Working as a spot photographer in 1980s New York selling crime scene photos to newspapers and wire services, Andrew Savulich would often park his Dodge Valiant on the edge of a much seedier Times Square, and start his evenings listening to a police scanner. The kind of chaos it led him to is presented in The City, a new book of Savulich’s photographs from Steidl, published for the first time with the photographer’s own captions. Ambiguous, deadpan, and sometimes darkly comedic, Savulich’s commentary offsets the often gritty scenes. “People think they see apparition of Jesus in bathroom window of tenement,” he writes. “Woman reading magazine after driving into building.” reads another caption. Photos like “Man putting sheep into taxi,” offer a dose of humor alongside other images that are much harder to stomach.
They’re the kind of scenes you can live in today’s New York without coming across very often. Though Savulich, who has worked for the New York DailyNews for the last 22 years, situates his work in the lineage of German portrait photographer August Sander, a keen observer of the stratifying effects of class and culture, he describes his craft as essentially “compulsive, repetitive… obsessive.” In his freelance days, editors would often crop that sensibility out of his pictures, but The City lays it bare.