In the tradition of Jamel Shabazz’s legendary classic Back in the Days, or Jean-Paul Goude’s Jungle Fever, The Forty-Deuce showcases the style of New York’s first b-boys, as they were back in the beginning of the 80’s. Looking at the captivating images from The Forty-Deuce it is obvious that there was a lot more to 42nd Street than b-boys; Bill Butterworth’s detailed images shows the slick pimps, strung out hustlers, and the spandex and leather clad prostitutes, strippers, and trannies that tirelessly worked 42nd Street in their full glory.
Bill Butterworth came to New York from Australia in 1964 at the age of 24. He worked as an usher at the old Metropolitan Opera House at 39th Street and Broadway, while also studying painting at the Art Students League of New York. It was while working for SoHo artists as a studio assistant he realized a long-held goal of becoming a ‘photo man’. Beginning in Washington Square Park and moving, in 1983, to 42nd Street, Butterworth took photos with a medium format camera and made 8×10 color enlargements of his work, soon finding many customers. He continued as a photo man on 42nd Street for 14 years.
In those days – the 1970’s and 80’s – New York City was internationally renowned for its seedy underbelly. And the ground zero of New York vice, hands down, was 42nd Street/Times Square—a.k.a. the Forty-Deuce. On any given night on the Forty-Deuce you could take in the latest blockbuster, a B-movie, or a porno; score drugs or sexual kicks or both. A playground for the perverse, as well as a natural destination for thrill-seekers looking to party from every borough of New York City and beyond, Times Square was the electric heart of the city that refused to sleep.
The Forty-Deuce: The Times Square Photographs of Bill Butterworth, 1983-1984 is a series of photographs capturing a gritty, glamorous, and authentic old-school New York, well before Mickey Mouse took over Times Square and scrubbed it clean. Curators and editors Beatriz and Hilton Ariel Ruiz have collected and preserved the work of local street photographer Bill Butterworth, and have drawn from his work to create a revealing portrait of the Forty-Deuce, inside and out—capturing the unique street life and street style of the era, but also drawing us deeper in, to the peep shows, seedy joints, sex shops, backroom brothels, dimly lit arcades, and low-budget theatres where the action happened. And when it did, photographer Bill Butterworth was there to capture the scene through intimate portraits of the people and faces that walked and worked Times Square. This body of work was created during the early 80’s when sex, drugs and fashion were celebrated to a throbbing disco beat and NYC lead the world in hip/urban cultural expression. This is real life and a tremendous collection of captured moments, the like of which you’ll probably never see in Times Square again.
All images from The Forty-Deuce | The Times Square Photographs of Bill Butterworth, 1983-1984 edited by Hilton Ariel Ruiz and Beatriz Ruiz, published by powerHouse Books.
Available to buy from http://www.powerhousebooks.com/site/?p=7362
Words by Anna Bang
Tagsanna bang, Bill Butterworth, Jamel Shabazz, Jean-Paul Goude, Power House Books, The Forty-Deuce,