New York/Westside

est 35th Street, 1985 — © Brian Rose

When I did my Meatpacking District photographs in 1985, I also walked up the westside through Chelsea, ending up in the 30s, the area now known as Hudson Yards. It was desolate in those days like many areas of Manhattan. In the picture above, only the tall buildings in the rear including the New Yorker hotel and the Empire State Building, remain standing.

39th Street and 10th Avenue, 1985 — © Brian Rose

From West 37th Street looking north, 1985 — © Brian Rose

West 36th Street and 11th Avenue — © Brian Rose

I didn’t include these pictures in my book, Metamorphosis, about the Meatpacking District, because I wanted a more focused book. I still think it was the right decision. But as I scanned this material, I realized that I had taken more photographs in Chelsea and the west side of Midtown than I thought. I’ve ben saying that the Meatpacking photographs were taken over a two or three day period in 1985, but looking at the number of images I have, and the various skies and weather conditions, I probably was out shooting 4 or 5 days, maybe more.

34th Street and 11th Avenue, 2019 — © Brian Rose

This is what the area looks like now. You come out of the new 7 train station into a maze of construction fencing, barriers, food carts, an inflated union rat with red eyes, and, all around, glass skyscrapers on the rise.

New York/Atlantic City

I received my first copy of Atlantic City from the publisher today. It is absolutely beautiful. A spare but powerful presentation of photographs and text. Kickstarter backers and pre-orders will get books as soon as I have them. You can still pre-order for a limited time at a discount. Official publishing date is March 1. Stay tuned!

New York/Chelsea 1985

West 20th and 10th Avenue 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

When I made my photographs of the Meatpacking District in 1985, I also walked up into Chelsea. I didn’t include those pictures in Metamorphosis, Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013, because I wanted a tighter, more focused, book. I scanned everything, however, but am just getting around to color correcting and posting those images on Instagram and here on my blog.

West 21st. Street and 10th Avenue, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Like the Meatpacking District, the area had greatly declined from it heyday as New York’s docklands. Both passenger and freight shipping once lined the Hudson River along the westside of Manhattan. Trains serviced the warehouse buildings and markets — some freight cars coming by barge across the river — others on the High Line, the elevated rail viaduct that threads its way between and even through the buildings. Prior to that, tracks ran directly down 10th Avenue — the avenue of death it was called — because so many people were killed by the trains.

London Terrace, 10th Avenue and 23rd Street, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

23rd and 11th Avenue, 1985 (4×5) — © Brian Rose

West 28th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

10th Avenue and West 23rd Street, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

I made these photographs over several days in January and February 1985. It was time of transition for me, looking beyond Manhattan, which had been my photographic habitat for almost ten years. That summer I began photographing the Iron Curtain border — I went twice in 1985 — and that work became my primary focus for several years. After the wall came down, I have continued to follow developments in Berlin, returning every four or five years. So, 1985 was a busy year for me.

West 36th Street, New York, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

West 29th Street and 10th Avenue, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


New York/Amsterdam

 Amsterdam sign before removal — © Brian Rose

I used to live in Amsterdam back in 2004 when the city put up the “I Amsterdam” sign as part of a campaign to promote tourism. I hated it — being the highbrow urbanite that I am — but over the years it became an icon of the city, and even though I bemoaned the selfie taking riff raff — not sophisticated like me — I came to accept it begrudgingly. It was very, very, popular.

The city council of Amsterdam in a stunning act of cultural vandalism has removed the sign.

In a statement, reported by The Telegraph, (Councilwoman) Roosma said: “The message of ‘I amsterdam’ is that we are all individuals in the city. We want to show something different: diversity, tolerance, solidarity.”

“This slogan reduces the city to a background in a marketing story,” she added. “Amsterdammers want to regain their grip on the city.”

Let’s cut to the chase. This is exactly the opposite meaning of the sign. Anyone could stand up in front of those giant letters and say “I am Amsterdam.” I am a citizen of the world, I am white, black, yellow, it makes do difference, I am a local, I am a tourist, I am Amsterdam. We are Amsterdam, a cosmopolitan city that beckons to people of all races and creeds from around the globe.

