It was Summer 2001 when I arrived in New York with my new born son who was 17 month old at the time. We stayed in new jersey most of the time but I was happy to catch up to a Christopher street parade as I did the years before when we stayed in the Village and in Brooklyn for a year each. The girls were so beautiful and so much fun to photograph.
At the time being in New York 1998 to 1999 I happened to watch some ethnic parades in the city, something I have not witnessed before. Always fun to watch it became our weekend routine to check out these gatherings.
He was known as Jack Dracula, Jack Martin or Barcelona Jack ‘The Marked Man’. In the early 50ies he started to work in tattoo shops. Famous are the pictures of Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein on his belly. As ‘Marked Man’ he had to show over 400 tattoos insideshows and ‘Ringling Brothers Barnum Bailey Circus’.
He got famous in the early 60ies when Diane Arbus pictured him in New York City. In the interview with me, 1999 in Philadelphia, he was very critical on this memories.
Jack Dracula, talking about Arbus, refers to her insistence that she takes photographs of him for free and also his fears of the material being misused, misinterpreted by the artist and her “cultivated” viewer. Susan Sontag wrote that Arbus’s subjects were “people who are pathetic, pitiable, as well as repulsive” and that the photographs were taken “based on distance, on privilege, on a feeling that what the viewer is asked to look at is really other”. These others fascinated Arbus because perhaps, they reflected the way she saw her own self. „Aspasia Stephanou, University of Stirling“
I learned to know him in 1998 through Dick Zigun, operator of Coney Island Sideshow kennen. One year later we had a photo session, the last before he was operated on his legs.
His last days he was hospitalized in West Philadelphia Park Pleasant Altenheim, cause of the diabetes his legs were amputated.
He died at the age of 75.
Our second time in New York together and the first parade in January after we moved to the city at the beginning of the year. What was sheduled for six month at first became an on and off time of two years. We travelled back and forth the ocean with no money on hand only our earnings and the grant Manuel got for his residency in NYC. After some month we could manage to work on the side, him as a web-designer and me as wedding photographer. Living in Greenwich Village with the view on the Twin Towers right out of our window. The rent for the micro-apartment was as high as the rent for our large space at home but it was New York every day. In our early thirties we were not grown up at all and did not realise how lucky this time would turn out to be. What a chance. But instead of making working on a career we woke up with big eyes every day, shy and suspicious as we learned to be back home. Never believe in your own luck, fate is a bitch.