In 1978, Matt Weber was a taxi driver in a city plagued with crime, abandoned buildings and a government on the verge of financial collapse.
New York City had seen better days.
Working the night shift, Weber witnessed the fights and arrests, saw the hookers and the homeless, and ‘so many crazy things on the street that I kept saying, “Damn, I’ve got to buy a camera,”’ he said in a 2017 article.
‘If you saw the movie Taxi Driver, that was the world that was out there. There were prostitutes on the corner, Times Square was crazy; it was a dangerous part of town. I was robbed in my taxicab at double gunpoint.’
So he picked up a camera and started chronicling the porn, peep shows and prostitution in Times Square, the busted cars in Harlem, and the sailors who came to town for Fleet Week.
His decades of documenting the city is now part of a new book, ‘Street Trip. Life in NYC,’ published by Carpet Bombing Culture.
Times Square, now a tourist mecca, used to be a vastly different place in the 1980s with porn, peep shows and prostitution
Ladies of the night working in 1988. Prostitution was rampant over the city, but especially in Times Square and on the West Side, now home to some of the city’s most expensive real estate
Sailors in Times Square in 1989. The sign behind them touts ‘The Best Porn in NYC.’ The tradition of Fleet Week continues
Matt Weber took the image above while spending decades documenting the city with his camera
Weber said that he didn’t start out with the intention of being a street photographer. Above, someone took the time to display stuffed animals in an apartment building’s windows in an image taken in 1988
Two young men, above, pose by a sign advertising ‘the best in adult entertainment,’ in an image taken in Times Square in 1988
Two women sporting fur coats in an image taxi driver turned photographer Matt Weber took in 1989
The eye is immediately drawn to the 35 cents in change in the person’s hand in an image taken in 1988
Matt Weber shot snaps on New York City streets for many year. Above, sailors in Times Square in an image taken in 2006
Looking out of his cab’s window, Weber said he saw a ‘many crazy things on the street.’ Above, two men fight in an image from 2010
In a surreal photo, a man looks at one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001
Weber said that he didn’t intend to become a street photographer, according to a 2017 article.
‘My early work was basically just documents of the city with a couple of interesting street pictures just thrown in. Then, at one point, I just wanted to see some other photography and learn a little more about it and so I bought a few books and went to a few exhibits and at that point I was like, holy s***, there’s this whole world that I didn’t understand.’
Weber noted in the article that change is the only constant. New York City’s neighborhoods have changed dramatically since he began photographing in the late 1970s.
‘I found maybe a hundred shots that were really good that I didn’t think had any value back in ‘88. I didn’t even mark them. Image after image after image and it took 20 years for those images to gain significance. Pictures of the Lower East Side and now they’re significant. Alphabet City, it was crazy; look at that abandoned car in the middle of the lot on 4th street with old junkies around – or Times Square.’
The black and white images, part of a book that is out on May 27, show another gritty side to New York City, much of which is long gone.
Above, four hookers working a corner in 1985 in front of a building that states it is a furniture outlet
A prostitute rests on the hood of a car in an image that photographer Matt Weber took in 1990
Young men enjoy a day at the beach in Coney Island, Brooklyn in an undated photo
A man diving at the beach in Coney Island, and its iconic Wonder Wheel can be seen in the background
Matt Weber started out as a taxi driver in 1978 and quickly realized that he should taking photos of what he saw on the street. Above, an image of a taxi cab in an undated photo
Weber said in 2017 article that while other cabbies refused to go to Harlem, he drove up to the neighborhood. Above, a taxi that has seen better days in 1987
A car crash in Harlem in 1988 in an photo taken by Matt Weber, who has been documenting New York City for decades
Above, marquees touting movies such as ‘The Naked Gun’ in Times Square in 1989
Above, a man displays his behind while people wait in line in an image taken by photographer Matt Weber
The Guardian Angels were formed in 1979 to fight against crime. In the late 1970s, New York City was plagued with crime, its police force was cut and it teetered on bankruptcy. Above, members of the Guardian Angels in Times Square in 1988
Above, Hell’s Angels riding their motorcycles in 1990. Photographer Matt Weber spent decades chronicling New York City with his camera
Above, a homeless person in an undated photo. Homelessness is an issue that New York City continues to grapple with today
Above, two men at a peep show in Times Square on New Year’s Eve in 1989. Times Square nowadays is tourist friendly
Above, Guardian Angels, a group that formed to fight crime, on the streets in Times Square in 1989
Sailors come to New York City regularly for what is known as Fleet Week. Above, three sailors in Times Square sometime in the 1980s
Above, sailors entering a peep show in Times Square in 1989
Above, cops seem to be arresting some men in Harlem in an image taken in 1987
A lady of the night talking to a man in Times Square in 1989