It’s always great to see prints like these go out the door. I was there to place a signature label on the mounted print. They cut a window in the backing board to provide access to the signature.
The Arcaid architecture photography award gets a lot of media attention — showing the finalists — not just the winner, which will be chosen in November. Many of the websites that do features are architecturally oriented, but some general news sites take an interest as well. The Guardian did a really nice presentation the other day with comments from readers.
Someone said my photograph was only good because of the two shacks, which is true.
A lot of the discussion centered on whether these were photographs about architecture or photographs that utilize architecture for other purposes. My favorite comment was this one:
I’m pleased to announce that my photograph of the new, but empty, Revel casino in Atlantic City (above) has been shortlisted for the Arcaid architecture photograph of the year award. Twenty photographs were selected, and will be exhibited in Berlin, London, and Beijing. The winner will be chosen at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin in November.
In a contest like this you want an iconic image with a strong composition, play of light, color arrangement — all the elements. And wow factor turned up to 11. I’m not really that kind of photographer. I work in series rather than individual images, though I expect each image to have a purpose and an internal logic.
As followers of this blog know, I’ve been working on an Atlantic City series with a fairly straightforward political intent. To frame Donald Trump as the scam artist we have known about for years, and to place him at the center of the destruction of Atlantic City, a quintessentially American story of greed and (literally) casino capitalism. The image that was selected does not show a Trump casino, and in fact, the fall of Atlantic City is a complex subject, but I think it works to tell the story about as well as any one photograph can.
American values and idealism, however, survive somewhere between the crumbling houses and the monolithic glass wall of the casino — the little American flag in the vacant lot flapping in the sea breeze.
Gansevoort and Washington Street — Photo by Justin Brooks (Curbed)
Was out with my view camera in the Meatpacking District shooting a video for Curbed, the blog on urban life and architecture. The completed video, which will be about the transformation of the neighborhood and my project photographing it, will only be a few minutes long, but we put at least eight hours into it — footage on the street and in the studio, and an audio interview. I’ll let you know when the video is available.
The story, for those who don’t know it, is that I photographed the Meatpacking District over several cold days in January of 1985. I processed the film, but never printed any of it. The negatives sat in a Kodak box on my shelf for almost 30 years, when on a whim, I decided to scan them and see what was there.
I was stunned to discover — or rediscover — an exquisitely decrepit New York utterly devoid of people and traffic. The contrast with the present day city was so extreme that I decided to rephotograph the Meatpacking District — repeating the original images with a few variations — and adding a number of contemporary views. The result is my book Metamorphosis, Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013.
As I set up the composition above with its various interlocking pieces, I noticed that the LED sign at right center, just under the royal crest of Trumplandia, the former Trump Plaza, changed ads every 30 seconds or so. I made several pictures — one with my digital pocket camera — posted a few weeks ago, and one with my 4×5 view camera. All off a sudden an ad for the Miss America Pageant flashed on the sign, and then was gone, before I could get a film holder into my camera. Perfect! I wanted that.
So I waited for the ads to cycle through again, and I waited and waited, but Miss America did not seem to be getting equal time. Finally, she popped up on the screen, a beaming blond wearing a golden crown, adjacent to a royal crest with the words Miss America 2018, Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Miss America pageant has been associated with Atlantic City for as long as I can remember — much longer than Donald Trump’s casino reign — and it remains one of the few vestiges of the past glory of this storied beach resort.
Miraculously, at that moment, a group of people carrying shopping bags acquired from the nearby outlet mall walked into the otherwise vacant pathway leading one’s eye to the smiling face of the beauty queen and the royal escutcheons of Miss America and Donald Trump.
On the boardwalk, a statue of Miss America holding a crown to be placed on the head of the next winner stands in front of Boardwalk Hall, the historic venue for the pageant. Miss America absconded to Las Vegas in 2006, but has since returned to her rightful realm. A steady stream of tourists photograph themselves beneath the statue’s proffered crown.
The pageant was first televised in 1954, the year I was born, and every Fall my family would gather around the TV set to watch. There were only three major networks in those days, guaranteeing an enormous audience for any event shown in prime time. It’s embarrassing to think about it now, but I remember carefully scrutinizing each contestant for beauty, talent, and poise, as the judges whittled it down to to the final group of worthies. Always of great importance was how well contestants answered questions picked at random, and it was great fun to laugh at the word salad that predictably spewed forth.
