Touring the Village through the lens of McDarrah

Surrounded by fans and journalists, boxer Muhammad Ali — then still known as Cassius Clay — arrives at The Bitter End club, 147 Bleeker St., where he participated in a poetry reading, on March 12, 1963.   Photo © by Fred W. McDarrah

Surrounded by fans and journalists, boxer Muhammad Ali — then still known as Cassius Clay — arrives at The Bitter End club, 147 Bleeker St., where he participated in a poetry reading, on March 12, 1963. Photo © by Fred W. McDarrah

BY YANNIC RACK  |   There is no shortage of sightseeing buses or tourist groups patrolling the streets of New York, and they are rarely a popular sight among residents.

Now a new type of walking tour is trying to attract a slightly different crowd, by opting for a unique look back at the colorful history of the Village.

Starting Aug. 4, visitors and residents alike will be able to explore the neighborhood through the lens of Fred McDarrah, the longtime staff photographer and first photo editor of the Village Voice who died in 2007.

“We are not going to see the Magnolia bakery, and we are not going to see the house that was used for the exterior shots in ‘Friends,’ ” said Timothy McDarrah, Fred’s son, who runs the photographer’s estate together with his brother Patrick and mother Gloria.

During his 50 years with the Voice, Fred McDarrah met and photographed the likes of Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and amassed a photo archive of some 250,000 images documenting the movements and events that shaped New York in the second half of the last century.

“The whole point of the tours is to show people what the Village was, why it was important,” the younger McDarrah told The Villager. “My dad really documented what he knew was a place that was on its way out, because even back in the Sixties, things were getting ripped up by developers.”

Even though his work now adorns gallery walls, the older McDarrah always considered himself a photojournalist first.

“If somebody called me a fine arts photographer I’d laugh them out of the room,” he told The East Hampton Star in 1999.

Last year, a show of McDarrah’s work at Chelsea’s Steven Kasher Gallery enjoyed so much popularity that the family decided to organize a series of tours, which include “Save the Village,” “The Beats,” “The Artist’s World” and “The East Village,” each with its own theme and accompanying postcard-set of classic images.

“It really struck a chord with people,” Timothy McDarrah said of the exhibition.

A discounted ticket price will be offered to anyone with a library card or a membership to a historical society. McDarrah said the tours’ purpose was not just entertainment, but also education, with an emphasis on preserving the city’s history.

“The New York of the 1660s, when it first became an urban area, it’s gone,” he said. “There’s nothing left; there’s nothing left from my childhood, essentially. It’s nuts.

“We need another generation of people who are going to fight things like N.Y.U. and St. Vincent’s being torn down, and not only in New York but in their own community as well.”

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