Viewfinder | Rough Around the Edges

Tompkins Square Park, September 1994

From 1994 to 1995 I lived in a converted storefront on the Lower East Side, at 112 Suffolk Street between Delancey and Rivington Streets. Back then the neighborhood was not yet gentrified and was somewhat rough around the edges. I was a new father and even though I was pushing my baby daughter around in a stroller it took the drug dealers a couple of weeks before they realized I lived there and wasn’t there to buy heroin. I worked part-time waiting tables and working as a photographer’s assistant whenever I could; I was rarely without a camera.

I always found the temperance fountain in Tompkins Square Park to be quite out of place — not many of the park’s residents practiced temperance.


A discarded syringe was one of the many signs of the thriving drug trade in the neighborhood. Although a somewhat grim subject to photograph, this was a reality of the time so I felt compelled to document it.


There was often police activity in the neighborhood. I was drawn to the lines in this image of a barricade outside a bodega at the corner of Suffolk and Rivington Streets.

Tompkins01Tompkins Square Park, September 1994

Tompkins Square Park was always an interesting place to shoot, full of characters. I came across this trio fast asleep on the benches at around 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning in September of 1994. A different version of this shot was published in American Theatre Magazine to illustrate an article about a production of “Antigone” set in Tompkins Square Park.

Tomkins03Tompkins Square Park, September 1994

There were many homeless living in the park in 1994. I made this photograph of a homeless man just after he awoke and was smoking his first cigarette of the day. (I was shooting sideways with a twin lens reflex camera, he wasn’t aware the photograph was being shot.)


A window on Suffolk Street with multiple signs reading “Do Not knock on my window!” People would knock on random doors and windows in the middle of the night seeking drugs.

Nick Young is a British photographer who has lived and worked in the U.S. for 18 years. After stints in New York, New Jersey and Alabama he is now settled in Plano, Texas. He is the in-house photographer for Collin College, and proud single dad to his 17-year-old daughter Louisa.

His current work can be seen here .