Removing the sign is a pathetic attempt to return to a cozier past when Amsterdam could be enjoyed by its own (mostly white) citizens. Never mind the polyglot Amsterdam of the Golden Age. Never mind the 100,000 Jews who once lived in Amsterdam and were wiped off the face of the earth. Yes, let’s purge the city of outsiders, unless they are the right kind.

If that’s what people want, I am not Amsterdam.

New York/December 21

The Berlin Wall, December 1989 — © Brian Rose

Verona, Italy

Renee Schoonbeek, Verona, Italy — © Brian Rose

Renee and I traveled to Verona, Italy to be on press for the printing of my book Atlantic City. We spent a day walking around the city, a beautifully preserved architectural wonder.

On the second day we met up with David Jenkins of Circa Press and took a taxi to an industrial area on the outskirts of town. EBS is a world renowned printer of photo books, and it was a privilege to work with such skilled technicians.

EBS, Verona, Italy

Jonathan Bortolazzi of EBS, me, and David Jenkins of Circa Press looking at images just off the press.

EBS, Verona, Italy — © Brian Rose

Three giant presses ran almost continuously while I was there.

EBS, Verona, italy — © Brian Rose

A sheet with eight images and approval signature. The book has now been printed and the binding will be completed by mid-January.

Piazza Bra — © Brian Rose

New York/Alex Harsley

Alex Harsley — © Brian Rose

Alex Harsley, master photographer and oracle of 4th Street. I’ve known Alex since the late 1970s when I moved to the building next to his storefront gallery. Alex’s work spans multiple decades and multiple genres — photojournalism, street photography, portraiture, manipulated images, video. His pictures run up and down the walls of his tiny space at 67 East 4th Street, a crazy quilt installation of endless fascination and discovery. Stop in and chat with Alex. You won’t get this at any establishment museum — you have to seek it out yourself.

Alex Harsley photographs, portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat at left — © Brian Rose

Alex Harsley photograph — © Brian Rose

Scanning the walls of Alex’s gallery, I came across an image I hadn’t seen before of a group of men in front of a storefront somewhere in New York. It reads like a still from an unknown film noir movie shot on the streets of Spanish Harlem. Back when men regularly wore hats, jackets, and leather shoes. One can only speculate the relationships between the figures standing or walking through, the glances this way and that. The man is the foreground is particularly vivid with the patterned jacket, buttoned up white shirt, and mustache over pursed lips.

1679 Madison Avenue near 111th Street

I figured out where Alex’s photograph was taken — 1679 Madison Avenue near 111th Street on the east side of Manhattan. It’s the only building still standing on the block. In the 1950s when the picture was made. there was a thriving Latino community, but it eventually all came apart, like so many places in New York. A bland housing project now looms in the background.

This is but one of dozens of photographs on the walls Alex Harsley’s gallery.

Alex Harsley — © Brian Rose


New York/Toronto

Toronto — © Brian Rose

A short stay in Toronto, I walked around downtown and then wandered along the waterfront and out to a rather desolate area to the east. The weather was damp and chilly, but I had a great time.

Toronto — © Brian Rose

Toronto — © Brian Rose

Toronto — © Brian Rose

Toronto — © Brian Rose

Toronto — © Brian Rose

New York/Proofs

Atlantic City is getting closer and closer to being published. Just got the proofs from the printer, and everything is looking great. The books will be printed in late November in Verona, Italy.

Atlantic City will be released early in the new year. It is a book about Trumpian dystopia — casino capitalism — money laundering — disturbansim — architectural gimcrackery — global warming — salt water taffy — and a city both malignant and magnificent.

New York/ICP

New ICP exhibition space — © Brian Rose

Last week I took part in a tour of the new International Center of Photography on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The tour was led by executive director Mark Lubell, and three of my ICP students joined the group of about 15. The building is essentially complete as a shell, but it will take about a year to do interior construction.

The gallery spaces are dramatic and spacious, and will provide the flexibility to do all kinds of exhibitions from intimate to grand scale. The building will include a book store, cafe, library, and — actually in an adjoining structure — the ICP school. The new ICP is part of the Essex Crossing development and sits opposite The Market Line, a marketplace featuring food and culture, which will be a destination in itself.

