Allan Tannenbaum:
New York in the ’70s

A remarkable body of work produced by photographer Allan Tannenbaum while he was photo editor of the SoHo Weekly News in Manhattan.
Tannenbaum's photographs of the 1970s are as wildly entertaining and energetic as that wonderful decade itself. They form an important visual history of a moment when American culture changed forever.
David Schonauer, Editor-in Chief, American Photo

New York in the ’70s is the artist’s personal collection of photographs that document an exciting chapter in New York City’s history. A remarkable body of work produced by photographer Allan Tannenbaum while he was photo editor of the SoHo Weekly News in Manhattan. SoHo and the art world were his primary subjects, yet the images also provide a broad chronicle of the city’s politics and society. Entertainment – especially the music scene – and night life became a large part of the editorial mix. The collision of continuing 1960s counterculture with the remnants of Nixon, Watergate, and Vietnam, coupled with a stagnant economy, was a catalytic force that resulted in an explosion of creativity. By photographing everything from street gangs to disco divas, from homeless to Hollywood stars, Tannenbaum had assembled a personal diary of his journey as a photojournalist and raconteur through a strange era in New York. His studio portraits, night-time flashes, and street photography paint a unique and often unseen picture of the 1970s in New York City.

Dirty, dangerous, and destitute. This was New York City in the 1970s. The 1960s were not yet over, and war still raged in Viet Nam, fueling resentment against the government. Nixon and the Watergate scandal created even more resentment, cynicism, and skepticism. Economically, stagnation coupled with inflation created a sense of malaise. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 delivered another blow to the U.S. economy, and brought the misery of long lines to buy gasoline. Conditions in Harlem and Bed-Stuy were horrendous, with abandoned buildings and widespread poverty. The subways were covered everywhere with ugly graffiti and they were unreliable. It seemed as if the entire infrastructure was in decay. Political corruption, sloppy accounting, and the cost of the war were killing the city. Times Square, the crossroads of the world, was seedy and sleazy. Pimps, hookers, and drug dealers owned the night there. Crime was rampant, and the police were powerless to stop it. Random killings by the “Son of Sam” made New Yorkers even more fearful. The parks were in decay, with and litter and bare lawns, and it was home to muggers and rapists. When the proud City of New York had to beg the Federal Government for a financial bail-out, the President said no. The Daily News headline said it all: “Ford to City – Drop Dead.”


120 original photographs by the artist printed on the finest satin photo paper. They are archival pigment based prints.


The collection includes not only many photos of iconic legends from an intensely creative period in New York City, but the societal context as well.

Exhibition Materials

Captions, wall texts and select high resolution images for promotion.


Requires about 110 – 125 linear meters (350 – 400 linear feet) for the entire collection depending on how the works are installed.


“New York in the ’70s” book of photos available. Preface written by Yoko Ono and introduction written by P.J. O’Rourke (reprinting details to be discussed).

Merchandise Production

A separate agreement may be discussed.


  • Collection is comprehensive, covering a substantial part of the artist’s body of work making it capable of serving as a stand-alone exhibition.
  • Museum curators are provided with extensive information and may curate the exhibition to their specifications.
  • Collection may be expanded or complemented with art from the borrowing museum’s own collections.

Allan Tannenbaum

Born in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1945, Allan Tannenbaum has been photographing since the 1960s. He received a B.A. in Art from Rutgers University in 1967, where he photographed for The Targum – the campus newspaper – and made films for his art courses. He made films as a graduate student at San Francisco State College and as an independent filmmaker in New York. After a stint as a seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine, he taught photography and filmmaking at the Livingston College branch of Rutgers University from 1970 until 1972. Gravitating to the nascent art scene in the SoHo district of Manhattan, Tannenbaum worked as a taxi driver and bartender while looking for work as a photographer. When the SoHo Weekly News commenced publication in 1973, Tannenbaum became the Photo Editor and Chief Photographer. The newspaper started out as an eight-page free paper, but soon became a popular newsstand seller that rivaled the established Village Voice. Tannenbaum relentlessly covered the art world, music scene, politics, show business, and nightlife. This lasted until 1982 when the SoHo News folded. The high point of this period was photographing John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the paper — the low point was the murder of John Lennon 10 days later. While working for the SoHo News, Tannenbaum also freelanced for magazines such as Newsweek and New York Magazine. He also syndicated his SoHo News photos to newspapers, magazines, and photo agencies. Upon the demise of the SoHo News, Tannenbaum joined the renowned Sygma Photo News as a Staff Photographer. He began covering national and international stories of historical importance. He traveled with Geraldine Ferraro on her 1984 vicepresidential campaign and went to Nicaragua that year to cover preparations there for a feared U.S. attack.

