Ever get all moony over old (or even not-so-old) photos of New York? Yeah, us too. Then this Tumblr we just discovered, NYC Past, will help you get your fix. In fact, it'll be like your crack. Your crack that has page after page of enormous black-and-white photos featuring cornice-laden facades, turn-of-the-century carriages, suffrage parades, and ladies in long skirts arm in arm with men in hats out shopping along Sixth Avenue near the elevated train tracks. Most posts are tagged with their location and year they were taken, as well as their contents (i.e. horses; the Chrysler Building) and range from 1900 all the way up the 80s.
The blog has been up for a little over a year, but who runs it had remained a mystery. Under "more information," it just says "patience." But via NYC Past's sister site in Chicago, we managed to track down the site's founder?a fellow old-photo geek who by day works as a scientist researching the molecular aspects of human diseases.
Vallen Graham, 34, is a relatively recent transplant who moved to the city a few days after a big snowstorm in late 2010. He told us more about how he launched NYC Past, his failsafe sources for old photographs, and his favorite eras in New York's history.
Curbed: How did the site come about?
Vallen Graham: For the past few years, I've been exchanging links to amazing historic photos with my friend John Schroeder from Chicago. One day, in late January of 2012 the idea occurred to us, that we should post these photos on Tumblr to make a more formal collection of what we'd been finding. So we decided on the names "NYC Past" and "Chicago Past" and the same minimal format using the JSTN HiRes Tumblr theme to present large, high-resolution photos with a link back to the original source.
Curbed: Where do you get the photos from, and how do you decide what photos to use on a given day?
VG: All of the photos are from the Library of Congress collection. I also enjoy browsing the collection at the NYC Municipal Archives. Generally, I like to post groups of photos on a particular theme or what's happening in NYC at the time. For example, the Grand Central centennial, rain, snow, or even just a collection of photos with people wearing hats.
Curbed: What is your favorite era of New York City photography history, and why?
VG: My favorite time period is around the 20s and 30s, when there is a noticeable shift from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles. This must have been an amazing time in the city's history.
Curbed: If you had to pick: skyline shots or street life shots?
VG: While I love the skyline shots and observing the changes over time, my favorite images are the street scenes with people. The street photography captures a slice of everyday life, which reminds me that our city has a rich history filled with unknowable personal stories. Also, the fashion was outstanding!!!
· NYC Past [nycpast.tumblr.com]