Mark Lubell, ICP executive director — © Brian Rose

ICP school space — © Brian Rose

ICP rooftop event space — © Brian Rose

The new ICP will also include a large event space and rooftop terrace, which will be used to generate income for the institution. The whole complex is spectacular, and is very much a game changer for ICP, and, potentially, will elevate the centrality of photography — its history and ongoing development — in New York City.

ICPs public may need some coaxing to find their way to the Lower East Side, but there is a subway station across the street, and, at least psychologically, a closer connection to Brooklyn and a city that is increasingly multi-centered. The Lower East Side with its immigrant past has itself been integral to the history of photography, and many of its most important figures — Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Weegee, Nan Goldin, to name just a few — have worked or lived here. It seems fitting that the International Center of Photography should make this its new home.


New York/Portrait

Brian Rose portrait — photo by Marion Ettlinger

Around 1992, I was recording songs for a possible album — Suzanne Vega was producing. We needed a portrait for PR. I wanted something strong, without artifice, something like a picture I had seen of one of my writer heroes Raymond Carver. So, we went to the source, the great Marion Ettlinger. I went to her studio downtown. No lights, no props, black and white film, salt and pepper hair.

New York/Atlantic City

Atlantic City is complete. The pictures are sequenced, the quotes and comments finalized, and the essay by Paul Goldberger written.

Trump, for all intents and purposes, milked Atlantic City, and left it even poorer and more troubled than he had found it. The dream that casino gambling would turn Atlantic City into Las Vegas was never realistic in the first place, of course, and so it cannot be said that it was destroyed entirely by Donald Trump. But Trump saw a city down on its luck and did all he could to exploit it, and to take more out of it than he put into it.

The city is now as bleak as ever, as Brian Rose’s magnificent photographs show us. Indeed, it is bleakness that is the constant theme of these images, a sense of emptiness and an utter lack of urbanity.

— Paul Goldberger

Everything now goes to the printer, and we should have books in January or February. You can pre-order Atlantic City now, and these sales directly offset the cost of producing the book. So, please consider purchasing.

Pre-order Atlantic City

Circa Press

Former Trump Plaza Casino — © Brian Rose

New York/Venturi

Thoughts on hearing of the death of Robert Venturi.

When I think about my early influences as a young photographer, I always return to the fact that I was an urban design major at the University of Virginia in the early ‘70s. I left the field to go to art school, but my path as a photographer has always circled back to that original interest – a fascination with the built environment.

Planners and architects want order, by and large, and great buildings often stand apart from the riff raff of the visual turmoil of the city. I was torn between the ideas of order and chaos in photography. I wanted both. I wanted formally rigorous photographs, but I also wanted to include the random detritus of urban life. I struggled with this dichotomy at first, but eventually came to celebrate it.

At some point during the ‘70s I came across Complexity and Contradiction in Architectureby Robert Venturi, and subsequently, Learning from Las Vegas by Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Complexity and Contradiction called for a more inclusive way of looking at architecture, and Learning from Las Vegas expanded on the idea that vernacular architecture was a legitimate expression of the world we lived in, and should be embraced, not denigrated.

It was an easy jump for me to apply these ideas to photography, and I was certainly not the only photographer inspired by Venturi and Scott Brown’s writing. Although I loved the elegantly minimalist work of artists like Donald Judd and Agnes Martin, I found that the more reductive photographs became, the less they interested me — the less they seemed to utilize the descriptive power of the medium. As Venturi wrote: “I am for messy vitality over obvious unity. I include the non sequitur and proclaim the duality.”

Signs of Life: Symbols in the American City

In 1975 Venturi commission Stephen Shore to make photographs for an upcoming exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in Washginton, D.C. called Signs of Life: Symbols in the American City. It was a match made in heaven: Shore’s omnivorous eye and Venturi/Scott Brown’s inclusive architectural philosophy. Shore said later, “I traveled from Los Angeles to New York and photographed along the way, keeping in mind a list of different kinds of architecture that Scott Brown and Venturi had given me.”

Denise Scott Brown

In 1975 I was in Baltimore studying photography, and although I was unaware of the show at the Renwick, I did discover the work of Stephen Shore along with the color photographs of William Eggleston and Joel Meyerowitz. They are each very different artists, but all share an interest in giving expression to the commonplace – the world as we find it.

