Carole Teller's Changing New York

Village Preservation

Carole Teller, a Brooklyn-born artist who has lived in the East Village of New York City for over 50 years. Carole is also a photographer with a keen and prescient eye, capturing in her daily travels places that struck her, but which were also often on the precipice of change or disappearing. In some cases these were buildings in the process of being demolished, like Penn Station or tenements being cleared for urban renewal. From the early 1960s to the early 1990s – a period during which New York underwent incredible change, and has since undergone further dramatic change – Carole captures the poignancy and beauty of a city in flux. While she focused largely on her downtown surroundings, she captured Brooklyn, Midtown, and other locations as they experienced the sometimes jarring ebb and flow of time. 

159 Grand Street "Chickens", Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Often, Teller's subjects these were people, businesses, street scenes, or layers of grit or decay which were integral parts of her New York, but which were frequently on the edge of transformation, revival, or removal.

298 and 300 Grand Street, Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Carole Teller studied the street fronts of her neighborhood. Signage of different eras face out from buildings that have gone through several owners. The differing organization of windows on the building show how it was divided and built up separately for each shop.

282, 284, 286 Grand Street, Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Although many of Teller's captured buildings were long standing and still remain today, their identities shifted many times over the decades. Here, Grand Street is a collection of textile and decoration store fronts.

Sidewalk Cafe Avenue A and 6 Street, Carole Teller, 1996-05-11, From the collection of: Village Preservation

While observing empty streets to observe their structures, Teller also captured buzzing scenes of New Yorkers around her at social centers such as the Sidewalk Cafe [pictured].

36 St. Mark's Place, Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

In iconic areas of the city, like St. Mark's Place, Teller focused on intimate details of life in New York. Here is an example where Carole Teller captures a figure standing at a row of payphones. Many of these sites have since been scrubbed clean and only carry traces of their weathered past.

Latino Church procession marching south on 2nd Avenue, Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

A large part of life in the East Village was harmony between different communities. People of different cultures, languages, lifestyles, and religions all interacted with each other and represented their groups in public. Teller photographed community and social events such as Latino church processions in the streets.

Hare Krishnas in Tompkins Square, Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

A foundation of 1960's and 70s New York and one of the most widespread groups in the city, was the Hare Krishna movement. The religious group that drew young people from across America to New York began in 1966 in Tompkin's Square Park in the East Village. Founder Srila Prabhupada would hold weekly lectures and public chants in the park to draw followers and converts.

2nd Avenue Hare Krishna Procession, Carole Teller, ca. 1969, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Carole Teller spent much time observing various Hare Krishna branches and documenting their movements, processions, and integration into the streets, parks, and life of New York. Practices of the Hare Krishna order involve walking the streets to spread the belief and ask for donations. The movement grew rapidly and by the end of the 1990's, there were over 50 centers within the US.

Lincoln Swados in front of 99 East 4th Street, Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Carole Teller guided eyes towards small, forgotten details of her city but also presented silent dignity and interest in lost, forgotten people. Lincoln Swados was the brother of American writer and composer Elizabeth Swados.

Read more about Lincoln Swados here

John Cage, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, James Black and the Whites, the Cramps etc., Carole Teller, 1982, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Teller's work reflected her love and respect for the city as she watched it change. Her photographs captured how different aspects of the city write over each other and become buried in the past. However, her work also reveals that the city's transformation sometimes preserves details that continue to define New York in playful and intriguing ways.

Washington Square Arch wrapped by artist Francis Heins, Francis Hines, Carole Teller, 1980, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Other artists also examined the fast paced, dynamic energy of New York City. Francis Hines installed a temporary exhibit by wrapping the iconic Washington Square Arch. Above is Carole Tellers photograph of his work in the square.

Detail, Washington Square Arch wrapped by artist Francis Hines, Carole Teller, Francis Hines, 1980, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Francis Hines' installation required 8000 yards of polyester gauze to wrap the Washington Square Arch in geometrically arranged, overlapping, strips.

View of Washington Square Arch wrapped by artist Francis Hines, Carole Teller, Francis Hines, 1980, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Artists were in close quarters in the East Village and often reflected, responded, and interacted with each other's works while working in proximity. Francis Hines' installation was sponsored by NYU and the local community to raise funds for arch and park improvements.

Washington Square Arch and George Washington statue, Carole Teller, From the collection of: Village Preservation

Carole Teller's photographs echo the electric fluidity that surrounded the East Village over several decades. Change in New York is an expected norm, sometimes so constant it almost goes unnoticed. It’s such an ingrained part of the New Yorker’s experience, we often forget just how much our city has transformed, and what we have left behind.

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