Category Archives: Brooklyn

New York/Prospect Park


Abraham Lincoln, Prospect Park, New York (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

A statue of Abraham Lincoln, dedicated in 1969, stands in Prospect Park. Lincoln is depicted holding the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order that effectively freed the slaves in 1862 at the height of the Civil War. Lincoln said at the signing:

“I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper…if my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.”

A few days ago, John Kelly, chief of staff for President Donald Trump, made remarks that essentially denied that slavery was the central focus of the Civil War, and insulted the legacy of Lincoln. He said: “…the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

In 1860, speaking in the Great Hall of Cooper Union, Lincoln addressed, specifically, the issue of false equivalence — and the moral necessity of recognizing right from wrong.

Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man…

It is not necessary to demonize those who fought on the side of the south — my great, great grandfather died on the battlefield at Vicksburg — believing, I presume, that he fought for a just cause. But it is time to acknowledge that veneration should be reserved for those who fought against slavery, not for it. 

New York/WTC


Tribute in Light, Brooklyn Bridge Park, 2013 — © Brian Rose

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.

New York/Civil War Monuments


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.


Henry Ward Beecher, Brooklyn, New York — © Brian Rose

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.


Washington at Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

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.”


Ulysses S. Grant, Brooklyn, New York — © Brian Rose

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.

New York/Brooklyn


Abraham Lincoln, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, New York — © Brian Rose

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.

Abraham Lincoln
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Thursday, April 6,1859

New York/Photo Books

A couple of book notes. WTC, my latest book, was included in the Athens Photo Festival this summer. The selected books were placed on tables in the gallery so that viewers could pick them up and page through them. It would have been fun to go to Greece, but I’ve had a busy summer.


Athens Photo Festival

WTC is available for sale on my website. PLEASE GET YOUR COPY. 

And one of my photographs has been selected for what promises to be a terrific photo book about Brooklyn. Brooklyn Photographs Now, written and edited by Marla Hamburg Kennedy features the work of well known and emerging photographers. Some of the recognizable names include Joel Sternfeld, Mitch Epstein, and Joel Meyerowitz. Lots of newcomers as well.

From the Rizzoli website:

Brooklyn has seen exponential change over the past fifteen years, and this book presents the best work of the photographers from all over the world who have been capturing those changes and movements in cityscapes, portraits, vignettes, and process-oriented photography.

The book will be out in the Spring of 2018. You can read more about it here.

New York/Coney Island 1977

I’m just going to park these here with only a few specific comments. It’s a very quiet, very spare series of pictures. Rather than the raucous sounds of an amusement park, it feels hushed, somnolent. Rather than throngs of people crowding the rides and games, it is almost empty, desolate.

In the fourth picture, on the wall it says “Film by Ray Wisniewski.” He was an avant grade filmmaker of the ’60s and ’70s. Associated with Andy Warhol. Was I was aware of who he was? Possibly. I can’t recall.

Below, Uncle Sam says he wants you to win. See Dracula’s head chopped off. Bar & Grill. Screechy Nell and Shaggy Sam. Clams on the half shell. Corn on the cob. Spook-A-Rama menu.


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Coney Island, 1977 — © Brian Rose

New York/Brooklyn Bridge Park

WTC is book about the Twin Tower, their presence and absence, and about the rebuilding of the city after September 11. It is also a tribute to New Yorkers and all who carry a piece of this great city with them. It is a book that commemorates rather than exploits, a book that preserves memories, both painful and hopeful, and celebrates, however cautiously, the resilience of this city in the face of adversity.

Please make this book possible with your support on Kickstarter.

New York/Brooklyn Panorama

july4panoramaBrooklyn Panorama, July 4, 2014 — © Brian Rose

Before the fireworks on July 4th. Rain and clouds dissipated as a front passed through leaving clear skies and chilly (for the season) temperatures. To the right is One World Trade Center, the Williamsburg Bridge and the chimney of the Domino Sugar Refinery.

