Refugee camp spread on the grounds of EKO petrol station near Idomeni. Greece. April, 2016
The refugee camp has spread on the grounds of the EKO petrol station near Idomeni, Greece. April 2016.Rena Effendi for TIME LightBox
Refugee camp spread on the grounds of EKO petrol station near Idomeni. Greece. April, 2016
Kantina - food truck selling drinks and sandwiches, where Lazaros Oulis worked to suppliment the loss of his farming income this season. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Lazarous Oulis, livestock farmer from Idomeni stands in a field where he planted crops to grow animal feed. Since September 2016, refugee tents have spread on nearly 250 acres of Lazaros Oulis'es land, all the way to the border with Macedonia, preventing him from working on his harvest and resulting in losses of Euro 20,000 for which he claims he had not received any compensation. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Since September 2016, refugee tents have spread on nearly 250 acres of Lazaros Oulis'es farm land (livestock farmer) preventing him from working on his harvest and resulting in losses of Euro 20,000 for which he claims he had not received any compensation. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Young Syrian men resting in a park in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Xauthoula Soupli - elected Mayor of Idomeni two years ago she is overwhelmed to see more than 10,000 people in her city that has a local population of 120. Her office has been recently broken into, people took chairs and papers to burn for firewood. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016
Refugee camp on the railway platforms, Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Nopi Pantelidou (left) and Gianna Konstantinidou work in the kitchen at a cafe in Idomeni. A small canteen that used to serve local residents and others passing through the Idomeni train station is now overflown with refugees. They come here to charge their phones and tablets and use the free WiFi. Some can afford a meal, but most pass their time playing cards, smoking and making calls to relatives abroad. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016
A small canteen that used to serve local residents and others passing through the Idomeni train station is now overflown with refugees. They come here to charge their phones and tablets and use the free WiFi. Some can afford a meal, but most pass their time playing cards, smoking and making calls to relatives abroad. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016
Boys playing by the pond near the border between Greece and Macedonia. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Elderly resident of Idomeni - Panagiota Vasiliadou age 82, at home with Saha (30 y.o. refugee from Syria). Panagiota is hosting eight Syrian refugees in her home. They have been living with her for over a month. Panagiota is paying for food, while the women help cook the meals. Her water and electricity bill more than doubled, since she has welcomed them in her home. She says she cannot afford to support eight adults with her pension of EURO 400 a month, but she does not know how to tell them to leave. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Saha, age 30 is a refugee from Damascus, she has a degree in cosmitology and is fluent in French. When she was 18 years old she apprenticed at a beauty salon in Paris where she worked alongside a professional cosmetologist. She worked in a salon in Damascus before she decided to leave for Europe. Ever since her arrival in Idomeni she has been living in Panagiota's house and helping in the kitchen. "I know I can't stay here forever, but with the border closed, I have no place to go at the moment. I don't know how to plan my future." - Saha says. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Refugees hang their clothes to dry on the barbwire fence of the Greece-Macedonia border. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Refugee men taking shower with pumped ground water coming from a pipe used by farmers to irrigate fields around Idomeni. Greece. April, 2016
Nicos Spiridis 21 y.o., brought his truck to Idomeni from a nearby town. "Bread was sold here for Euro 4 when I came first. Everyone needed bread and nobody was selling it at a fair price." - he said. Working for up to 10 hours every day at the refugee camp, Nicos is selling bread for 0.80 euro cents. Idomeni, Greece, April 2016.
Packaged food and snacks for sale in the courtyard of an Albanian family that had come to Greece as refugees 25 years ago and settled in Idomeni. Family members sell food and drinks to the refugees from the porch of their home. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Members of an Albanian family who have come to Greece as refugees 25 years ago and settled in Idomeni sell food and drinks to the newly arrived refugees from the porch of their home. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Refugees charge their phones through extention cords connected to a generator on the street behind the train station in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Antonia Mikropolou, 74 y.o. an elderly shopkeeper in Idomeni is cordial with the refugees that come to buy snacks, drinks and cigarettes. Since the inflow of reguees, this small convenience store has been turning much higher profits than before. Idomeni, a small town on the border with Macedonia with a population of only 120 original residents, now hosts more than 10,000 refugees who set up an informal camp here. Idomeni, Greece. April 2016
Syrian family having a picnic in a park in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Syrian girl playing in a park outside a school in Idomeni. The school has been used as a storage for food supplies until it was recently looted. Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
Refugee tents on the grounds of Hara hotel, cafe and petrol station in Idomeni, Greece. April, 2016
The refugee camp has spread on the grounds of the EKO petrol station near Idomeni, Greece. April 2016.
Rena Effendi for TIME LightBox
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The Disappearing New York City of Todd Webb's Photographs

