Nina Berman

Documentary photographer
times square
Location: New York City
Nationality: American
Biography: Nina Berman is a documentary photographer, author and educator, whose photographs and videos have been exhibited at more than 100 international venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the... read on
Public Story
times square
Credits: nina berman
Date of Work: 12/31/69 - 12/31/69
Updated: 11/26/17
Archived as: 

This is what I remember about Times Square ...  
I remember the girls, all in a line, like a stage call. Sex everywhere. In the sky. In the street.
I remember their mouths, shining, and their skin, all different colors. I remember long eyelashes and poison-green dresses. I remember satin and cheap silk, tight around big hips and breasts. And their shoes. Oh how I loved their shoes. Loud platforms and Nancy Sinatra over-the-knee boots.
All those girls just standing, searching back and forth in the moist hot air, hot from soot and trash and summer.
I remember smelling food. And perfume. And sweat and cigarettes .But mostly, I remember wanting to get a look, just a little longer.
But no. My daddy, he held my hand tight when we approached, walking fast past them, keeping me on the outside, keeping me away. I would try to turn my head, hoping to get a glimpse at their lipstick different from my mother's, and their short skirts and big curls and chain belts. How I wanted to break from my father's grip and run to them, just to stare, or maybe to touch them.
But he held me so tight, I knew I could never break free, so I savored what I could steal, realizing, even then, that these girls were different and this place was different, maybe in a bad way, or a dangerous way, but definitely exciting and for that reason special, very special to me, a five-year-old girl walking with her family on a typical Saturday evening through Times Square on our way to the theater as we often did, in that summer of 1965. And now that place is gone. And the prostitutes are gone. Dead, moved out, pushed aside, forced west, to the edges by the highways, under the tunnels, away from the lights, the crowds, the tourists, and the real money, which is now Times Square.

Sometimes I still go there, but I feel nothing for the place. The sex is gone. The colors are gone. I can't seem to smell anything.
Sure there is still fantasy. But it's Kodak's and Viacom's and Disney's and Calvin Klein's and it leaves me cold, all that corporate control.  
In a year or so, people that make a living saying such things will proclaim Times Square a great success. It will be hailed as a showpiece of urban renewal. It will be totally devoid of imagination.

It will be scary in its congested emptiness.

It will look like a place on T.V.  And no doubt make a few men a great deal of money.

I only hope that something remains to suggest that Times Square was once an intensely sensual place, chaotic and electric, full of dreamers and dirty dreams, where strangers could go and kiss strangers,      where it was OK to play or just watch, where crowds filled the streets unconfined by police barricades and where at any given moment there was more theater in the air than on all the stages of Broadway ...and where a five-year-old girl got her first peek at life.

©1996 Nina Berman


Howard Greenberg Gallery,  "New York In Color, "  2012
Museum of the City of New York,  "New York Now 2000"


Also by Nina Berman —


The Black Boys of Dozier

By Nina Berman — The Florida School for Boys later renamed the Alfred G Dozier School for Boys, was a prison reform..

An autobiography of Miss Wish

By Nina Berman — An autobiography of Miss Wish is a story of a survivor of sex trafficking and child pornography and her..

David Duke

By Nina Berman — In 1990 and 1991,   I photographed David Duke's campaigns for US Senate and Governor of Louisiana...

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By Nina Berman — Fractured: the shale play , documents the altered landscape and human consequences of unconventional gas..

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By Nina Berman — Complex trading, based on algorithms and proprietary knowledge and communicated through a privileged visual..


By Nina Berman — War is both everywhere and invisible.  It’s there when we shop, when we socialize. We are..

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By Nina Berman — The Robert Taylor Homes were the largest public housing project in the USA stretching two miles along..

tea party

By Nina Berman — Tea Party supporters rally on tax day in Washington DC  April 15, 2010


By Nina Berman — Megachurches and Christian evangelicals in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Kentucky photographed in..

afghanistan - under taliban

By Nina Berman — Photographs from Afghanistan 1998 in Kabul and 2000 in Kandahar showing life under Taliban rule.

Obama train

By Nina Berman / USA — In 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama traveled by train from Philadelphia to his..
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