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Vintage photos show 1970s Manhattan in all its gritty glory

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The Museum of the City of New York recently acquired fascinating images from photographer Leland Bobbé

Photographer Leland Bobbé has been capturing different parts of New York City—street scenes, passengers on the subway, art peeling off of billboards, and the like—for more than 40 years, and his images offer a fascinating look at a complex city.

Recently, 18 of his earlier photographs (taken during the 1970s) were added to the Museum of the City of New York’s collection, and the museum used the occasion as an opportunity to revisit Bobbé’s output.

Before he became the famed photographer he is today, Bobbé worked as a cab driver, and according to MCNY, "he would regularly ride his bicycle up through Chinatown, the Bowery and over to 23rd Street to pick up the cab at the depot." Riding through NYC’s various neighborhoods—particularly during the tumultuous 1970s—inspired him, and he began capturing the places and people he would see on his daily travels.

Bobbé talked about his experience photographing the city in the 1970s thusly:

The fact that I drove a taxi during the 70’s had a direct influence on my interest in street photography. Being on the streets for hours at a time in all parts of the city gave me a real familiarity with the different neighborhoods. This translated into a comfort level when I was out photographing.

Some of Bobbé’s early photos from Times Square, Chinatown, and the Bowery are on view at MCNY’s new exhibit, "From Teaspoons to Titantic," which showcases recent acquistions; you can see more of his striking photos there, or in the museum’s blog post about Bobbé.