About photobooks – old and new.
“New York, New York”, published in 1972, is the archetype of a photobook capable of transcending and expanding the language of the photographs themselves. The vast array of black and white photos included in this book range from banal elements of everyday life to iconic landmarks of New York’s landscape. Individually, the photos wouldn’t be particularly interesting, but as a sequence, they gain a cinematic quality, expressing the frenetic pulse of NYC in the midst of the psychedelic era.
The first distinctive feature of “New York, New York” is the rough and raw style of the images, which are often grainy, highly contrasted, and sometimes even slightly out-of-focus. There are, for instance, several portraits whose details are blown up by the excess of grain on the picture, similar to a badly adjusted TV screen. This rough style allows Lorinczy Gyorgy to unleash his creativity and to more spontaneously translate his excitement about New York’s feverish environment, instead of focusing on perfect compositions. This is in part reminiscent of the style of William Klein, who had published several books by the time Lorinczy arrived to the city, even though the essence of their projects is quite different.
Another distinctive feature of this photobook is the continuous flow of photos that appear unrelated and randomly chosen. As the reader flips through the pages, the focus shifts abruptly from aerial views of skyscrapers to garbage bins, from passerbies in the snow to close-ups of cockroaches, from portraits of iconic characters of that time in NY, such as Allen Ginsberg, to obvious symbols of capitalism, etc. The overall sequence accentuates a sensation of constant movement and frenzy. As Parr and Badger point out (in History of the photobook, volume I), Lorinczy’s vibrant photographic language is an example of “stream-of-consciousness photography”, echoing the photographer’s subconscious and intuition, similar to the frenetic writing approach of the beat generation authors.
The main innovative aspect of this book resides, however, in the hallucinatory feeling conveyed by the frequent use of “solarizations”. Many of the NYC street images included in this book, for instance, are “solarizations” (a technique often employed by surrealistic photographers, such a Man Ray), which introduce an oneiric dimension and blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. As this was an era of experimentation with drugs, one could even consider that these “solarizations” mirror hallucinatory experiences, while they emphasize the vibrancy and psychedelic atmosphere experienced in some milieu during that time in New York. Ultimately, the “solarizations”, as well as two glassines (one with Captain America) reveal Lorinczy’s interest in transgressing the conventional approach to street photography, by introducing fictional elements.
Lorinczy Gyorgy, a relatively unknown Hungarian photographer, demonstrates that an exciting photobook is not only about beautiful pictures and so-called good photographic technique. The use of a more informal style and alternative techniques can better express an author’s psychological experience, as well as a city’s atmosphere. “New York, New York” was originally published in 1972, with 5200 copies and an additional 1200 numbered copies. The popularity of this book justified a second edition in 2004, with 1000 copies, showing that Lorinczy’s work continues to draw interest.