Donald Trump, despite his dominance in Atlantic City, never got his hands on Miss America, literally or figuratively — he was the owner of the Miss Universe and USA pageants for over a decade. Miss America would have been far too cerebral. When he took over Miss Universe pageant Trump said of one of the pageant executives, “They had a person that was extremely proud that a number of the women had become doctors, and I wasn’t interested.”
In the Miss America pageant just held in Atlantic City, Miss Texas was asked about Trump’s non committal response to the white supremacists who engaged in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. She said, : “I think that the white supremacist issue — it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack, and I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure that all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”
Mike Lupica in the Daily News:
On the eve of another anniversary of Sept. 11, terror from the sky created by madmen, it is always worth remembering that ever since that day 16 years ago, we have worried about somebody coming for us again, Al Qaeda or ISIS or the Taliban. And we have done as much as a city and country can do to make sure that does not happen. It is the storms that keep coming.
WTC — available here.
Back when I took this picture, Miami Beach was not the place it is now. The art deco hotels were shabby and low income elderly slumped on the porches and stoops along Ocean Drive. I wish I had taken pictures of the place back then, but I was only passing through.
Over the years, I made many trips to Florida to visit family. My mother lived in Hallandale Beach, just north of Miami — she is in Virginia now — and I’ve seen the extraordinary transformation of the whole area, the palisade of skyscrapers that now lines the beach for miles and miles.
My wife, Renee, and I made a wonderful trip to Key West about 20 years ago — we had a memorable romantic dinner sitting on a deck overlooking the sea as the sun went down — and we returned with our son, Brendan, a few years later. I got seasick on a glass bottomed boat, much to my son’s amusement, saw a shark and barricuda below, and survived. We also had a magical late afternoon visit to the Everglades, strolled a wooden walkway above an alligator hole teaming with so much life that it you could hear it as well as see it.
I’m expecting Hurricane Irma to do a lot of damage. Like a lot of beautiful places, no matter how civilized by man, nature remains wild and beyond our control.
It’s been a while since I last walked the High Line on Manhattan’s west side, an overly popular attraction that is often uncomfortably thronged with tourists. A rainy morning followed by cloudy skies dampened the mob mentality enough to make the walkway quite tolerable. It looked incredibly lush at the end of the summer, and the new architecture springing up alongside is impressive, even astonishing.
Perhaps the most remarkable is an apartment building by the late Zaha Hadid, which Curbed has already placed on its list of 35 most iconic New York buildings. I have always had mixed feelings about Hadid’s work — its extreme expressiveness — its rejection of rectilinear discipline — its sheer self-aggrandizing voluptuousness. But here, wedged tightly in the dense urban fabric of Chelsea, it is a wondrous outlier, an aggressive interloper in the often buttoned down conservatism of New York architecture.
A few steps uptown is Hudson Yards, a mega project exploding into the air above the Long Island Railroad train yards. Most notable are two not exactly compatible structures seen above: Vessel, an interactive sculpture by Thomas Heatherwick, and the Shed, designed by Diller Scofideo + Renfro. Having already seen renderings of Vessel, and now viewing its erection — about halfway up — I am can say with conviction that it is a horror — a series of interlocking stairs sheathed in shiny Trumpian copper emerging like an alien mushroom in the midst of the skyscraper forest.
The Shed, adjacent, is a moveable structure that rolls on tracks over the Hudson Yards plaza. It’s an ingenious and elegant design intended to create an indoor/outdoor space for performances of all kinds. I have a couple of concerns, particularly the jamming of so many structures together in such a tight space. it is visually chaotic. And conceptually, I have doubts about the overall programming. Does New York need more spaces for theatrical events as opposed to more intimate artist centered venues?
Just a few blocks away in Chelsea one finds a calmer world composed of simple shapes and subtle colors, a more modest Morandi-like still life, hushed and empty on a holiday weekend.
Jefferson Davis gravesite, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia — © Brian Rose
Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond is the final resting place of Jefferson Davis the president of the Confederacy. His statue is visited regularly, and Confederate flags are often placed around the monument. Elsewhere in the cemetery, John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, is buried. Staunchly pro slavery he aligned himself with the Confederacy. And there are 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in the rolling hills of this hauntingly beautiful place perched above the James River. I wrote about Hollywood a few years ago here and here.
