Grégoire Alessandrini grew up in Paris, the son of a pair of rock critics who were big fans of American culture and cinema from the 1970s.
So when he got to New York as an exchange student in 1991, the city looked familiar.
“I thought ‘Oh My God’ – it looks just like Taxi Driver!” he says. “’Times Square’s just like Midnight Cowboy!’ There were all these echoes of those things.”
So he did what any film student might have: he pulled out his camera, and started shooting.
He didn’t stop for eight years, as he moved from the Lower East Side to the East Village to Harlem and to Chelsea, and from nightclub to rock scene to uptown.
“I’d walk, walk, walk with my camera,” he says today. “I’m sorry I didn’t take more photos, but that’s the way it is.”
He shot enough, though, squeezing off more than 1,000 frames in both color and black & white. Now he’s posted them on a website, for the enjoyment of those who remember that city, and for the wonder of those too young to have experienced it.
“When I saw how New York was changing, I realized I had images of things that were gone,” he says. “I realized that when I put them all together I could offer images of the city at a certain time, and give a wide portrait of what New York was at that time.”
His website shows images of the twin towers, of long-gone movie theaters, of graffiti and of the Brooklyn Bridge. None of it’s truly professionally done, but that’s where its charm lies.
“There was no theme, but every time I saw something I liked, that I was interested in or that evoked emotion, I’d take a photo,” he says.
He says he can now give something back to a city that welcomed him when he was young.
“I felt I was a New Yorker immediately – they made me feel like I was part of them,” he says.
So today he’s returning the favor.
For more information, go to http://galessandrini.blogspot.fr/