Viewfinder | Harvey’s “East Village and Beyond”

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I was born in the East Village in the 1940s and lived here for most of my life. I was active in the East Village cultural scene, and tried my hand at acting and stand-up comedy for a time. When I started using photography as a medium of expression, it became second nature for me to document local history through my lens. Today, I host a public access TV show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network (M.N.N.) called “Harvey’s Earth and Beyond,” and many of my ideas for my show come from my performance days in the East Village.

I shot this photo of William Kunstler rallying at Cooper Union. He was one of the most celebrated civil rights attorneys, having headed up the A.C.L.U., defending the Chicago Seven, the Black Panthers, etc. He was a master at public relations, especially with the press. I believe this was one of his last appearances before he passed away.

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The crowd at the Kunstler rally.

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East Village street scene protesting the oil wars. When this picture was taken, a gallon of gas was about $1.20.

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When I read about the current Occupy protests, I recall how the East Village was often the setting for so many political and social uprisings. This was a protest of the “Emergency Coalition to Save New York’s Health Care,” aimed at then-Governor Pataki. It’s interesting to see the level of N.Y.P.D. crowd control efforts here compare to the Occupy Wall Street efforts. I guess some protests require mounted cops and riot gear more than others.

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With every photo jaunt I took, it was very important to me to capture the local flavor of the East Village and N.Y.C. I found it was easiest to do this by photographing people, both friends and strangers.

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Eddie Birchmore was a good friend and an East Village staple. He and his partners started an internet cafe on Cooper Square in 1995 where he also hosted poetry nights (pictured). His ashes were ceremoniously scattered in the East Village in 2001. I miss him.

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There was no shortage of homeless in the East Village before the Giuliani dragnet initiative eradicated them from the streets.

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Homeless theatrics on West 10th Street.

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Sometimes, the street element was not so pretty.

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At other times, it was breathtaking.

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Quasi-self portrait – First Avenue. I’m the one with the camera.

I’ve tried to use my photography to capture distinct moments in history. Where history is the proverbial forest, I want my photographs to be the trees. The East Village has always inspired me to think artistically and to be politically aware and I’m very proud to be a native East Villager. You may see things in New York City you won’t ever see in all the world. But in the East Village, you see things you’ll never see in all of New York City.”

Harvey Wiesnenberg is a community contributor to The Local East Village. “Harvey’s Earth and Beyond” airs live most Fridays on Manhattan Neighborhood Network TV. Check local listings.