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Aging In NYC: Photographer Captures Senior Life In The City

Patch logo Patch 7/29/2019 Herb Bardavid
a man sitting on a bench © Provided by Planck, LLC, d/b/a Patch Media

I met Bill at Club 76, a day program run by JASA (Jewish Association Serving the Aging.) Bill is 71 years old. When we sat down to talk, I took out my fountain pen to make some notes. He told me that he likes old things that work, that he too uses a fountain pen. He wrote a letter to President Obama, using a fountain pen, writing in script on parchment paper with a matching envelope. He did that so his letter would stand out. And, indeed it did. He received a reply and that reply was postmarked Jan 21, 2017, Obama's last day in office.

Bill has led a life of an adventurer. His father met his mother in France during World War II and Bill was born on the island of Corsica where he lived until the age of 5. His parents then moved to New Orleans, and when Bill started school, he did not speak a word of English. He did not understand what was being taught in school for a while. He said that although French is spoken in New Orleans, it is so different from the French that he spoke, it did not help. It was not until the second or third grade that he became totally comfortable with the English language.

Growing up in New Orleans as a child, he was interested in the arts and photography. His mother gave him a camera when he was 5, and from then on, he saw himself as a photographer and an artist. He continues to be active in his art. He just recently sold a painting for $10,000. Bill emailed me some of his older black and white photographs which I thought were wonderful. He is no longer taking photographs but is concentrating on his artwork.

Bill came to New York City after college because he wanted to experience the culture of city life. His first job here was working at the soda fountain cafe in Macy's. Then, he worked for both Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman as a personal shopper in the men's department. He loved these jobs.

Bill talked about being an openly gay man and that he feels comfortable to be able to be open here in the city. He believes it might be more difficult to be so honest in a more rural setting. Although he does not currently have a partner, Bill has had two long term relationships.

Bill lives alone and getting out every day is important to him. He attends Club 76 frequently, both for lunch and stimulating conversations. He attends the workshops on a variety of topics including art and politics. He loves living in the city but does not like the cold or getting on the subways during rush hour. However, he would not trade the joy of New York living for anything. Bill continues to paint the town red as he explores the culture and feels the excitement of New York City.

a person standing in front of a building © Provided by Planck, LLC, d/b/a Patch Media a man looking at the camera © Provided by Planck, LLC, d/b/a Patch Media

Herb Bardavid is a social worker with a passion for photography going back to his childhood years. When he was 12 years old, Bardavid commandeered his family's only bathroom to serve as a part-time dark room for developing photos. At his wife's suggestion, the Upper West Side resident chose to chronicle the lives of New York City senior citizens for a year-long photography project.

Bardavid, who's in his 70s, is inspired by New York City's elders who don't let their age get in the way of how they live their lives.

"Elderly people in New York City are sometimes invisible," Bardavid told Patch. "People walk by and nobody pays attention to them. So when I stop people they are not only surprised but also happy because people don't often talk to them."

Check out Bardavid's blog here.

Photos by Herb Bardavid

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