New York/Bob Dylan

Close up of Folk City 20th anniversary flyer (1979)
4-11-61 Robert Dylan

In many respects, Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in literature is an affirmation of what those in my songwriter circle have been doing for decades – crafting songs in which music and lyrics interlock in poetic balance. Is it literature, or something else? Certainly, Dylan’s lyrics were not meant to stand alone on the page, though many of his lines and phrases have become as familiar as Shakespeare or the Bible.

My old friend, the songwriter Jack Hardy, now deceased, would have probably sneered at Dylan’s Nobel accolade – after all, in Jack’s demimonde of folk music, Dylan was a sellout. He was/is a pop star of tremendous fame and fortune. That makes him a problematic figure to some, but I see his hyper success, to a great extent, as a product of the 60s, when songwriters and rock bands burst onto the scene promoted by an expanding record industry and the rich diversity of free form radio. He tapped into the cultural revolution of the moment – as did the Beatles – and his songs were disruptive and catalytic, both in social and aesthetic terms.

It’s harder now. There are a million more opportunities to get one’s work out there, which is a good thing, but the method of distribution is atomized, and audiences break down into smaller and smaller niches. The shared experience of a stunning new song crackling across the airwaves such as “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Tangled up in Blue” is largely a thing of the past. We now rely on youtube videos, streaming music, or other electronic forms of connective tissue.

For many songwriters that also means doing it the old fashioned way, playing to people directly, making tours of small clubs and even living rooms. And in fact, the kind of song that Bob Dylan mastered was the outgrowth of an oral tradition deeply rooted in western culture, cross-pollinated by influences from the African diaspora in North America. Jack Hardy would have called it the bardic tradition (minus the lyres and leprechauns, please), and he was right. The kind of song that Dylan cultivated and ultimately transcended was based on an ancient means of lyrical communication that pre-dates what we think of now as literature.

So, I’d like to think that the Nobel committee has recognized one of the greatest and most complex artists of our time not so much for extending the boundaries of literature, but for reconnecting us to the roots of literature itself.


Mural by Joe Lanzilotta, Hingetown, Cleveland, Ohio — © Brian Rose

Passing through Cleveland on the way to Oberlin, Ohio we stopped in an area called Hingetown west of the city’s Warehouse District. Had a great coffee at Rising Star Coffee Roasters in an old firehouse. Across the street was a mural by Cleveland artist Joe Lanzilotta.

New York/Bard College

The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College — © Brian Rose

We traveled Upstate to visit colleges last weekend — my son is a high school senior — and he is looking at various options. We stopped briefly at Bard, a couple hours up the Hudson from New York City, and walked around Frank Gehry’s auditorium with its billowing metallic sheathing. The grey silvery material melded with a lowering sky as if threatening to fly off in the wind.

New York/Book Launch

WTC book launch, the Great Hall, Cooper Union

The launch of WTC took place at Cooper Union in the Great Hall, the famous room where Abraham Lincoln gave his “right makes might” speech. It was an honor to present my book there as an alumnus of Cooper, and it seemed the right place for a book so interwoven with the history of New York.

Sean Corcoran of the Museum of the City of New York gave an introduction, and I then walked the audience through the book, reading excerpts from the text. Afterwards, we adjourned to the lobby for refreshments, and I signed books with my son, Brendan, helping make sales. Thanks everyone who made this possible, my Kickstarter backers, friends and family, New Yorkers.

WTC is available here.

The Great Hall, Cooper Union

New York/2,000 Books

Storage closet in Chelsea — © Brian Rose

This is what 2,000 books looks like when stacked nine boxes high. 169 boxes in all. Your first thought when they arrive is — what have I done?! — and then they fit exactly as determined weeks ago when they were on a container ship slowly making their way to New York. So, no surprises.

The moment of truth is here. Please join me for the book launch in Cooper Union’s Great Hall. I will be doing a slide talk, taking questions, and there will be a reception afterwards with books available for purchase and signing. See you there!

