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1970s SOJOURN — Vintage photographs of NYC faith & life

Documerica’s 1970s photos of NYC.

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Preacher Draws lunchtime crowd in Lower Manhattan, May 1973

Preacher draws lunchtime crowd in Lower Manhattan, May 1973. Wil Blanche/Documerica


In the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency commissioned photographers to take photos of the state of the environment and American life. The documentary project, called Documerica, ran from 1971 to 1977. Documerica founder Gifford Hampshire told his photographers to document "the human condition" in the city streets, mines, polluted waterways and other environmental structures. Over 15,000 digitized photos from Documerica are available from the National Archives.

Based on the photos now released for New York City the project seems to have been pretty blind-eyed to faith in the city, photographing very few churches, synagogues and other religious activities on the city streets. The human condition seems to have meant the secular human condition as far as the photographers in NYC were concerned.  However, there is one striking photograph by Wil Blanche of a street preacher in Lower Manhattan in May 1973. At present we do not know the name of this preacher nor the occasion of his preaching. Can you help us? If you know who this preacher is or can ask people from that time, would you let us know?

In the past you helped us to identify a woman and child going to church on Easter in a famous photograph by Mel Rosenthal in his "South Bronx Series." Maybe, we can discover the identities of the preacher in the photo at the top! Thanks!


St. Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church Wall Street parish on Lower Broadway at the Foot of Wall Street. Behind Loom the Towers of One of Manhattan's Newest Giants, the World Trade Center, May 1973. Wil Blanche/Documerica



People relaxing in East River Park in Manhattan, New York City. The inner city today is an absolute contradiction to the main stream America of gas stations, expressways, EXPRESSWAYS, shopping centers and tract homes. It is populated by Blacks, Latins and the White poor. Some of the best American architecture survives in her "worst" neighborhoods, only because it hasn't been demolished, July 1974. Danny Lyon/Documerica



Two Latin girls pose in front of a wall of graffiti in Lynch Park, in Brooklyn, New York City, June, 1974.
Danny Lyon/Documerica


Three young girls on Bond Street, Brooklyn, July 1974. Danny Lyon/Documerica



Children on the street in East Brooklyn, May 1973. Jim Pickerell/Documerica




Brooklyn’s Bushwick Avenue seen from an elevated train platform in New York City, June 1974. Danny Lyon/Documerica



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