Do you know Clayton Patterson? I had never heard of the man, until watching the great documentary Captured, an in-depth look at the videographer’s work lensing the intense activities of New York’s Lower East Side during the 1980s and 1990s. You don’t have to live in New York to understand what it means when a neighborhood begins to change its face and shape. This is happening in cities all over the nation, from San Francisco to Austin to Brooklyn. Captured is more than just a documentary about gentrification, though. It’s a record of one man’s often-violent quest to keep “Little Brother watching Big Brother.” Cinetic just released the documentary on Amazon VOD. Last week, Patterson took part in an interview with BlackBook:
BlackBook: So with the archives, you’ve basically documented 30-something years of downtown, and a lot of the people you’re recording are in and out of the clubs. Where is this going to end up?
Patterson: Well basically, at this point it’s garbage. Nobody really has an interest in it until the right taker came along. It took Peggy Guggenheim and Clement Greenburg to make Jackson Pollock; otherwise he would’ve been just a crazy guy making pictures. So I’m waiting for someone to come along who really understands what the archives are really about. Now thank god for these kids making the movie, Captured, it was big step in getting some exposure for the archives.
BlackBook: What happened after Captured was created?
Patterson: Bush happened. Bush came along, and for the most part, I dropped out of activism because Bush made it really dangerous. If you’re out there photographing, and they don’t like it, they can turn you into a terrorist. So realizing now that I have this huge archive that nobody knows about, I’m now starting to look backwards. I did two books, Captured, a film video history of the LES, which is an anthology done by a large group of people, and then I have Resistance Radical Political and Social History of the LES, which is a similar thing. These are both about 600 pages each, but they are mostly word books, not picture books. Anyway, what I’m trying to do is save the history because as we both know, all of this history just evaporates and gets lost.