WTC Book Launch
September 8, 6:30pm

The Great Hall
Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street
New York City

launch card 5x7

New York/WTC Launch

launch card 5x7

Save the date — September 8th — for the launch of WTC! Books are in the port of New York and should arrive soon.

WTC Book Launch
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street
New York, NY

6:30pm (until about 8pm)
Slide talk and book signing afterwards
Light refreshments served

WTC/Advance Copies


This is it folks. Advance copies of WTC have arrived from the printer, and — what can I say — the book is stunning. The original design for the cover had the letters WTC dissolving into a close-up of the skin of one of the Twin Towers, symbolic of their disappearance and ghostly presence. But we decided to go with silver reflective letters that almost float above the matte background. The effect is stronger, more iconic. It is simple, elegant, and I think, powerful.


The spine and endpapers are a cool blue, taken from wedge of sky seen between the Twin Towers in one of the images. The photographs and text blocks are a consistent scale with white borders throughout except for the bleed images that break up the different sections. This is a book to be read — both the writing and the imagery.

I am very proud of WTC. It is the third in a trilogy of books about New York City. It is the culmination of a lifetime of observing the urban landscape and architecture, the center stage for human endeavor. It is a story both personal and shared — this great city and the tragedy that befell it 15 years ago. It is an attempt to honor and commemorate even in this moment of public vulgarity and corrosive discourse.

The official release of WTC is September 8th. I will be providing more information about the launch later. In the meantime, the book can be pre-ordered on my website.

New York/F&Gs

WTC folded and gathered pages — © Brian Rose

It may look a little sloppy, but the loose pages shown in the photo above are actual offset printed pages for my forthcoming book, WTC. These are the so-called F&Gs (folded and gathered) straight off the press and air freighted from Hong Kong to New York for approval.

WTC folded and gathered pages — © Brian Rose

The quality of the printing is stunning, and I am expecting to receive a small number of bound books in the next couple of weeks. The rest of the books will be shipped by boat and should arrive by the end of August, in time for the book launch on September 8th. More information on that soon.

New York/Baseball

Hitting tunnel, Elizabeth, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

My son is a 17-year-old baseball player just finishing up his junior year of high school. If you have survived the move from the little league diamond to the full-sized diamond, you’re already in an elite group. The fact is, most human beings cannot throw the ball the 127 feet distance from home to second base, or third to first base. Try it sometime. And if you have survived middle school baseball and ended up on your high school varsity team, you are in the approximately 8 percent of little leaguers still playing the game.

Many people can dabble in other sports a good while — just about everyone can shoot a little basketball and play pick-up in the park. And softball is a great amateur sport played by millions. But baseball — hardball — is an activity performed by a vanishingly small group of athletes who can run and throw, and most importantly, hit a fastball arriving a few inches in front of you at upwards of 90 miles per hour. If you think you might be able to do that, try it sometime.

The reality is, however, that most of the high school players are not superior athletes, and only some of them make it on a so-called travel team. Travel teams are clubs that play the summer and fall circuit of tournaments, and individual players often attend showcases and college camps in hopes of being seen by a scout or coach who will offer them a scholarship or help them get drafted into Major League Baseball. Not all travel team players make it to the next level, but there are many opportunities to continue playing baseball in college — some that come with scholarships — though many offers are from academically prestigious schools competing with one another to get the best of the rest. Those schools may not provide athletic scholarships, but they can greatly smooth the admissions process if they want you.

Basket of balls, Elizabeth, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

My son is on a travel team, the New York Gothams (really cool name), based in Manhattan, though a number of players come from the other boroughs. When you play the travel team circuit you quickly realize, to some consternation, that the system is rigged. Many of the teams are essentially all star teams with players recruited from all over the country. They only come together to play the tournaments, and many of the players have already committed to big time college programs.

