New York’s Downtown Scene: Early 2000s

In the early 2000s, New York City’s economic landscape created a world in which one could survive off of little. Artists, skaters, graffiti writers, poets & musicians inhabited the city, organically creating style & culture in a way that permeated into the life of the neighborhood; its night clubs, public parks & city blocks. Common streets became legendary as the 14 block radius of downtown New York housed a thriving underground scene flourishing amongst a mixture of partying & youth in a carefree time of unhindered creativity. It was during this time period that Alain Levitt was hanging out in the Lower East Side on a daily basis, often with a small point & shoot film camera on his person. Spending the early 2000s living amongst the people, Alain shot the downtown New York Scene during an era that laid the foundations for events & people that went on to deeply influence the world of skate, graffiti, art & culture. His debut book ‘NYC: 2000-2005’ is a collection of these photos. 

Harold Hunter, Rest in Peace. Early 2000s, Downtown New York.
Dash Snow, Rest in Peace. Early 2000s, Lower East Side.

Larry Clark’s ‘Kids’ showcased the youth & lifestyle of downtown, a world unknown to the mainstream masses in which shoplifting was tradition & young people experimenting with drugs & sex was commonplace. The freedom of expression, possibility & escape felt from the film was a perfect example of what many believed New York offered the young. In the turn of the century, the city was home to a large number of artists that would all frequent the same city streets in the day time & night clubs upon sunset. One could walk into Max Fish on any given night to see graffiti writers GKAE & ESPO, skateboarders Mark Gonzalez, Tino Razo & the late great Harold Hunter, artists Chloë Sevigny & Ryan McGinley, alongside the IRAK graffiti crew. This amalgamation of subcultures, happening through real human connection in an age where cell phones were less prominent & people searched out lived experience, is second to none. 

GUESSS RFC, Silver Uni-Paint tag.

For years Alain shot his friends on days & nights that now seem like a dream, a distant memory in a world where everything was different. The city was ruled by the underground scenes & the people involved became legends in their own respect: Alife was home to Kunle Martins & other members of the IRAK crew, Craig Costello had formulated KRINK while writers like SACE (RIP) were using it on aggressive tagging campaigns involving every block in the neighborhood, REHAB was boosting & the world was a uncomplicated place, offering liberty in the walled garden of downtown New York. 

Jason Dill & Friends.

One of the people who lived in the Lower East Side during this time was professional skateboarder & artists, Jason Dill. Through natural hang outs from Tompkins Square Park to Max Fish, Alain & Dill formed a friendship that years later has resulted in Alain’s debut book “NYC: 2000-2005” published by FA books, the publishing section of Jason Dill’s Fucking Awesome. The book depicts the downtown scene in a pure & raw fashion only possible by someone who lived it on a daily basis. Before the fame, before the success, before the downfalls, before the hands of time touched this era, this book shows life as it was within the 14 blocks of downtown New York. Many of the people in the book went on to influence fine art & high fashion in ways felt on a global scale, some passed & the memory of their life left a reverberating effect on the world still felt today. Alain Levitt’s documentation allows us to take a look into a world & time that has passed us by, but whose cultural significance, style & energy can not be overstated. 

“The photos in this book are from so many wild nights and summer days that went on and on, photos from a time that will never exist again. Beautiful images of people living in a beautiful city that constantly changes. Shit was just so very different back then. Thank You again Alain, the book is fantastic.” -Dill

‘NYC: 2000-2005’ opening show, April 18th at WHAAM! 15 Elizabeth St. New York, NY. The book will be released on May 1st via Fucking Awesome. The full Alain Levitt interview is available on our Patreon. A segment of the interview is available here.

Kunle Martins outside ALIFE.

*all photos by Alain Levitt