Category Archives: Architecture

New York/Reality on Steroids

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TWA Terminal, photograph by Ezra Stoller

A lot has been written in recent years about the pernicious effect of Photoshop on fashion photography and photojournalism. In fashion the discussion has focused on body types and the digital air brushing of unwanted (presumably unsightly) details. In photojournalism, controversy abounds, and the contest held by World Press Photo has instituted a code of ethics with specific restrictions on manipulation and captioning. Reuters recently announced that it was requiring all its photographers to submit jpegs instead of RAW image files because the latter, essentially digital negatives, offer greater opportunity to manipulate the images.

“As eyewitness accounts of events covered by dedicated and responsible journalists, Reuters Pictures must reflect reality. While we aim for photography of the highest aesthetic quality, our goal is not to artistically interpret the news.”

Mmm. Kind of calls into question the entire profession, if you ask me. I’m not sure what the difference is between highest aesthetic quality and artistically interpreting the news. Whatever the case, it is clear that we have a drastically changed photographic landscape where fine art photographers are encouraged to construct and manipulate images, while photojournalists are reprimanded for touching even a single pixel. Meanwhile, documentarists operate in a hybrid zone, often placing themselves squarely in the middle of the visual exploration of place or situation, sometimes manipulating reality to better express “truth.”

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Stahl House, photograph by Julius Shulman

Which brings me to architectural photography, a small niche in the professional photography world, but overlapping with those who generally photograph the built environment — certainly my area of concern. Architectural photography has almost always been about idealization, certainly going back to Ezra Stoller and Julius Shulman whose black and white distillations of modern architecture defined the aesthetic. There was lots of staging of people and objects, and time of day and weather were not left to chance.

Staging, however, has been joined by digital manipulation, which is not just common, it has become de rigueur. Clients routinely instruct photographers to remove undesired objects, wires, appendages, background distractions, you name it. I had a client a few years ago who was unhappy with the quality of the stucco work on his building and he told me to “Photoshop the hell out of it” to make it look more like the rendering. The image became reality on steroids.

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El Centro building, Chicago, Illinois
Air conditioning units edited out above, an undoctored photo below.

Blair Kamin, the esteemed architectural critic for the Chicago Tribune recently called into question the awarding of an architectural prize given to a building based, primarily, on the submission of photographs seen by the jury. It seems that large, visually distracting, air handling units on the roof had been removed from the pictures. The result was the depiction of a building that expressed the architects intentions, but not exactly the reality on the ground.

The fact is, when it comes to images, there is almost no architectural equivalent to photojournalism. Architects hire photographers, the images are manipulated as desired, and then the architects submit the pictures to magazines and contests, and show them to prospective clients. No one in this sequence of events ever suggests that there is a context to be considered outside this closed loop.

eloftsElofts, David Baker Architects, Emeryville, California — © Brian Rose
Gritty industrial neighborhood.

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Crescent Cove, David Baker Architects, San Francisco, California — © Brian Rose
Elevated highway adjacent to the project.

Different architects have different perspectives, of course, and different aesthetic intentions. One client who I have worked for many times, David Baker, based in San Francisco, designs his buildings to integrate, or create a dialogue with, the urban fabric. Even if the architectural vocabulary takes on modernist forms that contrast with the surroundings, the tension thus produced is actively addressed. He has given me a free hand to find images of his projects that show that relationship, even when it is jarring or uncomfortable. Many architects, however, prefer to see their buildings purely as abstract art objects, and choose images that tend to edit out the real world. The architectural press generally goes along regardless of the degree of fiction put forward.

That’s not to say there isn’t a legitimate place for photographs that express the pure design elements of architecture. We’ve all seen — or even made ourselves — beautiful images that are reductive compositions, that express the geometry and formal elements of architecture, intentionally leaving out the extraneous details of the prosaic world beyond. That is a kind of reality, as well.

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Salt Shed, New York, NY — © Brian Rose
Photoshop out the wires and foreground signs? Or not?

But I think things have gone too far, and for too long. Aside from a handful of newspaper critics, and a few independent writers, most of the architectural press is about commercial promotion. Digitally enhanced photographs and hyper-real computer renderings are an intrinsic part of that food chain. We all have to pay the bills. But as a photographer — and an artist concerned with the landscape as I find it — God (or is it the devil?) is in the details of a messy world.