I have mixed feelings about the removal of Confederate Civil War monuments for a number of reasons that have not received much attention in the wake of the the shocking events in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I’d like to explore the subject especially with regard to Richmond, a city I know well. Although I have lived much of my life in New York City, I was born and raised in Virginia, and went to the University of Virginia for two years. My family lived briefly in Richmond, but most of my childhood was spent nearby in Williamsburg, the restored Virginia capital.
First of all, let me be clear. I do not regard Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, or any of the other Confederate leaders worthy of veneration. Whether they were brave in battle or noble in defeat makes no difference. As W.E.B. DuBois wrote about Lee in 1928: His personal comeliness, his aristocratic birth and his military prowess all call for the verdict of greatness and genius. But one thing–one terrible fact–militates against this and that is the inescapable truth that Robert E. Lee led a bloody war to perpetuate slavery.
Many historians and commentators have pointed out that most of the Civil War statues were erected well after the war was over – after Reconstruction – when Jim Crow laws institutionalized segregation and the repression of African Americans. Mitch Landrieu, the mayor New Orleans, gave an eloquent speech just hours before the removal of the city’s Confederate statues pointing out the facts in a compelling manner:
These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
The Henry Ward Beecher statue in downtown Brooklyn honors the leading abolitionist of his day — some called him the most famous man in America. His sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But even Beecher’s statue has a problematic element. A supplicant slave reaches up to the great man in gratitude.
While it is true that these monuments were intended to promote the myth of the Confederacy as a noble cause, they were also an expression of the Beaux Arts movement, which transformed American cities by creating broad boulevards, public parks, and grand classically inspired architecture. The Beaux Arts period, running from 1890 to 1920 corresponds almost exactly with the commissioning of Civil War monuments. In the North, most of the statues, of course, portrayed Union heroes like Ulysses S. Grant or William Tecumseh Sherman. In the South, it was Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. These statues were typically situated in prominent ceremonial places in major cities throughout the United States.
The best sculptors of the time were commissioned to produce these heroic monuments. The most prominent was Augustus St. Gaudens who created the Sherman statue at the corner of Central Park and Fifth Avenue. An angel leads the beatifically rendered Sherman on his path of destruction and victory. St. Gaudens’ masterwork is the Shaw memorial on the edge of Boston Common, completed in 1897, which depicts, in meticulous detail, Colonel Robert Shaw leading a black regiment down Beacon Street on their way to battle.
In the South, the civic goals corresponded with those in the North — to elevate public space with works of grandeur and nobility. Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy best exemplifies the city beautiful movement. A grand boulevard was envisioned west of downtown with designated sites for monuments at major cross streets. The first to be erected was an equestrian sculpture of Robert E. Lee created by the French artist Antonin Mercié, fabricated in France, and shipped to the United Sates, much like the Statue of Liberty.
Henry Shrady was the creator of the Robert E. Lee equestrian sculpture in Charlottesville. The city’s decision to remove the statue led to protest marches by hundreds of neo-Nazis carrying weapons, torches, and Confederate flags. Three deaths resulted. Shrady was also the sculptor of George Washington at Valley Forge, a powerful presence at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, New York.
The J.E.B. Stuart monument in Richmond was created by Frederick Moynihan, who produced sculptures in the North and South depicting both Union and Confederate heroes. He and other artists of Monument Avenue were American, but all studied with the leading sculptors of the time in Europe. In Charlottesville, Virginia, the now infamous Lee Statue was sculpted by Henry Shrady who also is responsible for the Grant monument directly in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. I have no idea if it mattered to Shrady which side of the “War Between the States” he was memorializing.
There were many, however, who understood what Lee represented to the dominant white society of the South. When the Lee monument was proposed in the 1890s, black members of the Richmond city council opposed it. One of them, John Mitchel, the editor of the Richmond Planet wrote: “The capital of the late Confederacy has been decorated with emblems of the ‘Lost Cause,” and the Lee statue represented a “legacy of treason and blood.”