Nov 20, 2017

Todd Webb’s New York didn’t disappear all at once. It’s impossible for me to look at these pictures and not think of my arrival in New York from the Midwest as a young man in the late 1960s, when much of the city Webb had photographed two decades earlier was still present. The subway cost twenty cents, and there were still cushioned seats and porcelain-covered handholds for the straphangers (a word I first encountered in print and pronounced as “straffindger” until it provoked giggles from a colleague). The Third Avenue El had come down several years earlier, but many of the Irish bars and small-scale retail and service shops that had grown like mosses in the shadows of its tracks were still present. Chinese food was still Cantonese (the chop suey parlor would have been right at home in 1960s New York). On West Forty-Third Street, in the building that had housed the offices of the New Yorker for more than three decades, I found — and cherished — a small shop called Music Masters, which sold hard-to-find classical albums, including many of its own manufacture that were available nowhere else. Every block, it seemed, had a store like that, and it was impossible for a newcomer not the embrace the old city that, for me, still exists in black-and-white memory. It was swiftly receding, but its grip was — and is — strong.

In Webb’s time, particularly in the richly productive period that he spent in New York immediately after World War II, the city had not yet begun its cosmetic reconstruction, much less the more profound transformation yet to come beneath the surface of its skin. In fact, the face of Webb’s city had not changed much since the early ‘30s. Because of the intervention of depression and war, the city’s only private high-rise construction between the completion of the Empire State Building in 1931 and the arrival of the Universal Pictures Building on Park Avenue and Fifty-Sixth Street in 1947 was at Rockefeller Center. The “Empty State Building” earned its nickname from the effects of the Depression on its rental program. Rockefeller Center avoided similar sneers only because the man who built it could afford to charge cut-rate rents, and wait until good times returned.

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In the years immediately after Webb moved to the city in 1945, the postwar boom had barely begun to paint its changes on the city’s face. Even over the next several years, the glass-and-steel curtain wall buildings of the International Style had yet to transform Manhattan’s avenues, obliterating the extensive, low-rise city that had not given way to the building boom of the 1920s. The balance began to tip in the late 1950s with Mies van der Rohe’s epoch-defining Seagram Building on Park Avenue. Until then, the social and commercial worlds the new towers would soon both signify and glorify hadn’t arrived either. My guess is that Todd Webb would have been oblivious to the rush of the new. Walking New York’s streets day after joyous day (“I see wondrous things!” he told his diary), Webb found his affinities in a city that remained intensely human — small-scale, apprehensible, immediate.

Todd Webb's New York book cover published by Thames & Hudson. Courtesy of Thames & Hudson 

Webb was drawn to the parts of that city that remained humble in their pretensions and their ambitions. To me, this is what separates Webb’s New York from the city his contemporaries saw. The celebrated Arthur Fellig, a.k.a. Weegee, whose connection with the city’s underside was enduring, instinctive, and at times exploitative, would take his Speed Graphic to the doors of the Metropolitan Opera, even if only to satirize the bejeweled and behatted heiresses, heirs, celebrities, and socialites who frequented the place. In all of Webb’s pictures, this New York is more than invisible: it simply doesn’t exist.

Instead he revealed a workaday city inhabited by people who ate at luncheonettes or bought their provisions from street peddlers, who labored in its small shops and its still-thriving garment factories (the view down West Thirty-Seventh Street suggests how vibrant that industry still was). Except for the material wealth implied in his magisterial views of the skyline, Webb’s New York is not even remotely upscale (a neologism that itself didn’t come into its current meaning until 1966). Neither had gentrification begun, or even been conceived (it didn’t enter the language until the mid-‘70s). His New York is bustling — look particularly at the vivid life he found on 125th Street in Harlem — but there’s nothing either aspirational or demonstrative about the bustle: these are real people, living real lives.

Text and images excerpted with permission from I See a City: Todd Webb's New York (Thames & Hudson, November 2017). The book and Todd Webb's photographs will be celebrated at The Curator Gallery in New York City on Dec. 13.

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