New York/Metamorphosis

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Holiday Price Cut! 

Metamorphosis is available for $50 through the holidays. The quintessential gift book about New York City — a stunning, and perhaps, sobering look at the change that has swept over Manhattan in recent years. Desolate streets of the former meat market that now bustle with shoppers and tourists.

Jeremiah Moss writes in his vivid and classic introduction:

Those of us who remember, who dream that gorgeously decaying world as it existed right up to the end of the last century, might sometimes wonder if we were imagining it. The shells remain, but the guts have all gone. Meat on hooks, libertines in leather, sex-shifters, artists, poets, the indescribable stink of it all, that mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful (to crib e.e. cummings) underbelly of the old New York—was it all a collective hallucination? Was it ever real? The bewildering change happened in a blink. Thankfully, Brian Rose was there, in reality, with his camera. In Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District he gives us the stunning evidence to prove that the old world wasn’t just a dream.

New York/Salt Shed

I can remember back in the 90s when it seemed that New York had become an architectural backwater. I was living in Amsterdam, and a Dutch planner friend, about to leave for a trip to New York, asked what interesting new buildings to look for. I was momentarily silent — nothing immediately came to mind. I ended up recommending a few contextually sensitive projects that were admirable if not exactly innovative.

Innovation is not everything, in architecture or in other fields, but the lack of it in the 90s suggested a city treading water creatively. That sense of stasis is long gone for a variety of complex reasons — the post 9/11 vitality of the city is an area rich for exploration by journalists and social scientists. I am neither of those. But I am a photographer of the urban landscape, and there is much to observe in the swift rapids of the present.

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Travel wide 4×5 camera with film holder — © Brian Rose

Architecture can be dramatic or prosaic, showy or utilitarian, but usually not both simultaneously. Let me tell you about a salt shed in lower Manhattan on Canal Street. I had just gotten a new camera to play with — a hand holdable 4×5 camera designed by a couple of guys in Chicago funded by a Kickstarter campaign. As small as a DSLR and half as light. I decided to take it out for a spin to see how it would work for me photographing a building. My wife works in the Hudson Square area, the old printing district west of Soho, and she suggested I take a look at the new Spring Street salt shed designed by Dattner Architects, a New York based architectural firm.

It is just that. A shed meant for storing the stuff used to melt ice and snow on the streets of the city. But instead of the usual metallic tent-like structure, there is, here, a multi-facetted shard of concrete looking very much like a salt crystal, or at least that’s what two different sanitation workers passing by told me while I was taking pictures. And it has walls three feet thick. They loved it.

Here it is:

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© Brian Rose

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© Brian Rose

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© Brian Rose

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© Brian Rose

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© Brian Rose

 

 

New York/WTC

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Behind the Colgate clock, Jersey City, New Jersey (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a book about the World Trade Center for some time. Just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I came to the realization that I had in my archive a remarkable series of pictures — made at different times in different formats — that focused on the Twin Towers as a presence ( and absence) on the New York skyline. It was too late to produce a book in conjunction with the anniversary, but I began putting together a dummy based on what I had. And at the same time I continued to make photographs that showed the emergence of the new Trade Center, specifically One WTC, now completed, which stands as tall as the former Twin Towers.

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Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

None of my Twin Towers photographs were ever primarily about the buildings themselves, but rather they were urban landscapes that included the towers as architectural signposts. As the new tower of One WTC rose to fill the hole in the sky left by the destruction of 9/11, I chose to treat it the same way, as part of something, as opposed to an object all by itself. Nevertheless, I did not feel that I had one singular image (or a few) that adequately described the new tower as a prominent architectural expression.

So, when the weather broke earlier in the week, soaring into the 50s, I dashed out with my 4×5 view camera and spent a day stalking One WTC from various vantage points in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City. Three days later, I’m still a bit sore from the exertion, but it was a great day, and I’m pleased with what I came up with.

There remain many unanswered questions about One WTC. Does it command the skyline as powerfully as the Twin Towers did? Does the design make the kind of iconic statement that many wanted from it? What does it mean to people across the political spectrum — some still insist on calling it “Freedom Tower.” And was it necessary to build it at all? My book will not settle any controversies about the new building, but ending the narrative with several strong images of the tower seemed a necessity in bringing the story around full circle.

