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The history of Brooklyn music — in photos

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Like most people who found themselves in Williamsburg during the mid-1990s, Emily Wilson was lured across the water by cheap rents.

For the budding music photographer, it wasn’t a bad place to be, as the recent college graduate was privy to the nascent music scene coming up in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Wilson has too many photographs to count from her days living in Williamsburg, but, after pouring over hundreds of negatives, she was able to pick her more prized shots for the new book, “Grand and Lorimer: Brooklyn’s Art and Music Scene 1998-2005.”

For recent arrivals in North Brooklyn, it would be difficult to imagine the neighborhood without its plethora of bars, music venues and runway sidewalks. Of course, that wasn’t always the case.

“The world of Grand and Lorimer was in the process of waking from decades of slumber,” notes photographer Michael Galinsky in the book’s forward. “Long dormant commercial spaces were coming to life like flowers after a winter’s sleep.”

Wilson was lucky enough to always have a camera on her during this time, capturing bands for both commercials and behind-the-scenes shots.

One of her most frequent subjects was her friends in the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

“I was just right there along with them,” said Wilson. “I did their first shoot when they needed photos to give to magazines and newspapers.”

The result is a Karen O-heavy book, featuring intimate photographs of her at home in her loft recording, or holding a happy birthday banner made by a fan.

Beyond the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wilson photographed Guided by Voices playing at Warsaw in 2002, artist Kayrock rocking out at his Williamsburg studio (“He was such a great character and fixture in the neighborhood,” said Wilson, “he needed to be documented in that time of his life”), Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Wayne Cohen of the Flaming Lips for the now-defunct magazine Shout, and, in one of her few non-band shots, an image of fliers for apartments taken on Bedford Avenue in 1999 – before Craigslist really took off, of course.

The name of the book is a bit of a misnomer, as not all of the photographs were taken in Williamsburg, or Greenpoint, for that matter. There’s one of the band Pilot to Gunner hanging out in Coney Island, and TV on the Radio performing at Roseland in Manhattan, a neighboring city.

“I wanted to include these other musicians who I felt were influencing the music that was happening in Williamsburg,” explained Wilson. “I also wanted to include them because it was also very much a part of my style that I was developing.”

Wilson doesn’t live in Williamsburg anymore, currently living in Hell’s Kitchen with her husband and 1-year-old son. She doesn’t make it back that often, either, except to check out a new restaurant, or, as is the case this Saturday, to celebrate the release of her book at Pete’s Candy Store. But it’s also not the neighborhood she once knew.

“The hipsters are aging,” said Wilson. “Every time I go, I never see anybody I know, which is just crazy to me. I used to run into 15 people I knew, just any time I went out. I bet if I went to a playground, I might see someone I know.”

Book party for Emily Wilson’s “Grand and Lorimer: Brooklyn’s Art and Music Scene 1998-2005,” at Pete’s Candy Store [702 Lorimer St. at Richardson Street in Williamsburg, (718) 302-3770], Nov. 20 from 4-7 pm. Free. For info, visit emilywilsonphotography.com.

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Reader Feedback

Bing Crosby from 112 says:
This was a scene started by trust fund kids who moved to Brooklyn from the Midwest. There are lots of bands who came out of Brooklyn before anyone knew where Grand and Lorimer was. The fact that this book highlights 7 years shows that it was little more than a flash in the pan.
Nov. 27, 2010, 9:31 pm
Joe Z. from Greenpoint says:
Bing is correct. There were lots of bands from Brooklyn before the interlopers decided to grace us with their version of revisionist history. This is nothing more than an exercise in self-congratulatory back slapping to show themselves as self-styled pioneers who bestowed the gift of junk culture and artistic enlightenment to the uninformed natives.
Nov. 28, 2010, 11:43 am

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