The tournaments are run by various different organizations, many of them non-profit, but the biggest is Perfect Game, which sponsors tournaments and showcases. They are at the center of a money-driven baseball industry that starts with increasingly younger players that feeds into college ball and the MLB. They are not evil, certainly — their events are well-run and enjoyable — but they have upped the ante, in  general, creating a highly pressurized and competitive environment around youth baseball. Some have blamed them for the increase in injuries to young pitchers who push the limits of their bodies in hopes of hitting the magic number of 90mph, which will virtually guarantee a college scholarship. I would look more to the coaches and parents myself for the source of the problem, and I think that Perfect Game understands they are in a unique position to help mitigate the situation.

Behind the bleachers, Elizabeth, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

These photographs were taken at two different Perfect Game events, a showcase in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and a tournament just a few miles away on Staten Island. The venues, particularly in the Northeast, are not always glamorous. The field in Elizabeth, set in the heart of an industrial landscape of oil refineries and container docklands, had a funky charm. The multi-field complex on Staten Island was scruffy, looked like they ran out of money, and said that’s good enough. Play ball!

Richmond County Baseball complex, Staten Island, New York — © Brian Rose

New York/The Bronx

White Plaiins Road, The Bronx — © Brian Rose

In the midst of running my Kickstarter campaign — which was successful despite a nail biting finish — I traveled up to the Bronx to see my son play baseball with his school team. New York City has decent quality baseball despite horrible conditions, fields that would be considered unplayable elsewhere. And they are often in out of the way places where space is at less of a premium. I got off the 6 train and joined a crowd of people waiting for the Bx39. It’s moments like this when the pocket camera comes out and I snap a few pictures, usually one right after another, and then I’m done. So, here are two such pictures. Thin slices of urban tissue, waiting for a bus.

White Plains Road, The Bronx — © Brian Rose

New York/Finish Line


Today is the last day of my Kickstarter campaign, and  the big news (at least for me) is that I have decided to print 2,000 copies of WTC instead of the 1,000 originally planned. Time and Space on the Lower East Side is sold out, and Metamorphosis is down to the last 200 copies. So, it made sense to print more this time. There are serious financial reasons for and against bumping the print run up to 2,000 — it costs more upfront, but gives me a much lower per unit cost. And the larger number of books require more storage space.

Everything is happening fast, and yesterday, the final proofs came in from the printer for approval. Above is the cover — front, back, and spine — and in the upper right are thread samples for the sewn binding. The letters WTC are reflective silver.


Most of the pages were already approved several weeks ago, but several needed to be tweaked for color or density. The image above is a particularly difficult one because it is a back-lit scene, almost monochromatic, and any change shows in the neutral tones. The print at the top right is my reference C print, and the other two are proofs from the printer.


Each of my books in this series — a New York trilogy — come in either the trade edition or limited edition. The limited book comes with an 8×10 inch print tipped in on the inside of the back cover, and it is housed in a slipcover box. For WTC I chose a dark grey linen slipcover with reflective silver lettering. The three books in their slipcovers can be seen above. The magenta one is Time and Space on the Lower East Side, and the middle one in a Kraft paper slipcover is Metamorphosis, Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013.

The slipcover for WTC is really beautiful.

We are on target for a September 8th release of WTC. There will be more information about it later, but the plan is a slide talk and book signing in New York at Cooper Union in the Great Hall.

Don’t forget my Kickstarter campaign — last day!!

New York/WTC

taten Island Ferry, 1977 — © Brian Rose

I was a student in 1977, a newcomer to the city I had long dreamed of making my own. I walked all around lower Manhattan with a Nikkormat 35mm camera, a brilliantly stripped down camera made by Nikon, shooting color slide film. I was discovering New York, and at the same time, exploring the potential of color photography, which was still in its infancy.