Aaron Betsky, the architectural critic, recently wrote:
Toward the end of Complexity and Contradiction, Venturi quoted art historian August Heckscher when he said that he wanted a “unity which ‘maintains, but only just maintains, a control over the clashing elements which compose it. Chaos is very near; its nearness, but its avoidance, gives … force.’ ” He then ends the book with a call for us to look at the “everyday landscape, vulgar and disdained,” to inspire “architecture as an urbanistic whole.”

Photography has been connected to architecture and the urban landscape from the very beginning – from Niépce’s first fleeting image of buildings outside his window – to Atget, Abbott, and Evans. Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s ideas about landscape and architecture have inspired, directly or indirectly, a whole generation of photographers. We have all absorbed their method of keen, but non-judgmental, observation, whether we’ve thought about it or not. We take it for granted, a fact that illustrates the depth and breadth of what Venturi called his “gentle manifesto.”

New York/Meatpacking District

An interview I did with Hannah Frishberg of 6sqft, a website about New York City urbanism, real estate, and architecture. It focuses on Metamorphosis, my book about the Meatpacking District, includes comments about my Lower East Side and World Trade Center work, and touches on my recent photographs of Atlantic City.

For those of you who missed my Kickstarter campaign, I am taking pre-orders for Atlantic City. Please consider buying now, not just to save a little money, but because it helps directly in defraying production costs.

Atlantic City is very close to completion, and I”m really excited about how it is turning out. I’ve often used personal commentary in support of my pictures, but this time I bring in carefully selected external quotes. Text has been used, of course, in other photo books, Atlantic City extends the concept in a way that I haven’t seen before.


New York/Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Island — © Brian Rose

A few loose ends from the last day or two of our vacation to Ocracoke on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We walked to Springers Point, a nature preserve on the Pamlico Sound, and along the way we encountered the sign above. We did not see any slow children, but we kept an eye out for them.

Springers Point, Ocracoke — © Brian Rose

Springers Point is the highest spot on the barrier island of Ocracoke and features a well-maintained nature trail that leads to a small beach on the sound. Someone left a cooler with bottles of water next to the trailhead — $1 each on the honor system.

The Coastal Trust website says: “This tranquil Preserve was opened to the public on May 20, 2006 and encompasses more than 120 acres of maritime forest, tidal red cedar forest, salt marsh, wet grasslands and sound front beach. You’ll pass ancient, gnarled live oaks as you make your way along winding trails to the sandy beach overlooking the infamous Teach’s Hole.” Teach was Blackbeard, the pirate, and his hole was where he hid out from the Colonial navy. They got him eventually, and beheaded him right there on Ocracoke.

Springers Point, Ocracoke — © Brian Rose

Springers Point, Ocracoke — © Brian Rose

Brendan and Renee under attack — © Brian Rose

On the beach, we encountered a pelican, which came right up, and was apparently unamused by the fact that we had nothing to offer in the way of food. Being a dutiful photographer, I stepped back and documented the attack of the angry pelican. Just in case you’re concerned, Brendan and Renee survived unscathed.

Ocracoke gravel — © Brian Rose

As someone who loves going barefoot, Ocracoke is great. You can go anywhere and do anything shoeless. But every now and then the sandy soil gives way to gravel parking lots. This stuff should be illegal.

Jolly Roger Pub — © Brian Rose

There are a lot of good restaurants in Ocracoke, but we’ve come to the conclusion that the simpler the better. Sitting outside in the evening having steamed shrimp with a beer is the way to go. And the local 1718 craft beer is terrific. That didn’t exist, of course, on our previous trips to Ocracoke. And another place that did not exist, Eduardo’s, a taco truck next to the Variety Store, has the greatest seafood tacos ever. No lie.

Jolly Roger dock — © Brian Rose

The best place to watch the sun go down over Silver Lake, Ocracoke’s harbor, is from the Jolly Roger dock. About 20 or 25 people gathered when I was there. We had a week of almost perfect weather — a few stray showers here and there — but mostly sunny, breezy, with almost no mosquitos or flies, which we’ve encountered in the past.

Norfolk International Airport — © Brian Rose

Leaving Ocracoke we drove north up the Outer Banks to Norfolk — about four and half hours — where we flew back to New York. In the airport there was a painting of the battleship USS Wisconsin.