In the February 1959 issue of Holiday magazine, an essay on Truman Capote—titled "A House In The Heights"—begins with his now-famous quote that's plastered around his old neighborhood: "I live in Brooklyn. By choice."
His Brooklyn Heights neighborhood has transformed a great deal since Capote lived there in the 1950s. His old home (which he didn't own, though that didn't stop him from claiming otherwise) at 70 Willow Street is now undergoing a massive renovation by its current owner, who has already stripped the classic yellow paint from its facade. The once-quiet streets now see a steady stream of tourists toting selfie sticks. And the old abandoned piers on the waterfront are now part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, and house soccer fields, basketball courts, and other amusements.
Two years ago the son of photographer David Attie, who shot the photographs for the Hoilday magazine piece, unearthed some of his dad's old negatives. The Mediander blog noted there were 800, to be exact, located in a manilla envelope marked "Holiday, Capote." Eli Attie gathered them all for a book, in the forward to which he wrote: “These were the coolest pictures of Capote I’d ever seen, framed like shots from a Hitchcock movie. The still young, steely-eyed scribe looks like he’s creating his own mythology right in front of the camera." This morning Eli told us of his favorite: "That shot of Capote beneath the stairs—my jaw just hit the floor."
He went on to describe his feelings about discovering the images: "Weirdly, even though these photos were taken years before I was born, and before my parents had even met, it was like discovering some hidden little secret about my own past. Despite the fact that I'd never known these photos existed, they immediately felt very personal to me, like the results of some kind of artistic DNA test."
The photos are all outtakes for Capote's Brooklyn piece for Holiday—meant to give a sense of life in Brooklyn—which Attie was asked to visually document. The NY Times recently described that shoot: "In the spring of 1958 a young photographer named David Attie was led through the streets of Brooklyn Heights and to the Brooklyn waterfront by an unexpected guide—33-year-old Truman Capote."
Part of Eli Attie's finds are now on display at the Brooklyn Historical Society, following decades of being buried in boxes. You'll get to see Capote's Brooklyn Heights in them, one that doesn't exist anymore.
"Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: The Lost Photographs of David Attie" runs through July 2017 (more details on their website); You can find more in Eli Attie's book "Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir: With The Lost Photographs of David Attie"