Since 1979 Clayton Patterson has dedicated his life to documenting the final era of raw creativity and lawlessness in New York City's Lower East Side, a neighborhood famed for art, music and revolutionary minds. Traversing the outside edge he's recorded a dark and colorful society, from drag to hardcore, heroin, homelessness, political chaos and ultimately gentrification. His odyssey from voyeur to provocateur reveals that it can take losing everything you love to find your own significance. The amazing story of Clayton Patterson, prolific photo documentarian of the turbulent Lower East Side for 30 years.
20 years before there was YouTube, and Macaca, Critical Mass arrest videos, and the RNC, Clayton Patterson was capturing video that exposed the struggle between community activists and the often abusive NYPD. He dedicated his life to documenting the final era of raw creativity and lawlessness in New York City's Lower East Side, a neighborhood famed for art, music and revolutionary minds. Traversing the outside edge, he's recorded this dark and colorful society--from drag and hardcore, heroin, homelessness, to political chaos and, ultimately, gentrification.
In the LES of the late 70’s and early 80’s, it seemed that it was impossible to take a boring photograph. Realizing this, Patterson vowed to himself not to miss a moment, and he was a ubiquitous presence on the streets, in bars, and at parties, shooting literally hundreds of thousands of photographs and countless videos that captured the essence of the era in what might have been the most thrilling neighborhood on earth. For native New Yorkers, looking at his documents is like staring through a window to our own past, and the drugs, piercings, mohawks, kangols and graffiti on display are, in this context, not kitschy and nostalgic. Rather, they express the rich diversity of many little communities living together in a troubled little niche of the city, long ago changed beyond recognition.
Those who have lived in New York since the 70’s remember when the Lower East Side was not merely an edgy, popular neighborhood with a bustling night life. Back then, it was a cauldron in which avant-garde music and art were stirred together with punk rock and the nascent hip hop culture; and it was also a dirty, crumbling, and often quite dangerous place to live. When Patterson began, he was not anticipating that this dingy neighborhood populated by lower class Puerto Ricans, Jewish immigrants, radical squatters, and decadent hipsters would someday become a desirable location to live and the locus of the city’s never-ending cycle of gentrification. He just thought the place was wild, unpredictable, and undeniably beautiful in a gloriously ugly sort of way.
But even for long-time residents who can recall those days, the videos of the Tompkins Square Riots captured by Patterson in 1988 are a bracing reminder that, just 20 years ago, the battle between New York’s poorer residents and our professional-class gentrifiers was not fought in the newspapers and the city council. Back then, this fight was fought in the streets.
There couldn’t be a more perfect setting for the world premiere of this enrapturing documentary than amidst the stunning graffiti murals of Open Road Rooftop. Located atop a public high school in the heart of the Lower East Side, Open Road is one of the few remaining links to the radical urban culture of 80’s that shaped the life and art of Clayton Patterson. His odyssey from voyeur to political provocateur reveals that it can take losing everything you love to find your own significance.
For more info:
Film Production ►www.capturedmovie.com | Organization: ►www.rooftopfilms.com
After Party: Open Bar at Fontana’s (105 Eldridge St @ Grand)
Presented in partnership with:
IFC.com, New York magazine, IndiPix, Shooting People,
Open Road New York & New Design High School
| One thousand one hundred people watched last Friday night’s screening of “Captured,” the documentary film about Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson, at Rooftop Films atop New Design High School — the former Seward Park High School — at Grand and Essex Sts. Among them were, Scott Dillen, Henry Stern and Ed Koch. During the clashes between police and radical activists in Tompkins Square in 1988, Koch was New York’s mayor, Stern was Parks Department commissioner and Gillen was a narcotics detective policing on the Lower East Side. Koch and Dillen both are featured in “Captured.”
“It was a young crowd, they were from high school to 35,” said Patterson of the rooftop showing. “We had three screens, there was a nice, cool breeze, you could see the moon, and, you know, we were sitting out there in the open.”
The film was directed by Dan Levin, Ben Solomon and Jenner Furst, who, judging by the turnout, have built quite a following.
“We had more people attend this movie than any movie that was in Tribeca Film Festival,” boasted Patterson, whose documentary was rejected by the trendy festival. “Let DeNiro and Scorsese have the Rolling Stones and Hollywood — these three young directors have found their own youth market on their own. Tribeca [Film Festival] now is only about fame and money,” he said. “What about the next generation of New York City filmmakers?”
The Lower East Side rooftop even also featured a live band.
“Let Scorsese and DeNiro have their own geriatric rock-and-rollers,” Patterson scoffed, taking a shot at Scorsese’s new Stones film. “We’ll be happy with A.R.E. Weapons — the rock group we had play.”