Amazing images show New York City in black-and-white

Street photographer’s amazing images show New York City in black-and-white – from the gritty days of the 70s and 80s to its revival in the 90s and 2000s

  • Jeff Rothstein has been taking pictures of New York City over the course of the last five decades
  • His latest book, Today’s Special: New York City Images 1969-2006, shows incredible black-and-white images that he snapped
  • Rothstein photographed world famous New Yorkers like John Lennon and Yoko Ono as well as cultural icons like Muhammad Ali 

New York City is unique in character – and one of its native sons has published a collection of black-and-white photographs capturing its quirks spanning more than 35 years.

Jeff Rothstein, a photographer from Brooklyn, has spent his adult life snapping pictures of New York City.

His latest book is titled Today’s Special: New York City Images 1969-2006.

It includes images of New York icons and institutions.

‘Wandering the streets with my 35mm cameras loaded with [black-and-white] film, I consider myself an urban observer,’ Rothstein said. 

‘I try to capture the city’s environment – structures, signs and, most of all, the fleeting moments of people on the streets that will soon disappear into thin air.’ 

Two lovebirds enjoy the view of the East River and the Queensboro Bridge in 1973

A young boy cools off on a hot day under the sprinklers of New York’s Central Park in 1971

Before mobile phones existed, people had to rely on land lines in the home as well as pay phones on the street. A woman is seen above taking in the sights of Canal Street in Lower Manhattan in 2001

Muhammad Ali is seen above at Madison Square Garden in 1971. The Garden is the arena that hosted one of his biggest triumphs. In March of that year, Ali defeated Joe Frazier in what was referred to as ‘the Fight of the Century’

A jubilant Mets supporter shares his joy with other fans during a game at the now-defunct Shea Stadium in 1969. The Mets would go on to win the World Series that year – earning them the nickname ‘the Miracle Mets’

Jeff Rothstein snapped a photo of ex-Beatle John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono together in Manhattan in 1971

A sign is scribbled with graffiti in the Soho section of Lower Manhattan in 1979

A man takes a break inside a giant Western Electric cable reel in Midtown Manhattan in 1983

New York City has always been a hotbed of political activity. The image above shows a demonstration by members of the far-right Jewish Defense League in Brooklyn in 1971

Two New Yorkers console each other in Lower Manhattan just a few days after the September 11, 2001 attacks

Women wear masks as they walk near the area of Ground Zero days after the attacks which brought down the World Trade Center

A woman paints while two children look on at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan in 2006


The image on the left shows an activist with the Irish National Caucus, a group advocating for a united Ireland, in Brooklyn in 1981. The image on the right shows a woman in Central Park in 1971


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There’s a photo showing rejoicing Mets fans ecstatic over their team during a game at the now-defunct Shea Stadium.

Rothstein also took a photo of two of the city’s most famous residents – John Lennon and Yoko Ono – wandering the streets of Manhattan.

Children play on a field in Central Park in 1972. Central Park in the 70s and 80s was largely neglected and running out of money

A cheeky restaurant sign is seen above on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village in 1979

Anti-nuclear protesters gather in Washington Square Park in 1979 – the same year during which the Three Mile Island disaster took place

A young boy uses an unconventional method of transportation at Washington Square Park in 1971

A woman window-shops in the Chinatown section of Manhattan in 1997


The image on the left shows a poster for a concert by the group The Clash in 1981. The image on the right shows children jumping from a mailbox in Greenwich Village in 1985

Three kids perform a dancing routine involving grabbing each other’s head with their feet in Soho in 1985

This passerby decided to ham it up for the camera near New York’s Columbus Circle in 1971

Peekaboo! The man on the left hides his face behind a potted plant that he placed inside of a pay phone on the corner of Broadway and Canal Street in 1997


The image on the left shows a cracked window in Greenwich Village in 1979. The image on the right shows a snowy Brooklyn in 1979

Another poignant image shows a couple sitting on the banks of the East River and snuggling as the Queensboro Bridge provides a dramatic backdrop.

Another cultural legend, Muhammad Ali, is seen in one photograph hamming it up on the basketball floor of Madison Square Garden in 1971. 

The Garden is where Ali marked one of his greatest triumphs – defeating Joe Frazier in the ‘Fight of the Century’ in March of that year.

Rothstein catalogs New York as it underwent a dramatic transformation – from a metropolis plagued by decay, crime, graffiti, and economic ruin to a sprawling urban center that has become vibrant and wealthy.

There are also pictures of New Yorkers coming together during the city’s most traumatic moments – the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 

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