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Fulton Street (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

There was a time during the 20th century when the skyline of lower Manhattan had an almost romantic storybook aspect. It was defined by a number of thin towers with spires like the neo-gothic Woolworth Building from 1913 and later, the Art Deco styled Cities Service Building. The first significant disruption to the stalagmite look of lower Manhattan was the Chase Manhattan Bank building, a modernist slab uncomfortably inserted among its svelte neighbors. The building itself, arguably, is one of the best early modernist office towers in Manhattan, but it began a trend of ever bulkier boxes that eventually obscured many of Manhattan’s most iconic skyscrapers.

Nevertheless, when the Twin Towers went up in 1974 they dominated the skyline in almost every direction. When I did my pictures of lower Manhattan in the early 80s they were ubiquitous, poking up and between other buildings, visible from a million different vantage points. It helped, of course, that there were two of them, and the vertical pin striping of the skin — the vulnerable exo-skeletons of the towers — seemed always to lead the eye upward.

One World Trade Center, despite its height, seems lost in the crowd much of the time. And while the Twin Towers often visually lined up with the erratic street grid of downtown Manhattan, the new tower seems rarely to do so. One exception, is Fulton Street where I photographed it juxtaposed with a richly articulated cast iron building from more than a hundred years ago. And as before with the Twin Towers, One WTC appears at its most commanding from across the Hudson in New Jersey.

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Fulton Street (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center is ongoing, and construction will dominate the area for years. But several WTC towers have been completed, and Santiago Calatrava’s winged transportation center is getting closer to taking flight. The memorial fountains and the 9/11 Museum, most of which is underground, will not be a part of my narrative, which is focused on the skyline of New York, its mythic nature, and its more workaday reality as seen from the ground — on the street — the democratic commons of New York.

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One WTC entrance — © Brian Rose

There is no doubt, however, in the post-9/11 political climate, that the democratic commons is under assault. The Trade Center site crawls with police officers and other agents of what is now painfully called Homeland Security. And various private security guards hover about at the ready to correct the wayward tourist or local who finds him or herself caught in the blurring confusion between public and private property. These zones of ambiguity are multiplying around the city, not just at the World Trade Center.

The photograph above shows the entrance to One World Trade Center, a strangely beautiful, but chilling place — the glinting sunlight reflected onto the street, the regimented rows of steel bollards, the striping of the colored glass behind the revolving doors, the solitary black-suited sentinel awaiting anyone brave enough to step forward with the idea of entering this silent fortress.

 

MIT Museum/Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Exhibition entrance with wall-size print of Delancey Street 1980

A few weeks ago, an exhibition opened at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Photographing Places: The Photographs of Places Journal, 1997-2009. Places Journal was originally a print magazine dealing with issues relating to architecture and urbanism. Each issue featured an extended photo essay centered on a particular location. In 2004, just after I had begun re-photographing the Lower East Side I was asked to contribute to the magazine. I was approached by Cervin Robinson, the architectural photographer, who was a contributing editor to the magazine. Cervin is also the author of a Architecture Transformed: A History of the Photography of Buildings from 1839 to the Present. I knew Cervin from all the way back in 1980 when I first exhibited by photographs of the Lower East Side. Cervin was for me, and many other photographers, a mentor and great friend. I’ve written about Cervin here and here.

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Blow up of a Places Journal cover by Joel Sternfeld — © Brian Rose

I traveled up to Cambridge with my wife to attend a reception for the exhibition, which included four of my photographs, one of which was printed wall-size at the entryway to the show. The exhibition, curated by Gary Van Zante of the MIT Museum, features the work of about a 20 photographers whose images ran in the print version of Places. Places still exists, by the way, as a multi-dimensional website, and still presents photo essays focused on the built environment.

Almost a third of the photographers in the show were present at the reception, which was great. A couple of us had barely made it on time because of snow-delayed trains coming up from New York. I had very nice chats with Kate Milford, who was showing her photographs of downtown Brooklyn, and Lyle Gomes, who had photographed the landscape of the Presidio (former military base, now park) in San Francisco. I also spoke with Lisa Silvestri who has photographed post Katrina New Orleans. And best of all, the ageless Cervin Robinson was present.

Inside the door of the exhibition there is a blow-up of a cover of the former magazine with an image of the High Line by Joel Sternfeld in its former wild state. And two more images from that series are in the show.