His first really big international stories were the volcanic disaster in Colombia that buried alive over 20,000 people, and unrest in South Africa. Since then, he has covered, among many international news events, the Philippine Revolution, the Karenni rebellion in Burma, the Palestinian Intifada, violent demonstrations in Korea, the siege of Kabul, German reunification, the situation in Northern Ireland, Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq, the Gulf Crisis in 1998 from the nuclear carrier U.S.S. George Washington in the Persian Gulf, and the Rwandan refugee crisis. He won a first prize in Spot New Stories at the World Press Photo competition in 1989 for his coverage of the Intifada. Tannenbaum has also done documentary and feature photography in places like Thailand, Indonesia, Palau, Jordan, Bahrain, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Brazil, Israel, Iceland, and Mexico. He has covered numerous political campaigns and nominating conventions and has covered news stories in the U.S. such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the Columbine massacre. His work has appeared in many photo books and exhibitions, as well as appearing regularly in NEWSWEEK, TIME, LIFE, ROLLING STONE, PARIS MATCH, and STERN. His photographs have graced the covers of TIME three times, and NEWSWEEK five times.

In 2003, a German publisher, Feierabend Verlag, published New York in the ’70s, Tannenbaum’s first book based on his photographs from the SoHo News era. The book received critical acclaim and the first printing sold out. Today it is a prized collector’s item, and a new edition published by Overlook Press was published in April, 2009. A second book of New York City photos, from the ’80s, ’90s, and right up to July 4th, 2004, titled New York, was published in 2005. Over 50 photographs from New York in the ’70s were exhibited in 1997 at Visa pour l’Image, the international photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France and were the hit of the show.

Tannenbaum has had major exhibitions of his work not only in New York City but also all over the world, including Towers at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, John Lennon: Unfinished Music at Cité de la Musique in Paris, John and Yoko: A New York Love Story at the Govinda Gallery in Washington, D.C., and New York in the ’70s at the Draywalk Gallery in London. A projection of his images opened the Fotografia Europea festival in Italy in 2009. His third book, John & Yoko: A New York Love Story, based on his intimate photographs of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, was just published in October 2007 by Insight Editions. American Photo Magazine named it one of the ten best photography books of 2007. It was a Gold Medal winner in the 2008 Independent Book Publisher Awards. Besides the trade edition, there is also a limited edition of 1250 copies. “Bright Lights, Big City” featured Tannenbaum’s New York in the ’70s work in Los Angeles, as did the Not Fade Away Gallery in New York in 2009. In 2011 Tannenbaum’s 9/11 work was in a group show at Polka Gallery in Paris and at the Centrale Montemartine in Rome. His photos of the New York music scene were featured in the Punk Rock exhibition at Renoma in Paris.

After covering news and features from America to Asia to Africa for almost twenty years as a Sygma photojournalist, Allan Tannenbaum suddenly found himself without an agency when Sygma was bought and absorbed into a large corporation. Ironically, Tannenbaum got the biggest and most dangerous story of his career just six blocks from his home – the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Tannenbaum photographed the explosion of the second plane and Ground Zero between tower collapses. He was covered in dust and debris when the first tower collapsed, but stayed at the site to keep working. His photographs of this terrible event have been published all over the world and have been in photography exhibitions as well.

For more than six years, he has been working on a photo story titled 9/11: Still Killing – The Hidden Victims. This story consists of portraits of many of the first responders, recovery workers, downtown residents, and workers who have been getting sick and dying as a result of toxic exposures on 9/11 and afterwards. In addition to the photographs, Tannenbaum also conducts in-depth video interviews. In 2013 Tannenbaum received a proclamation from the Council of the City of New York recognizing his service to all New Yorkers with his 9/11-related photography. He now works with Polaris Images and the Tribeca Trib, photographing mainly in New York City. The New York Press Photographers Association presented Tannenbaum with four awards in its 2011 competition.

Besides bringing the world to people through his photographs, Tannenbaum donates fine art photographs to various charities to raise money at benefit auctions. Organizations such as ACE, the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, Equality Now, Friends in Deed, Art in Tune, and Foundation Rwanda have all been helped by Tannenbaum’s print donations. He has also donated photographs to the NIST report on the World Trade Center, The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and to organizations publicizing the plight of those affected by Ground Zero toxic exposures. Tannenbaum also serves as a full board member of Community Board 1 in Manhattan, working on the Tribeca and Landmark committees without remuneration.

Tannenbaum lives with his wife Debora in Manhattan.

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