Text by Jeanette O’Keefe
Long before I recognized the name Richard Kalvar , this photograph had already etched itself in my mind.
There are so many things that make this a great picture for me. The looming inversed spires of the Brooklyn Bridge; the verticals, diagonals and horizontals of the suspension cables and planks; the way the middle beam cuts the image and pulls the viewer forward.
In 1969, New York was less gentrified and more dangerous. It was a time when the bridge wasn’t congested with tourists, joggers and cyclists every hour of the day, and nifty cars roamed the streets. I was always fascinated with images that captured a time in New York that I did not know, a ghostly testament to the city’s former self.
But what really makes this image is the man on the right. Why is he naked? Why is he stumbling? What just happened? This image raises those questions, but also transcends them.
There is beauty in his posture, grace in his stumble. The shape of the man has a painterly effect. Like one of Jackson Pollock’s splotches that could have gone any which way but is perfectly balanced just the way it is. Or one of Kandinsky’s musical compositions, where abstract shapes and colors evoke particular emotions.
What makes this image stick in my mind is the way Kalvar turned New York’s chaos into harmony. This for me is a classic street photograph.