Tribute to a Visual Voice

At its very best the Village Voice was a muckraking, underbelly-exploring, fiercely creative journalistic voice in a city that needed its moxie.

The weekly tabloid tilted at the windmills of power in New York, empowering its writers to write with individuality, producing reams of vital storytelling that rivaled its more well-known, and traditional broadsheet cousins.

That chapter sadly came to an end in August, when the Voice shut down its digital operations – a year after halting production of a weekly newspaper that was started by a three-man group including Norman Mailer in 1955. But its legacy and those of the early group of creatives that worked on it lives on – most recently in an exhibition and book dedicated to photographer Fred W. McDarrah.

Some of McDarrah’s best images have achieved rare icon status – Dylan saluting while sitting on a park bench, Robert Kennedy in black and white against a wall bearing a picture of Jesus. But his biggest contribution is in his documentation of a New York that was as raw as it was rising. He toured the bars of the West Village photographing the beat generation, and shot 16 frames the night police raided the Stonewall Inn, launching the gay rights movement. If there was something happening in NYC in the 60s and 70s, he and his Nikon S-2 were- Warhol’s factory, Robert F. Kennedy and Jack Kerouac and every underground bohemian happening of the time.

McDarrah, who died in 2007, worked at the Voice for 50 years after becoming its first staff photographer. What he managed to capture in that time was era-defining. 

There seems to be a thriving market for images of this time, as shown by the success of Pierre Vudrag’s film poster business of 60s and 70s movie stars.

Fred McDarrah: New York Scenes is available on Amazon.

If you’re in New York, swing by the Steven Kasher Gallery. The exhibition runs until Nov. 3.

Andreas Tzortzis
Andreas Tzortzis
He has worked as a journalist for the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Newsweek and Monocle Magazine from Berlin and London before leading Red Bull’s mainstream-facing content platform, The Red Bulletin, from Los Angeles. He recently returned to his hometown of San Francisco with his small family. dre@agei.st

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