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Clayton: Takin’ it to the streets

Joel Pakela a.k.a. L.E.S. Jewels was a self-proclaimed leader of the East Village’s crusty punks, or “gutter pirates,” as he called them. While Jewels was engaging and intelligent when sober — and even gave poetry readings at Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s Place — when drunk he could turn violent. He did jail time for assaulting a pedestrian he was trying to panhandle change from on Avenue A, and also for attacking a man he had met in a Second Ave. gay bar and accompanied home — Jewels broke the man’s orbital bone with his cane. Despite his dark, troubled side, Jewels was a well-liked figure by many in the neighborhood. He died young, in September 2013 at age 43. The Medical Examiner’s Office reported his cause of death as “blunt injuries of head,” though the manner of death was “undetermined.” (Photo by Clayton Patterson)

Clayton Patterson a.k.a. the “Lower East Side Documentarian,” has been photographing the East Village and Lower East Side since the 1980s. Originally from Western Canada and trained in art school, he first settled in Soho after coming to New York City, but found its art scene too pretentious and status- and money-driven. Instead he moved into an old storefront on Essex St., a former dress shop, with his partner, Elsa Rensaa. He found his calling — or one of them, at least — in photographing and videoing the neighborhood’s gritty streets. From the local people to the drag queens during the Pyramid club’s heyday to the Tompkins Square riots, Patterson has covered it all. He also has an art gallery at his place, formerly made custom embroidered baseball caps (like the skull cap he always wears), and was a leading advocate for the pre-legalization tattoo scene in New York City. He later became involved with Wild Style & Tattoo Messe, an annual European tattoo and sideshow-performance festival. He’s also a prolific publisher of books on local topics, like the area’s activism or Jewish cultural history. In more recent years, another claim to fame of Patterson’s has been running the New York Acker Awards, honoring under-recognized avant-garde artists and community activists, most of them from the Downtown area.

Michael Julian, the former commanding officer of the East Village’s Ninth Precinct, was spotted with his wife at Two Boots Pizza, on Avenue A. Julian was the precinct’s C.O. during the turbulent time of the Tompkins Square riots. Charismatic and a good communicator, Julian won the trust — somewhat — of the squatters, anarchists and anti-gentrification activists who fought the cops for control of the neighborhood. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Holding it down at Economy Candy, a neighborhood staple on Rivington St. since 1937. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Manny, left, and pal on Avenue A. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Luis and his daughter with Patterson’s famous “Front Door” as the backdrop. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Jose Quiles a.k.a. Cochise, left, and friend at the opening of Jerry Pagane’s art exhibit at the Clayton Gallery and Outlaw Art Museum. Quiles was the leader of Satan’s Sinners Nomads, the last Lower East Side gang to “fly colors,” as in, sport the gang’s name on the “rocker” on the back of their jackets.
A stormtrooper at Jump Into the Light, a virtual-reality lab and cinema, at 180 Orchard St. In recent years, Patterson has been enjoying following this new neighborhood V.R. scene. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Checking out the new at Jump Into the Light. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Drunks fighting. Watching these boozy brawls has become a de rigueur thrill for out-of-towners on the Lower East Side. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
David Fasano and Elsa Rensaa at the Clayton Gallery. (Photo by Clayton Patterson)
Clayton Patterson, third from right, with artists at Comic Con. (Courtesy Clayton Patterson)

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