1960s New York. Dad’s slides scanned – by Charles Higham

My mother presented me with a mixed collection of my late father’s transparencies on one of my visits. Mostly good family photos as expected, but also photographs of a few places he had visited on his frequent international business trips away from England. Dad would often set up the projector on his return and give us children a slide show of his latest trip which were fun and educational, but I don’t remember seeing these photos from New York. Not surprising really, because as far as I can tell these images were shot in either 1962 or 1963 when I was only about four or five years old.

Joseph Higham was a keen amateur photographer and he became a knowledgeable collector of Nikon cameras. He was a contributor of articles to the journal of the Nikon Historical Society, within which his meticulously hand-drawn diagrams of camera mechanisms showed his flair for engineering.  In the 1960s I think he was using a Nikon F, and it’s very likely these photos were taken with that model. Fascinated and entertained by new people and places, he had an enthusiasm for street photography and his sense of composition was enhanced by his graphic design abilities as he had been an art school student, but later his career developed into manufacturing and engineering.

I’ve never been to New York, but no doubt these scenes will be recognised by natives and those who love the city. A few things that struck me looking at these images: the streets are clean and tidy, the dress of many of the citizens is stylish, and the photos reveal a transitional period with architectural styles morphing into late 20th Century. And the cars are great.

I scanned the slides with an Espon V370 and there’s been only a limited attempt to remove dust, marks and scratches. So presentation is on the whole unpolished but I hope authentically captures New York at that time.

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38 thoughts on “1960s New York. Dad’s slides scanned – by Charles Higham”

  1. Lovely images and a great story behind them, I also have a load of my late fathers slides in store somewhere. I have not looked at them for years. I feel a scan project coming on myself! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Julian. Take the plunge and scan some of your father’s slides! It’s so useful to digitise the images and share them. These would have sat in a drawer offering nothing if they hadn’t been scanned. Good luck.

  2. Charles, these are fascinating. The skyline has changed a couple of times since then of course. It’s amazing to see all of these street scenes, I love especially those in direct sunlight with the moments of colour against the grey buildings. I hope you post some more.

    1. Thanks Jeremy. Yes, I agree the natural lighting in some of these shots is great. You probably noticed that the shot with the back of the black Volvo has a large building’s shadow cast against the face of another building in line of sight. It’s quite effective. Regretfully, I have very few more of my father’s New York photos, but a range of exposures of other places and people.

  3. Thank you, Absolutely stunning, your Father had a natural ‘eye’ for Street photography, you could almost be transported back to the sounds and smells of the 60’s.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ken. Yes, he did like shooting street scenes and I think he developed an eye for it. And the fact these were shot in the early 1960s out in the streets gives a lively raw feel to the images. I think what helped was that he had an empathy for people, and it often showed in his photos.

  4. Wonderful!,
    AND the cars, of course. Including some foreign “invaders”, before the onslaught of imported cars on the American manufacturers…
    Please send some more, if available.

    1. Thanks! I have very few more of my father’s pictures of New York, and they tend to be slightly different versions of the same scene. He was generally happy to shoot a number of exposures of the same scene in the hope of nailing a good image.I have others of different subjects, many monochrome as he would process himself.

  5. Thanks for sharing with us Charles. Amazing how those chromes survived for at least 55 years (my estimate). That New York is quite different than the one I know today.

    By the way, I was probably a tot at the time your Dad photographed those scenes!

    1. Thanks, my pleasure. The slides tend to have a blue cast now but have survived pretty well. I’m guessing 1962/1963 but could be 1964. I expect the cars here will help on more exact dating. The Greenwich Village scene with the VW beetle foreground shows a red banner on one of the left-hand buildings which states Village Gate and Nina Simone, so maybe that also narrows the date down. It’s very interesting to read your comment that the New York shown here from the early 1960s is different from the city you know now. Never having been to NYC, I don’t know how much it has changed. Paris, which I am more familiar with, has changed comparatively little, and the streets there would be recognisable from photos of a similar age – only the cars and dress of the people would be the clue to the decades that have passed, and maybe a few more modern shop fronts. Much of central London has changed a lot. Country villages not so much.

  6. Proof once again what a treasure film is. It is a true archive and the original RAW format.

    I do believe the easiest way to digitize old slides is with a Nikon ES-1 or ES-2 and Nikon Micro lens. The 40mm is perfect for APS-C format and the 60mm for FX format. This setup allows quick, NEF capture and easy post-processing. Have we done an article on this “scanning” method Hamish?

  7. What a beautiful gift & wonderful legacy your Dad’s photos are.
    In 1965 I was in 8th grade, getting ready to move onto high school. The good Sister’s of Mercy that taught @ our Catholic Junior High warned us about NYC in general and McDougall Street in particular. Sister Irma Jo told us that the city would lure us into sin and destruction. It was full of: “Bohemians, drug addicts, whores and jazz.” This story is true – confirmed by some classmates I’m still in touch with. It sounded exciting!

    1. Haha! Thanks Daniel. Actually, one thing that immediately struck me about these images was how respectable New York looks! I think Sister Irma would have been secretly disappointed by the lack of immorality on display. And thanks for your nice comment about the legacy.

  8. Thank you for this inviting NYC time capsule depicting what might arguably be called a more graceful era. I remember it well from trips to the city as a rookie teen photographer shooting on the various slide films of the day, so I recognize many of the scenes (and cars!).
    Another strong resonance was in seeing the distinctive exhaust ports and wing flaps of the unmistakable Lockheed Electra four-engine turboprop airliner, which I first experienced and fell in love with on a trip to NYC in 1963.
    It is fun every now and again to bring forth an Ektachrome or Kodachrome of the era and compare the skylines of “then” and “now.” Of course, these days, it’s a real challenge to keep up with changes in the NYC skyline, from visit to visit, as they are so frequent and widespread.

  9. Amen. You and I are about the same age, and some of my most valuable possessions are the slides my dad shot in the 60’s during our various holidays. In later years, our favorite pastime at Christmas was getting out the slide projector and reliving the memories. (and laughing at the fashions of the day).

    1. Yes, there’s entertainment in looking at family slides from the 1960s/70s and it’s fascinating to see the clothes, the cars, the haircuts and everything else. They can also be valuable social history for our children, grandchildren and beyond. I hope these New York photos might inspire others with a stash of unscanned slides to go ahead and get them digitised.

  10. What a wonderful set of photos, Charles. Pure “Mad Men” material. Mid sixties frozen in time. This why I love film photography so, so much.

  11. Really atmospheric. Although not a frequent visitor to NYC, I’ve been a couple of times and recognise quite a lot of the areas photographed. Like you, I’m struck by the cars and clothing as being the only real pointers to when these slides were taken! Beautiful colours as well.

  12. Martin south of France

    Love these slides. I have many of my late fathers shot also during the same period of England, France and Italy mainly. Many of them also have a blue cast, I was able to remove this using software and adjusting the colours. My scanner is a Plustek that came with a software bundle “SilverFast”? Great to see such images and fantastic photos!! Thanks for the article!!

    1. Thanks Martin and thanks for the info about the Silverfast Plustek. I used the Windows 10 image editing software that came with my laptop, which is limited but sort of OK. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I wasn’t quite sure what the response would be to my father’s shots but it seems it’s not just the compositions but also the authentic Kodachrome look which appeals to lots of people.

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