From John Leland’s article and slide show of photography by Janet Delaney for The New York Times:
New York in the mid-1980s was a city braced for powerful forces: the swaggering yuppiedom of “Bonfire of the Vanities” and Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” (both 1987); the AIDS epidemic and the crack wars; the graffiti boom and the golden age of New York hip-hop. For the photographer Janet Delaney, who visited regularly from the West Coast, between trips to Nicaragua, New York in the mid-1980s was a street theater where people wore their anxieties on their faces, a city that looked you in the eye. It was also a tough place to break into as an outsider, she said.
“When I brought my photographs to people in New York, they said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding — who are you to take photos of us?’” So after four or five weeklong trips from 1984 through 1987, where she shot mainly in the Financial District and the Lower East Side, she put the work on the shelf, where it sat for almost three decades. Now 63, she revisited the pictures a few years ago, and found a New York that may have existed only in her camera: characters who commanded center stage in their own urban dramas, culling all necessary information from the streets around them, not from their digital devices. All that was coming, of course, and if you look hard enough at these images, maybe you can sense it on the horizon, adding one more crease to the solitary faces.