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Lower East Side images — © Brian Rose

Above are my prints in the show — two from 1980 done by me and Edward Fausty working together, and two from 2004 when I had just begun re-photographing the Lower East Side. This is the work that eventually comprised Time and Space on the Lower East Side, my now sold-out book. It was in Places Journal before anywhere else.

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Brian Rose in front of Delancey Street 1980

Here I am standing in front of Delancey Street 1980 at the entrance to the exhibition. I knew that my image was going to be used big, but I didn’t realize it would be this big. Pretty cool! The next day my wife and I walked all the way from MIT to the Back Bay station in Boston through the frozen snow clogged streets. Spring is just around the corner.


New York/New Haven

In the middle of doing an exhibition at Dillon Gallery, and releasing my book about the Meatpacking District, I got a very special architectural photography assignment. The newly renovated Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. It’s one of the most awe inspiring buildings in the Collegiate Gothic style. Designed by James Gamble Rogers, it was completed in 1930. It follows the basic form of a cathedral with central nave, side aisles, transept, and sanctuary.

From Wikipedia:  A mural in Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library depicts the Alma Mater as a bearer of light and truth standing in the midst of the personified arts and sciences, painted in 1932 by Eugene Savage. Throughout the building the various crafts of the period are celebrated — stained glass, stone carving, decorative painting, and cabinetry. Those elements, combined with the lightness and airiness of the architecture, make it a 1930s building. There are even hints of Art Deco in the tower housing the book stacks rising behind the nave.

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The nave — © Brian Rose

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The transept — © Brian Rose

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Alma Mater — © Brian Rose

sterling017The side aisle/lounge — © Brian Rose

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The side aisle/lounge — © Brian Rose

The building was restored mostly to its original appearance. The card files, which are no longer used, hide heating, air conditioning, and electronic systems. It’s essentially a modern building underneath. It was a two day shoot and a ton of post production Photoshop work. But what a privilege to get this kind of a job. The preservation architecture was done by Helpern Architects.

 

New York/4th of July

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he Brooklyn Bridge, 100th anniversary, 1983 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Happy Independence Day!

After a number of years, the fireworks return to the East River. The above photo is a reprise of one of my “best hits.” A picture taken in 1983 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge. Thanks to a connection to the developer of the South Street Seaport, I had a spot among the rocks and sand at the edge of the river. There were a few other photographers around, but I was the only one crazy enough to shoot with a 4×5 view camera. And unlike the others, I used a wide angle lens to take in the entire scene.

Fortunately, it was not too windy, and I tried about a dozen wildly varied exposures. Because of the calm, smoke hung low in the air, and the second tower of the bridge is barely visible in my photograph. Remarkably, the negative is razor sharp without the slightest camera shake. It makes a great large print.

In photographing New York, one is frequently confronted with world famous icons — the bridges, skyscrapers, monuments. It’s all been done. But rather than worry about it, I just treat everything equally, seen as any pedestrian might see it. The trick sometimes is not about framing the extraordinary thing, but rather treating the extraordinary as a normal and unprivileged part of the landscape.

And then add fireworks!

 

New York/Williamsburg

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The Williamsburg Bridge and the Domino Sugar Factory — © Brian Rose

After visiting the Kara Walker installation in the Domino Sugar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I decided to go back with my view camera and do a few photographs of the factory and the surrounding area. The picture above was taken with my digital camera placed on top of the view camera — so it’s roughly the same composition. Much of the sugar plant will be demolished to make way for a large housing development. The large brick structure at right, however, will be retained as an architectural landmark. While I was there, a crew was already at work, and I could see men climbing through the former conveyors angled between two of the structures.

It was early in the morning when I took the photograph, and few people were around except for dog walkers. There’s a sort of dialogue going on here between the chain link fencing with interwoven diamonds and the criss-crossing steel of the bridge. The top of One World Trade Center can be seen poking up at center left. This view will be dramatically different in a few years.

 

 

New York/Kickstarter Campaign

metamorphosis-cover_700pxFinal Cover Design for Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013

Please help make this book a reality.
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In the winter of 1985 I spent several days wandering the streets of the Meatpacking District with my 4×5 view camera. It was different city then. Edgier, less peopled. While the Meatpacking District bustled in the early morning hours as the city’s primary meatmarket, it slumbered, almost abandoned, during the day.

