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Laundromats are a quintessential part of the New York City landscape: an indispensible element to many city dwellers’ lives, they’re an ersatz utility room shared with dozens of strangers at any given time, a moist environment of humming machines and strange clothes. No other public facility gathers so many people under one roof to engage in one of the most intimate rituals in which the modern human routinely performs, that of making clean again one’s outer and under garments.
Laundromats are as varied as the people inside. They often reflect the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the neighborhood they reside in (announcements, flags, and symbols displayed often reveal something about their mainly mom-and-pop owners), yet they additionally possess a story of commercial storefront design, inspired and mundane: the trend date of awning design and lettering; the poster advertising for cleaning; the refreshment options for adults and their charges. Neighborhood laundromats are one of the last holdouts of the disappearing storefronts of New York City as small shops are driven out of business by chains and venture-capital initiatives. Like the beloved Korean green grocer/bodega/Arab deli, someday soon there could be far fewer of these ugly ducklings, and another genuine element of New York’s street life will be washed away.
Laundromat was photographed from 2008 to 2012 and represents all five New York boroughs and most of its neighborhoods.