Alain Levitt's Lower East Side Time Capsule

Alain Levitt's Lower East Side Time Capsule

By Tobias HessApr 26, 2024

New York churns forward. Though gentrification threatens to turn the city into nothing more than a shopping mall for influencers, NYC has a dastardly way of holding on. And no neighborhood captures that better than the Lower East Side, that southern Manhattan enclave whose bohemian inhabitants have shaped the cultural zeitgeist for over a century.

Alain Levitt photographed the neighborhood in the early-aughts. A wide-eyed newcomer from California, Alain picked up a camera upon his arrival in 2000 and found himself right in the eye of the storm. Tasked with gathering street photography for his sister Danielle Levitt’s New York Post style column, Alain was thrust into the hard work of documenting LES life in its totality: the glamorous and gritty, the elite and mundane. And as Alain grew older and began working at the iconic NYC gay bar The Cock, the city's unruly pace began to show itself in his photos.

Given the infinite cool of the neighborhood, documenting life did happen to include capturing those at the highest echelons of pop culture. Chloë Sevigny, Jay-Z and Amanda Lepore all found Alain’s lens. Although the towering weight of such fame could outshine Alain’s flash, his gentle approach has a way of foregrounding the humanity of his subjects — like Sevigny’s tired eyes as she dons an ostentatious fur or Lepore’s skeptical gaze as a friend nestles next to her, his eyes bloodied and bloodshot.

You can see Alain Levitt’s photography at his show, NYC 2000-2005, now on display at WHAAM! (15 Elizabeth Street, New York City) until May 15.

Photos courtesy of Alain Levitt (WHAAM!)