed the spirit. It turned New York into another “bla bla” city. Building up people like Paris Hilton, Britney but not bringing up the new Charlie Parkers, Rothkos, Jackson Pollocks - they can’t be here anymore. Neither can Clayton Patterson. It’s no longer possible to be poor and work your way up. Effectively the American Dream has been washed away.
CBGBs was like our cathedral, our Notre Dame. We’ve lost our cathedral, and now you can go in and buy CBGB “Home of Punk” t-shirts by John Varvatos there for ridiculous prices. Varvatos has co-opted punk and sells the t-shirts for $400 a piece!
■ Where, if anywhere, do you think would be the new Lower East Side of today?
■ Is there still hope for grass-roots activism and underground creative movements to flourish today?
The same way graffiti went global, there’s now that same feeling of global inter-connectivity, passing ideas around outside of establishment.
If we stay connected and exchange our energy we can do things on a global scale. As long as the youth can keep those goals in mind, do what they need to do and share it. In the past it was all narcissism, now people are sharing with mass global exchanges, and this has massive potential for generating change.
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ABOUT LOTJE SODDERLAND: He is an interactive documentary producer-director, creating non-linear, non-fiction content for clients like ad agency Mother London, transmedia outfit Submarine (Amsterdam), and award-winning production company HonkyTonk Films (Paris). She also writes about transformative digital culture for a variety of leading online and print publications. Previously, Lotje was director and co-founder of Maxalot Gallery, commissioning digital and interactive art exhibitions with genre pioneers such as Joshua Davis, Universal Everything, and The Designers Republic in Amsterdam, Barcelona and New York. minilot.tv