PICTURE THIS: Nostalgia was in the air at the Not Fade Away Gallery on Thursday night, where New Yorkers of a certain age (and some of a younger one) gathered to celebrate former SoHo Weekly News photographer Allan Tannenbaum’s new exhibit “New York in the 70s,” a genre-spanning selection of pictures culled from the lensman’s recently re-released book of the same name (The Overlook Press), on view through June 25. “The Seventies in New York was a time where basically anything went,” explained Tannenbaum, taking a pause from signing books and greeting guests including music writer Danny Fields, photographer Bob Gruen, James Wolcott and Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye. “It was a very hedonistic period, which I’m not sure exists in this day and age anymore.”
To be sure, you’d be hard-pressed today to find a rock star willing to strip down to Skivvies for an impromptu shoot in an inflate-a-pool (see Tannenbaum’s “Patti Smith Soho Rooftop, NYC, 1974,”) or a world-famous couple allowing a newspaper photographer in on the most banal, private moments (as John Lennon and Yoko Ono did over several months in 1980). “These were one-on-one things,” Tannenbaum said of shooting famous faces, the results of which hung alongside his photos of seminal protests, parades, happenings and late nights at Studio 54 and Plato’s Retreat.
All of which raises the question, Is there a trick to being at the right place at the right time? “I think the word is the ‘moment’ — you’re looking for a moment to happen. You have to pay attention. A lot of it is just understanding the scene, knowing where you are and being ready [for] when the moment happens,” Tannenbaum said, a moment before Patrick McMullan tapped him on the shoulder. “I hate to interrupt,” said McMullan, an old friend, “but I have the famous photographer Lynn Goldsmith, [Allan’s] contemporary, to bring over.” After smiling with Tannenbaum for a few McMullan shots, Goldsmith, who’s known for her portraits of musicians like Sting and Bruce Springsteen, offered her take on the show: “The interesting thing about Allan’s work, why it’s so good, is because it covers not just music or entertainment, but it’s like the title of his book — it’s the times. It’s very exciting to see [his work] all together in one place in that it’s really what life was like in the Seventies.” — Nick Axelrod