I never printed my photographs of the Meatpacking District, and went on to other projects. But last year I retrieved the box of negatives from my archive and began scanning. I was stunned to rediscover these images, made with little artifice, unforced in their clarity. It was like looking at New York as a stage set while the actors were away taking a break.

In the summer and fall of last year I re-photographed the Meatpacking District repeating many of the earlier images and making a number of new ones. The result is a book that shows the profound transformation of the neighborhood from abottoir to the epicenter of fashion and art.

 

 

New York/Chelsea

Two sets of before/after images taken in Chelsea on 23rd Street. Both feature two of New York’s most imposing buildings. The Starrett-Lehigh Building on Eleventh Avenue, which was built in the early ’30s as a distribution and warehouse facility near the docks on the Hudson River. Trains could load and unload inside the building, and trucks could be lifted to any floor. Today, it is the home to businesses in the creative fields, and virtually everyone has at one time or another seen ads shot in the photography studios in the building. London Terrace was also built in the early 1930s as the largest apartment building in the world. It still houses thousands of residents, though it is now divided into separate co-op and rental complexes.

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

10and23Eleventh Avenue and 23rd Street, 2013 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Throughout most the 20th century, the west side of Manhattan was dominated by the docks along the Hudson River. It was a bustling area employing thousands of longshoremen back when cargo was handled piece by piece. As shipping moved to containers, which could be lifted by crane and transported by train or truck, the vast Hudson River industry was transplanted to New Jersey with plentiful horizontal space, and easy access to mainland highways and rail lines. The west side went into steep decline.

The edginess I encountered in 1985 has mostly disappeared. In the top photograph the Terminal Hotel was a seedy place fed by the prostitution and drugs that haunted the area. It’s now a more cleaned up budget hotel that, needless to say, does not cater to the wealthy patrons of the nearby art galleries.

londonterrace198523rd Street between Eleventh and Tenth Avenues, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

longdonterrace23rd Street between Eleventh and Tenth Avenues, 2013 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

When London Terrace was first built, the residents on the west end of the building would have looked down on trains moving along the High Line rail viaduct that serviced the adjacent piers. It was an outpost of relative gentility bordering on the rough and tumble world of the harbor district. Later, they would have looked upon an abandoned High Line, and largely desolate streets.

Now, London Terrace stands at the center of the Chelsea gallery scene occupying the former warehouses. Initially, the developers and property owners wanted the HIgh Line torn down, and they generally opposed the creation of the High Line park, which has become an international tourist destination. They were shortsighted, as so often comes with the territory, and the High Line has become a profoundly valuable urban amenity. One wonders how long the Chelsea galleries will survive the upward arc of real estate values. One wonders, as well, when the gravy train runs out.

 

 

New York/Statue of Liberty

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Inside the Statue of Liberty — © Brian Rose

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth”

– Bob Dylan

 

 

New York/Statue of Liberty

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Inside the Statue of Liberty — © Brian Rose

New York State has reopened the Statue by paying the salaries of federal employees who have been furloughed by the Republican shutdown of the government.

Meanwhile the countdown to default and financial apocalypse continues.

 

 

New York/WTC

tributeinlight01Tribute in Light 2013 (digital) — © Brian Rose

I was up in the Bronx photographing a Fordham University office space. After that I headed down to Brooklyn with my assistant Chris Gallagher. I wanted to get an image of the Tribute in Light — two focused beams of light symbolic of the Twin Towers.

I’d been thinking of a good location for a while, and decided upon the park just above the Brooklyn Bridge near Jane’s Carrousel. We walked around for about an hour looking for a good spot. The area was swarming with photographers carrying everything from iPhones to zoom lensed SLRs. Unsurprisingly, I appeared to be the only person with a view camera.

I found my vantage point — at a safe distance from the shutterbugs — and alternated shooting with 4×5 film and the Canon 5D Mark III (for those interested in such things) that I’d been using for my earlier architectural shoot. The image above was made with the latter.

It was an exceedingly warm, muggy, and windless night. But good for long exposures with the view camera. Dozens of people took up stations nearby awaiting the lights. As it got darker I became aware of the amber glow from a nearby streetlight being thrown on my foreground. The result has a strange theatricality, almost like the different elements were pasted together.

