Midnight in the People's Garden: Night Photos from NYC Community Gardens

George Hirose: Magic Gardens of the East Village, NYC


Community gardens are a vital resource in NYC, especially in the crowded East Village. Most of these gardens were born out of desolation and rubble in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s at a time when NYC’s fiscal problems and uncontrolled crime rate had left the East Village a forsaken place with abandoned buildings, empty lots, and crack houses. People banded together to save the neighborhood that the city ignored. They renovated buildings, and began to empty the trash and rubble strewn lots situated between their buildings in order to transform them into gardens. The creation of the community gardens were key to the revitalization of the area.


“When I first came to the area in the late 1970’s, the East Village was a desolate and dangerous place, but I felt that there was something very special about the community.  There were people that really cared about the neighborhood, who were intent on improving the quality of life for everyone.  The first community gardens were created from vacant rubble strewn lots, which through hard labor, slowly began to produce vegetables and also provided safe havens for neighborhood kids to play. It is amazing to see how lush and beautiful many of these gardens have become.

Through my photography I hope to capture special qualities that reflect the unique character of each garden. I am especially interested in how the gardens look after the sun goes down, when they are quietly at rest and illuminated by the glow of street lamps and windows in neighboring buildings.  Long camera exposures allow me to capture details that are invisible to the naked eye, and digital technology allows me to enhance colors and textures that our eyes struggle to see in low light.  My goal with this work is to capture the magical beauty of these hidden green spaces.”