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Joseph Rodríguez, Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987
Joseph Rodríguez, Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987From Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987 by Joseph Rodríguez, published by powerHouse Books

Photographs of 80s New York and its unique residents through a cab window

Working as a cab driver gave photographer Joseph Rodríguez a unique vantage point from which to document the city’s diverse inhabitants and their exploits

There’s something about riding in a taxi at night that feels intimate and confessional, gliding through the city streets in a private, transitory space. Unable to see their face, the driver can become an inscrutable, anonymous presence – either ignored completely or made the custodian of that species of secret you would only reveal to a stranger whilst you’re enveloped in darkness, hurtling through the night.

Cruising the streets in New York in the late 1970s, cab driver Joseph Rodríguez had a privileged perspective on the private lives of his passengers and a unique view of a city in a state of flux. Working all hours and covering all areas of the vast metropolis, his fares included sex workers finishing their shifts, and BDSM party-goers leaving venues in the Meatpacking District, fucking on the back seat or achieving the remarkable feat of awkwardly transforming from their bondage gear into civilian clothes.

His first camera got stolen in a mugging and stabbing – a hazard of the job – but Rodríguez tooled himself up with another camera, taking portraits of his passengers and the activity on the frenetic streets. The view from his windscreen created a cinematic vantage point, framing the scenes unfolding everywhere from the depths of downtown to the elegance of uptown Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987 gathers together Rodríguez’s finest photographs from this historic period in the city’s history. 

In Richard Price’s accompanying essay, he describes New York during this time as “a city getting its teeth kicked in on a daily basis”. It was dangerous – in the grip of crime, the AIDs crisis, the prevalence of street drugs. “To drive a cab back then, you either had to have a death wish,” he explains, “or come to the job with a biography that inured you of the danger or graced you with such intuitive empathy/curiosity that to see and hear and sometimes engage with the cavalcade of humanity sliding in and out of your backseat trumped the nightly game of Russian roulette.” 

Of these, Rodríguez is clearly the latter. Similar to Walker Evans or other great social documentarians, he treats his subjects with dignity. “The overarching mission of Joseph Rodriguez‘s work is to make visible those we choose not to see… to confront us with (their) everyday humanity.”

Take a look through the gallery above for a selection of Joseph Rodríguez’s photographs from Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987.

Joseph Rodríguez, Taxi: Journey Through My Windows 1977-1987 is published by powerHouse Books