Red Eye - Seventies New York

The Gallery at Leica Store San Francisco, in collaboration with Contact Press Images, is excited to present its current photography exhibit, and the world premiere of Red Eye - Seventies New York, in conjunction with the release of the book of the same name and showcasing the photographs of Frank Fournier. Frank's photographs document New York City in exquisite colors during the late 1970s and 1980s.

As a young medical student, Frank Fournier set his studies aside and traveled from France to New York City in 1976 with the intention of pursuing photojournalism and covering current events that interested him. Upon arriving in NYC, he spent his first several years assisting photographers and picking up odd jobs to be a part of the working environment with hopes of landing more photographic opportunities. Although he appreciated Paris, he felt there were more professional opportunities in NYC where he fell under the spell of Time and Life Magazines. He joined the staff of Contact Press Images in 1977 and became a member photographer in 1982.

The photographs that comprise Red Eye - Seventies New York were made after Frank Fournier’s arrival into the united states during a time when New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy and going through a major transition due to many years of fiscal mismanagement, deteriorating infrastructure, the NYPD police strike and the famous blackout of 1977. All, while the city threw a big celebration for the Bicentennial of the United States and the Yankees winning the World Series. Fournier, unaware of the news concerning the city's downswing, photographed with great intent the light of NY, intense and brutal at times; other times soft and sweet, leaving a mark in his archive between his photojournalist assignments.

Utilizing Kodachrome film, he set out to document all that he could see, noticing a propensity of the color red in his work to reflect the city in its throws, the people, and the overall unspoken turmoil that was unknowingly being experienced by all. As a friend of Fournier's from back in his medical studies days once told him; “You still carry something around your neck, you only switched from a stethoscope to a camera, yet you are approaching people with the same concern.”

President Gerald Ford, on October 29, 1975, never told the city of New York, then on the verge of bankruptcy: “Drop Dead.” But that is how the 15-cent New York Daily News characterized his speech. Ford’s words took on a life of their own despite his efforts to clarify his view. Indeed, as my Pan Am flight landed from Paris, at John F. Kennedy airport, New York City then was living a near-death experience after years of irrational fiscal management. The city was borrowing heavily to pay its workers; the police had gone on strike just before NYPD Detective Frank Serpico made international headlines about department-wide police corruption. The basic services, roads, public transportation, electricity -- were in total disarray -- the famous blackout of July 1977 was about to unravel. Last but not least, American Airlines was among some of the Fortune 500 companies that had decided to move its headquarters from the financial center that is New York. And yet, in this chaos, three months before I arrived, the city had thrown a magnificent Operation Sail in the New York Harbor to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the United States and a year later the Yankees won the World Series.

Even though the newspaper’s lead headline stuck in everyone’s memory, Ford’s message -- who was one of the few Republican’s to like New York -- was correct and clear: ‘New York, it’s time for you to put your house in order and be fiscally accountable’. Mayor Edward Koch was elected with this mandate, and it took him three terms to meet it. Of course, coming from France a few months after President Ford’s speech, I was blissfully unaware of the news concerning this city on the downswing. Blinded by photographic passion, I focused on my visual hopes, the light of New York, intense and brutal at times; other times soft, sweet, delicate, almost magical when light bounces off buildings to crystallize people. The sense of place struck me like no other to let the mighty and fiery charm of this mesmerizing city overtake you. Enthralled by the depth and generous color of Kodachrome film, I started photographing the city with a passion and awe that has never mellowed. The following photographs were taken in the months and years that followed President Ford’s speech.

- Frank Fournier

Red Eye - Seventies New York
Photographs by Frank Fournier
60 pages, 8x8 inches
Published by Alex Ramos Press

Pre-Order Here

About Frank Fournier:

Frank Fournier was born in 1948 in Saint-Sever, France. He set medical studies aside to begin his career in photography in 1975 in New York. He joined the staff of Contact Press Images in 1977 and became a member photographer in 1982. In 1986, he received the World Press Photo Premier Award for his portrait of Omayra Sanchez, a 13-year-old victim of the Nevada del Ruiz volcano’s eruption in Columbia who became inextricably trapped ultimately dying. A deeply humanistic photographer, he was an early documenter of AIDS in America and so it was natural that he would rush to cover an epidemic of infants with AIDS in Romania. He would go on to document rape as a weapon of war during the Bosnian civil war and provided haunting coverage of the genocide in Rwanda. Frank was present at Ground Zero on September 11th and has covered many stories in Central America and Africa since. He is based in New York City.