Located in southern Manhattan, Chinatown has evolved over time, expanding at a rapid pace due to its growing population, by nibbling on the borders it shares with the Lower East Side and devouring Little Italy. The Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, is currently the most populated. Still today, a large part of Chinatown operates with a parallel economy. In the 90s, the Chinese community began to invest in other neighbourhoods in the Lower East Side, which Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe had populated fifty years earlier. Currently, the Lower East Side is predominantly a Puerto Rican and Dominican community, although the Chinese have definitely made their mark in recent decades. In this series, Franck Bohbot took an off-beat approach to this bustling “Chinatown” cliché. These shots embrace the absence of typical daytime noise, deliveries, lively streets, and tourist visits. Silence reigns. Half-way between poetry and science fiction-like movie sets, through this nocturnal series with New York City as the sole backdrop, he invites us to discover an empty, motionless neighbourhood devoid of its inhabitants. Deserted streets, and the rare, almost UFO-like passerby dropped on quasi-unreal urban sites, resemble fiction more than typical photographic reporting. Marrying colorimeter and urban lighting, combining technique with photographic patience, and wanting to bring life to nighttime characters or basic storefronts were all challenging. With his camera by his side, some images were shot instinctively while others are more contemplative. The result is an enigmatic voyage that creates a pictorial and fantasy-like universe in the thick of night.
Text by Christian Guerrero