On a trip across the Staten Island Ferry I caught the scene above — a brief interaction — a high-heeled woman and a man in a suit — like a film still. I shot two frames quickly, similar to each other, this one with the Twin Towers framed in a window echoed by the vertical elements of the ferry, the gap of sky, the yellow pole,

This photograph, and a number of others from the ’70s, introduce my book, WTC, a 40 year visual history of New York in which the Twin Towers — their destruction — and the rebuilding — play a central role. It is a personal narrative set against a historical backdrop of epic scale. It is a commemoration, a reflection, and a tribute to New Yorkers and all who carry a piece of this great city with them.

Please help make this book a reality by supporting my Kickstarter campaign.

New York/WTC


A great article and interview about WTC in CityLab, The Atlantic’s web zine about urban affairs.

Mark Byrnes writes:

…most who page through WTC will contemplate Manhattan’s relentless transformation since a turbulent and mythologized 1970s. Change has come through economic shifts, public policy decisions, and tragedy. Rose’s work provides a clear, visual understanding of what the city has lost and gained through it all.

Please support WTC by pledging to my Kickstarter campaign.
Your help is needed!!

New York/WTC

World Trade Center construction fencing — © Brian Rose

I am now at 26% of my Kickstarter goal. On target, but only if I can keep up the same pace for the next three weeks. I don’t have any big donors to count on. This is about individuals who are willing to step up and support artists and projects they care about. Small amounts add up. Please participate at whatever level of support you are comfortable with.


I was downtown the other day on business unrelated to my WTC book project, and snapped the image above. It’s a construction fence with a printed photograph of the skyline. In the rear are the ribs of the transportation center, which is now open to the public, although with limited access. There is only one entrance through the lobby of 4 WTC on Liberty Street.

Yesterday, a North Carolina middle school choir singing the Star Spangled Banner at the 9/11 memorial was stopped by a security guard — you are supposed to have a permit. A couple of thoughts. How strange that a school group would travel all the way to New York to sing the National Anthem — uninvited — at the 9/11 memorial. And how weird that they chose the official anthem of the United States, as opposed to, say, a hymn like America or God Bless America. Did they expect everyone to stop and pay respect to the Anthem as they sat on benches eating their lunches or crossing the plaza to get to the Path Train?

Clearly, the group from North Carolina, like many visiting the memorial, have a very different idea of the site’s meaning than those who live and work in the area. And finally, what crazy sense of duty would compel a security guard to interrupt the singing of the National Anthem on the plaza for lack of a performance permit.

We live in strange, and often, unsettling times.

New York/”Freedom Tower”

Paul Avenue, The Bronx — © Brian Rose

Whatever happened to the Freedom Tower? That is what former Governor George Partaki called One World Trade Center when it was still an architectural concept. And if you wander through the crowds of tourists downtown, you will still hear people refer to David Child’s 1,776 foot tall skyscraper as the Freedom Tower. The Port Authority, however, abandoned that name years ago, and few New Yorkers seem inclined to use it.

One section of my forthcoming book WTC is comprised of vernacular images of the Twin Towers — posters, murals,and graffiti. And there are books and photographs for sale in the street, many of which graphically show the destruction of the Trade Center. It has been 15 years, but helped by constant visual reminders, the Twin Towers remain fixed in the mind’s eye. Images of One World Trade, however, are harder to find.

One World Trade — or Freedom Tower — was envisioned by some as a patriotic gesture, not just real estate. Some might argue that in New York City real estate and patriotism go hand in hand. Whatever the case, One World Trade Center has only slowly begun to achieve the iconic status of its progenitors, the Twin Towers. Maybe it never will. So, I was stopped in my tracks yesterday while walking through the Bronx. There on the ground was a pizza box with One World Trade and an enormous American flag printed in red white and blue. The Freedom Tower lives…perhaps.

And then in Brooklyn — there it is again —  standing tall in support of Bernie.

North 3rd Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

Please help make WTC possible by supporting my Kickstarter campaign.