The society of South Street is a closed society. The waterfront businesses, including the Fish Market, have long been dominated by organized crime families. South street has lived by its own rules, the most important of these are loyalty and respect.. When the code is broken the remedies are harsh. When the code is lived by, the result is a life led with fascinating assurance and pride.
As intriguing as such depictions are, it leaves out the most important aspects about the market - the people who work there, proud descendants of largely Southern Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants.
I was a young women, all alone, in my early 30's when I entered this world. I'd moved into the district after getting driven out of Soho by loft rent increases. In the beginning it was an absolutely terrifying experence. I'd get up in the middle of the night and the whole neighborhood would be transformed. It was pitch black. I'd walk around the corner and light would be lit by the fire barrels of the "smokeys", the bums cooking their food. The fish market handtrucks would be going over the cobble stones, boomp, boomp, boomp. The only women you would see would be drifting around looking for trouble. It was like a movie set.
The first time I ever went out it was freezing cold, 4 or 5AM, January 1979. I'd heard about the Paris Bar on Peck Slip. Somebody told me that the building was going to be sold. It had fabulous interiors and I wanted to take some pictures. I walked into this smoke-filled place and witnessed these men, with hooks on their shoulders and smoking cigars. One fellow saw me with my camera and came over and said: "Out!", I ran home. But the next day I got up again at 4 AM and went back. There was a fish salesman, in the Paris Bar, a real gentleman. I asked if I could stand next to him. He said yes. I stood next to this person like a little child. Later, the guy who threw me out became a friend. It was the begining of my photographic record of a soon to be extinguished way of life.