The Grant monument on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn was designed by William Ordway Partridge who also was commissioned to create a sculpture of Pocahontas in Jamestown, Virginia. Few New Yorkers know the Grant monument, but the Pocahontas sculpture is popular, and the image of this Native American icon is a fascinating study in itself of American mythology and history.
That’s where we are today. Richmond, a greatly rejuvenated city of over 200,000 people, about evenly divided black and white, is grappling with the future of its monuments. Ten years ago the city sought to balance the story of Monument Avenue by erecting a statue of Richmond native and former tennis great Arthur Ashe. The statue is awkwardly executed, too small in scale for its site, and comes off as an add-on rather than an integral part of the avenue’s overall ensemble. Are there contemporary artists who can do life-like sculptures worthy of St. Gaudens? Should we even try?
The people of Richmond will decide for themselves what to do, but I see two possible scenarios. One is to keep the monuments, and introduce a serious and comprehensive program to provide historical context, which will require an honest appraisal of Robert E. Lee, one that sets straight the fictitious myth of the noble warrior. The other is to relocate the statues – a major task presenting its own set of quandaries – and the commissioning of new works to replace the old – installations that respect the urbanistic and historic nature of the boulevard, but address contemporary issues and new aesthetic visions.
I agree that maintaining the status quo is no longer tenable. The Confederate battle flag should certainly not be flying from public buildings, and it’s time to acknowledge that the Lost Cause of the South belongs in the dustbin of history. But if it’s possible in the heat of the moment to slow down, let’s consider the options available for our monuments, Civil War and otherwise. In many cases, these are significant works of art that reflect the rebuilding of American cities, North and South, at the beginning of the 20th Century. The wholesale removal of monuments is an erasure of history rather than an attempt to understand it and learn from it.
The principles of JEFFERSON are the definitions and axioms of free society. And yet they are denied and evaded, with no small show of success. One dashingly calls them “glittering generalities.” Another bluntly styles them “self-evident lies.” And others insidiously argue that they apply only to “superior races.”
These expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and effect — the supplanting the principles of free Government, and restoring those of classification, caste and legitimacy. They would delight a convocation of crowned heads plotting against the people. They are the vanguard, the sappers and miners of returning despotism. We must repulse them, or they will subjugate us.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Thursday, April 6,1859
Trump Plaza wall — © Brian Rose
I returned to Atlantic City to continue working on my project — Atlantic City: In the Wake of Destruction Left by Donald Trump. I intended to spend part of my time on the Boardwalk, which in mid-August is filled with people and activity. But I ended up mostly on Pacific and Arctic Avenues just to the west of the beach. Even at the height of the summer, the streets were strangely quiet.
The photograph above was taken in the area adjacent to an immense outlet mall and a large fishing and camping store — efforts by the city to generate tourism and commercial activity. The former Trump Plaza stands empty, a black and white shell, its parking structure denuded of the Trump logo, though its possible to just make out the letters to the left and right of Trump’s golden crest.
Next to Trump Plaza is Caesars, a casino still doing business on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City’s homage to the Roman Forum.
Just a block or two from Caesars and Trump Plaza — the white tower in the background — it’s a different world. Junkies and alcoholics mingle on the corners while beach goers drift toward the Boardwalk carrying umbrellas and towels. The arched wall at center is the site of the former Trump’s World’s Fair, another failed casino.
A vacant building and empty lot just behind the outlet malls on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. In the distance is the Sheraton Hotel, which primarily serves the Atlantic City convention center. A man approached from a shop just to the left of the pink structure and asked what I was doing. it turned out he was the owner of the place called The Fishmarket. I explained a little about my project, and asked him whether he thought Atlantic City was coming up or going down. He gave a thumbs up, and told me that business was good. I don’t know if I share his optimism, but I felt encouraged by his attitude, nevertheless.
Just in the next block, the neighborhood of Ducktown remains largely intact with densely packed blocks of row houses. On the corner is White House Subs, which was probably not Donald Trump’s inspiration to run for the presidency. It is, however, a wonderfully funky and happening sub shop, which was packed with a diverse melange of people at lunch time.
My family came along on this trip — I deposited them on the beach while I was shooting — and we had lunch at White House Subs.
Across from me in the booth a grinning Jimmy Fallon from 10 years ago looked me in the eye holding one of White House’s classic Italian subs. Yes!