Last fall, the South Street Seaport Museum in New York commissioned Cheryl Dunn to make a short film in honor of the legendary urban photographer Alfred Stieglitz to coincide with an exhibition of his photographs. But rather than make a biography, Dunn, a noted street photographer in her own right, began to seek out a who’s who of fellow photographers, curators and historians to celebrate Stieglitz’s legacy by showing all the work that followed in his wake from the likes of Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Davidson and Jamel Shabazz.
“When you have the privilege to spend half a day with artists like this, it seemed a shame to include five minutes of that day,” said Dunn, who since took it upon herself to expand the 36-minute short “Everybody Street” into a feature of the same name, which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter through a November 19th deadline.
With the help of “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” editor David Zieff, Dunn has been holed up shaping the additional footage she shot over the summer after taking the short to the Tate Modern Museum in London. The film isn’t Dunn’s first feature, though after the skateboarding docs “Sped” and “Backworlds for Words” and 2005’s “Bicycle Gangs of New York,” it will be the first time as a documentarian that she’ll move backwards — starting with the moment Stieglitz first took his camera off the tripod in the 1890s to capture the city in its wild, unrestrained glory during a snowstorm (in the picture “Fifth Avenue, Winter”). Just as that simple detachment opened up the world of photography, “Everybody Street” aims to be similarly unhinged, spilling quite literally onto the streets as it mixes a history of the medium with contemporary photographers going through their entire process of capturing a moment on the corner to developing it in the studio.
“I really wanted to reach out to the most accomplished street photographers I could get to,” Dunn said. “The film concentrates on New York — that narrowed down [what we covered]. As it turned out, the scope of the subjects spans about a century of time, which seems appropriate with the history of the medium itself.”
Given her own 20-year history of snapping pictures in the bouroughs, Dunn could likely share some amazing anecdotes of her own, but her experience has also allowed her to elicit stories from interview subjects who could be more comfortable behind their own cameras. Clips on the film’s Kickstarter page have already contained some incredible stories from Jill Freedman discussing bearing witness to a child being shot while observing from a police cruiser during the ‘70s to Ricky Powell describing an encounter with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat off of Houston Street in 1985. However, Dunn promises there are many more to be told if “Everybody Street” can meet its Kickstarter goal.
“As they say, every picture has a story,” said Dunn. “So hearing that story from the creator of the picture is extra special.”