When I first moved to New York in 1984, I fancied myself street-smart. Wrong. The city was a darker, scarier, and more raw place than it is today, and it turned out I knew nothing about how things worked. Or perhaps I was just very young. In either case (and friends back me up on this) New York was more perilous then, with fewer cops and more criminal types on the streets, and trash nearly everywhere you looked—some of it fascinating, and much of it on fire.
I learned to walk fast, look at the ground, and never make eye contact with anyone. One small benefit of looking down is that anything dropped or discarded was always in my sight line. I didn’t know why, but I felt compelled to pick up the ripped passports, trampled photographs, and blurred notes scrawled in ballpoint pen on the back of empty cigarette packs that I came across almost daily.
I made my collection of junk into a set of 100 2-sided collages, each about the size of a baseball card, and called the project 100 Fugitive Felons, after I saw a poster in the subway stating the NYPD was searching for just that many bad guys on the lam.
I felt like I was gathering evidence, might have crossed paths with some of these people; as if I was preserving some record of small scale despair. I was a historian of the city’s unknown, unwanted human flotsam, noticing and cataloging the ephemera left in their wake. The set of collages is filed away in a black evidence binder; the cards remind me of mug shots, police blotters, other official record books. Here are the first 58 felons.