I’m picking up the 4×5 film later in the day. It will be interesting to compare to the digital image..

 

New York/Interview

betteryBettery Magazine interview

This is an interview with me and my wife Renee Schoonbeek. First time, I think, we’ve been featured together. Bettery Magazine is an initiative of smart, the car company.

Here’s what it says on their “about” page:

Bettery Magazine is an online publication featuring the people, places and ideas that are changing our urban landscapes today. In giving their unique foresights an international stage, Bettery Magazine aims to encourage the creative thinking poised to reshape and revitalize cities around the globe.

 

New York/Meatpacking District

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On the street with a print from a 1985 image. (digital) — © Brian Rose

Everyone thinks I should do it, so I am working on a series of before/after images of the Meatpacking District. I originally photographed the area in 1985, also venturing uptown into west Chelsea. I had completed the Lower East Side project — which I later came back to — and I had finished photographing the Financial District — with an NEA grant. I had also begun photographing various NYC parks, and later that year I would begin my travels along the Iron Curtain border across Europe. But for a week or so in late winter of 1985 I wandered around the west side of Manhattan and documented the profoundly empty streets, like a stage set with the actors on break. Eventually, as we all know, the people would come.

mp033Gansevoort Street 1985 (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

mepa004Gansevoort Street 2013 (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

My experience with photographing New York, however, does not always follow the usual expectations about then and now. And with the Time and Space on the Lower East Side I deliberately wanted to challenge preconceived notions about what change actually looks like on the streets of the city.

New York, even the relatively glittering canyons of Manhattan, remains an often gritty place. The Meatpacking District has become a center of fashion and art, but like Soho before it, it continues to show its utilitarian roots, and is still dominated by late 19th and early 20th century architecture. The Gansevoort Market is still in business under the High Line housing a number of meat purveyors. In the view above of Gansevoort Street, one has to look twice to see the changes. Florent, the famous restaurant from ’80s is gone, and another restaurant has taken its place. The storefront of the small reddish building is now a boutique, but much of the block remains empty — as a Maserati rumbles along the cobblestones.

r&lGansevoort Street 2013 (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

As is often the case, “after” photographs can be less compelling than “befores.” The factors that led to the first image being made, are no longer present. These can be very subtle attributes, atmospheric, ineffable. So, part of my strategy in rephotographing the Meatpacking District is to look for new pictures, or variations on the originals.  The image directly above was made a few minutes after repeating the 1985 picture. It is, perhaps, a better description of the block with the Standard Hotel looming in the background.

mp009Washington Street 1985 (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

wash13Washington Street 2013 (digital) — © Brian Rose

mp025Washington Street 1985 (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

redmustangWashington Street 2013 (digital) — © Brian Rose

I am shooting the new photographs in 4×5 film using a similar camera and lens as in 1985, but then scanning the negatives and working up the images in Photoshop. Some of the images here were taken with my point-and-shoot, which I usually have with me while working with the big camera. As the film gets processed and the images completed, I will replace the digital snaps with the final 4×5 photos.

royalevealWashington Street 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

mepa003Washington Street 2013 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

mp029Washington Street 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

mepa016Washington Street 2013 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

In a previous post, I wrote about this being the former location of the Mineshaft, an infamous men’s sex club closed at the height of the AIDS crisis just a few months after my photograph was taken in 1985. Now, other sybaritic delights beckon.

mp003West 14th Street 1985 (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

mepa013West 14th Street 2013 (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

The images above are both 4x5s. I made several pictures with the 14th Street Apple store clearly visible on the right, but stepping a few feet forward better duplicated the original image.

mp011Hudson and 14th Street 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

hudson14Hudson and 14th Street 2013 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

sellfromhereLittle West 12th Street and West Street 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

centurywasteLittle West 12th Street and West Street 2013 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

pierarchPier 54 2013 (digital) — © Brian Rose

When I photographed the area in 1985, Pier 54 was an enclosed building as seen above. At present, only the steel structure of the facade remains. Occasionally the the otherwise empty pier is used for events. A small part of it is open to the public, and while I was there a couple of female skateboarders zoomed about while bicycles and joggers streamed along West Street.

Stay tuned for more pictures.

