By Chris Gibbs
One night I was out drinking on the lower east side. All the usual suspects were there, I then noticed Shaniqwa Jarvis and Neal Santos coming out of the bathroom together. I thought, “Wow, there’s something I can put in my “downtown gossip column!” A few more Guinness’ later I stumble to the bathroom and as I closed the door, Shaniqwa appeared from nowhere and slipped in the bathroom with me. A couple different things started going to my head (no pun intended). To my dismay, the only thing she pulled out was her camera, in my drunken stupor she proceeded to take flics of me pissing all over myself. I put two and two together and realized that the gossip I thought I stumbled on to the night before with was actually Shaniqwa’s latest photo project.
That era is a little foggy, but I believe it was late 90’s early 2000’s. I like to think of it as the beginning of the end. The end of our generations reign of youth. The mid to late 90’s were by far the best. We were just living, having fun, getting drunk, going to shows, skating, whatever it took to have fun. With the new millennium we thought we had it all figured out. We were still young enough to “get wet” but old enough to be able to call the shots.
Having moved to NYC from Canada when I was 17, it took me a while to plant roots, but most people I met who were in the thick of it were mainly born and bred New Yorkers who had been running together since jr. high school. Shaniqwa was a real New Yorker, who was part of the downtown scene in that era and continues to be…
But I digress…
Shaniqwa showed me some of the pics that she was taking. I thought they looked great. They were simple candid portraits of some of the “kids” from the downtown scene all taken in bathrooms of the different bars we frequented. They had a real genuine quality to them. She chose the perfect time to capture you. You were drunk, therefore relaxed and you were also alone so you didn’t “show up” for the crowd. The backdrop was also kinda cool too cause most of the bars that we went to had been tagged with graffiti and stickers so they kind of had an early 80’s grimy subway feel. Couple this with the fact that she has a way to get anyone to relax behind her lens. It just worked. At the time, I think it was more of a fun hobby than an actual photo shoot to her. I thought it was a really good idea so I told her that she should aggressively pursue these shots and do a whole series. I told her to call it “downtown trading cards.” (That’s still what I call it to this day)
Stay tuned, it will be a great book-once she’s completed it, showing all the faces that made the downtown scene in NYC what it was during that time. She knows the people, the scene and not only documents it but lives it. I guess I look at us as the bridge between then and now. Then, being the era when the youth actually did shit and were down for something cause it was in them. Now, being the NKOTB. Following trends, waiting in lines for kicks and blogging about what someone else did instead of doing it themselves.
This is the first publication of this project. It’s a nice balanced selection but not even the tip of the iceberg, you should see all the portraits she’s got at the crib. You can check more of her antics at chunkydoubledeuce.blogspot.com as well as shaniqwajarvis.com
The first photo is of Wilkins the grumpy Dominican from Bushwick, damn this motherfucker loves to argue, at a spot called Remote Lounge on Bowery, I think it was a hot spot to hit for like a week and that was only cause it was open bar.
Neal and Me @ Bob’s. This is where I actually met Shaniqwa. I was a “bar-back” here for a minute, back when times were rough. It was one of the only places that would play both commercial and underground hip-hop. It was also a great place to see aspiring black “players” pick up slutty white girls.
Neal is one of those guys who was in the middle of everything dope. He was at Fat Beats, Supreme and Nort all at they’re apex.
Wow check out my style…this was like seven years ago. For the record, I started the whole “nerdy-but-cool-black-guy-wearing-a-blazer-with-fronts-denim and a kaffiya look.”
Todd Jordan of Nike SB fame @ Max Fish. Most of us have no recollection of how we ended up at the fish, but The Fish and Skaters go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Kunle (IRAK) and Ryan McGinley and Anders at The Hole. I didn’t go there too often.I think it was technically a gay bar but no one really cared. It was just a fun place to be. At the time Kunle and Ryan were a part of an artistic crew of kids who, while getting really fucked up, were doing photography, art, graff, all with a guerilla steeze. Definitely in your face shit and if you didn’t like it, too bad cause if you tried to fuck with their crew, Kunle would destroy you!
Last but not least, least but not last is Harold Hunter at Cherry Tavern. Cherry tavern had it all. No frills, just go get drunk, listen to shit on the Juke box and if you had the audacity to get bored you could play a game or two of pool. Harold Hunter, if you met him, you liked him. If you only knew of him through media, the movies, skate vids and print ads it is what you got in person. Great guy, he is missed…RIP.