Last July, east London concept store LN-CC, celebrated the launch of Katsu Naito’s book West Side Rendezvous by hosting an exhibition of 23 shots selected from it. The subject? Transexual and transvestite streetwalkers of New York.
As a collection, West Side Rendezvous consists of 45 images, mostly portraits, presenting transexual and transvestite streetwalkers of New York’s meatpacking district in the 1990s going about their lives.
Photographer Katsu Naito moved to New York in 1983 and discovered his interest in photography whilst working as a chef for a Japanese restaurant. At the time, Naito also lost several friends to Aids and this prompted him to take interest in how these singular individuals risked their lives to earn their living. He encountered his subjects in the late afternoon once businesses and slaughterhouses had closed and a subculture of drugs and prostitution emerged.
Back then he frequented the area often until his subjects were very comfortable with him and his camera. Often, he says, he would ask them where and how to stand and where to look. At other times, like in most great photos, something great just happened spontaneously.
Naito admits that twenty years later, the meatpacking district has changed completely and the people he photographed aren’t there any more. He himself has moved on to taking pictures of street corners in New York. A future exhibition of photographs taken in Harlem between 1987 and 1997 is also in the pipeline.
For more information on West Side Rendezvous, launched by London-based independent publisher Wild Life Press, visit Donlon Books.