 

Amsterdam/Museums

iamsterdamThe Rijksmuseum seen through “iamsterdam” promotional sculpture — © Brian Rose

After almost two weeks of superb weather on Texel, the North Sea Dutch island, we headed for Amsterdam for two days before returning to New York. For many years, both the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum have been undergoing extensive renovations and were closed. Imagine if the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art were closed at the same time for the better part of a decade. This was not a good thing for a city trying to promote itself as a cultural capital — well, at least they had Van Gogh. But the good news is that both museums have reopened.

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New entry courtyard in Rijksmuseum — © Brian Rose

The Rijksmuseum desperately needed upgrading. It occupied a decorative 19th century building by Pierre Cuypers, in the same style as his Central Station at the foot of the Damrak. It was a worthy home for the superb collection of Rembrandts and Vermeers, among others, but it was hopelessly outmoded as a contemporary museum, and could scarcely handle the ever increasing hordes of tourists hell bent on seeing the Nightwatch and checking it off on their to do list.

The reconstruction of the museum was delayed for years by a controversy involving bicycles — I kid you not. For decades one of the main bike routes through the center of the city passed directly through a passage in the Rijksmuseum. When the architects of the renovation proposed rerouting the bikes, they were met by the fury of the Amsterdam bicycle lobby, a group comparable in power to the military industrial complex in the United States. The solution was elegant — tunneling under the passage — but cost time and an ungodly amount of money. In the photo above, you can see visitors entering the museum through one of the impressive glass enclosed courtyards created by the Spanish firm Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos.

nightwatchRembrandt’s Nightwatch — © Brian Rose

Once inside, the galleries have been beautifully refurbished by French interior architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The art mobs gravitate to Rembrandt’s Nightwatch — seen above — and press in relentlessly to see the relatively tiny Vermeers. But the museum is pretty big, so there are lots of galleries that are not crowded.

saenredam
Jocob Saenredam — © Brian Rose

Here I am looking at one Saenredam’s architectural paintings made as if he were using a view camera.

ruisdaelJacob Ruisdael — © Brian Rose

And Ruisdael, who in this painting framed the endlessly horizontal Dutch landscape near Haarlem with a near square, the sky taking up 3/4 of the composition.

smuseumpleinThe Stedelijk Museum seen from Museumplein — © Brian Rose

The first time I visited Amsterdam was in 1985 when I was just beginning my photographic journeys along the former Iron Curtain. The Stedelijk made a major impression on me in that it presented a view of modern art history that differed greatly from the linear narrative of MoMA in New York. It was all over the map, and challenged the idea that art develops as some kind of grand procession, one thing leading to the next, as if it were all inevitable. That said, I’ve come to appreciate the Modern’s effort to organize and make sense of things chronologically and stylistically.

Unlike MoMA, which was housed in a modernist collection of buildings, the Stedelijk was confined to a 19th century art palace with a grand staircase and comfortable, but inflexible, galleries. Like the Rijksmuseum nearby, it had inadequate accommodation for large crowds of visitors and little space for a shop and cafe. With one of the best collections of modern art in the world, it was obvious that something needed to be done.

smuseumpanoThe Stedelijk Museum from the Van Baerlestraat — © Brian Rose

And here begins a sad tale of political and organizational dysfunction terminating in the “the bathtub” seen above in my quickly stitched together panorama. Read Michael Kimmelman’s Times article for the full story. The new wing of the museum faces the Museumplein, a desultory sward of grass punctuated by paved vectors and shapes, including the infamous “donkey’s ear,” a peeled up corner of the park serving as the entrance to underground parking and an Albert Heijn supermarket —  the perfect location for groceries — smack dab between the stately Concertgebouw concert hall and the Stedelijk.

The new wing is mostly diffuse empty space, which will allow the museum to mount the kind of installation art now in favor around the globe. Such an installation was on view in the enormous basement space — a windowless art dungeon — where multiple videos by Aernout Mik were on display set among an intentionally disorienting maze of passageways and spaces. The show was appropriately sponsored by Ahold, the company that owns the Albert Heijn supermarket just out the front door of the museum. See Times review of Mik’s work here.

There are lots of wonderful things to see in the Stedelijk, regardless of the new building. But after everything, the architectural confection of the Rijksmuseum and the empty calories of the Stedelijk, all the hundreds of millions of dollars, coming back home to New York, the one thing that made the most impression on me, was that little Ruisdael painting, just over a foot square, sunlight breaking through the clouds.