Artist Statement: Record Store Graffiti
The intention behind “Record Store Graffiti : A Portrait of Bleecker Bob’s” was to capture the essence of a place that brought people together to share ideas, discover new ones, play music and form bands — all before the store would be gone forever.
Record stores like Bob’s weren’t about shopping. They were about searching for objects, and connecting us to feelings that, oftentimes, feel like only our own, but that are shared by others. The photography series explores this sentiment by preserving character development drawn on every 45s record case, worn into the floorboards, and covering every inch of the place with memorabilia.
Here, Lenny Kaye met Patti Smith, and artists such as the Lovin’ Spoonful, James Taylor, and Tim Buckley performed in the mid-‘60s, when it was still called the Night Owl Café. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Frank Zappa and David Bowie were known to stop by here as well. The history of Bob’s is our story too.
Bob’s was a combustive space that collected this energy and spit it back onto the Greenwich Village scene. It moved stories, ideas and people forward. Although records can always be bought and sold, there’s nothing quite like entering a space where such alchemy happens. You feel it immediately, and are never sure how long you’ll be sucked in. Without places like Bob’s, especially in a culturally rich neighborhood such as Greenwich Village, the history and spirit must find another place to go or else it could be lost forever.
The photography in “Record Store Graffiti : A Portrait of Bleecker Bob’s” was created during two late night cram sessions in April 2013 just before the store closed that month. As bar hoppers emptied onto the streets in search of a cab or, perhaps, as an NYU student burned the midnight oil for their exams, I diligently documented everything I could. I crafted collages out of the record dividers, photographed 45s on the floor, shot the bathroom, the cash register – everything in sight. The photography production, just like Bob’s itself, was down and dirty. No lights, no frills. Just a surge of creativity compressed into several hours over two days with no time to think, only shoot.
Bleecker Bob’s closed less than a week after the shoot and closed the book after forty-six years in business. A frozen yogurt shop was rumored to be taking its spot, but how could a temporary delight possibly replace a creative shrine built one vinyl at a time? Everything had to go. All the dust swept off its wooden floors, all the grit painted walls, and all the Old New York romance that burns in the city, wiped away clean.