 

New York/4th of July

bridge
T
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

dominobridge
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/Williamsburg

vespucciMetropolitan and Graham Avenues, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

A random view of a Williamsburg street corner with pigeon.

I am now at 50% of my goal 9 days into the Kickstarter campaign to help fund the printing of Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013. Pledge $50 and pre-order a copy of the book to be released in July. Other reward levels available. The campaign runs through April 1.

Your support is greatly appreciated.

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New York/Momentous Occasion

brendan_renee_beecher
Renee, Brendan and statue of Henry Ward Beecher — © Brian Rose

A family snapshot — frozen grins — it was about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. But a momentous occasion. My wife Renee had just taken the oath for her U.S. citizenship in the Federal Courthouse nearby. Cameras were not allowed inside for the ceremony, so we looked for an appropriate spot outside.

The statue in the rear is of Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most important abolitionists of the 19th Century. He was the pastor of Plymouth Church located a few blocks way in Brooklyn Heights. His sister was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the novel about the cruelties of slavery, which was instrumental in galvanizing the abolitionist movement.

From Wikipedia:

In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sent Beecher on a speaking tour of Europe to build support for the Union cause. Beecher’s speeches helped turn European popular sentiment against the rebel Confederate States of America and prevent its recognition by foreign powers. At the close of the war in April 1865, Beecher was invited to speak at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, where the first shots of the war had been fired; Lincoln had again personally selected him, stating, “We had better send Beecher down to deliver the address on the occasion of raising the flag because if it had not been for Beecher there would have been no flag to raise.”

New York/Greenpoint

lou_reed_adManhattan Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (digital) — © Brian Rose

It’s the end of the year and I’m feeling somewhat wistful. A year of accomplishments — the success of Time and Space on the Lower East Side — my show at Dillon Gallery — the completion of Metamorphosis, my Meatpacking District book to be released this coming summer .  But also a year punctuated by moments of poignancy as is inevitable with the passage of time.

Earlier today I tested out my new camera, a Sigma DP1, a much improved refresh of the somewhat balky second generation of the camera. The former took incredible pictures in ideal light conditions — better than other point and shoots I’ve used. But it was a difficult camera to handle, even for me. Nevertheless, I’ve stuck with it because of its large image sensor size and stripped down design. The new version is better in almost every way, and now produces image files large enough to make decent size prints.

The picture above was made in Greenpoint, Brooklyn while waiting for my family to meet me at a nearby restaurant. I came across one of the ads seen around town with Lou Reed in headphones. I’ve been unsure how I felt about them coming so soon after his death. But the image of Reed is beautiful, and when I came across one of the posters caught in a stream of low winter light, I felt a pang of sadness for the loss of one of rock and roll’s greatest figures.

Yesterday evening I went to see “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s latest. I’ve generally been a fan — from his rough and tumble Little Italy films to the magical “Hugo.” But I walked out of this one barely an hour into it. I’ve never been so beat down, so bored, so exhausted by a film. Bah humbug! Happy New Year!

 

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/WTC

brooklynrooftop

East River and Brooklyn Navy Yard — © Brian Rose

Now that I am no longer using the 4×5 for architectural shoots — it’s hard to believe that era is over — I have switched completely to a field view camera for my personal projects. I’m using an inexpensive Toyo made largely of plastic (blech) but it’s super lightweight. Way lighter than the Arca Swiss monorail camera I was using for architecture.

I went out with the view camera yesterday morning. At 8:30am it was already getting hot, and the sky, while clear, was a bit hazy. I walked along the Brooklyn waterfront looking for distant views of One World Trade Center for my upcoming book, WTC. A few days ago, driving by, I saw some prefab housing units standing near Kent Avenue with the skyline looming behind. It didn’t seem quite so looming when I got there, but I did several photographs. For one picture I stepped a couple of feet beyond the open gate into the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A guard stationed about 200 feet away checking cars entering the yard immediately began yelling and blowing a whistle as if I had done something horribly wrong. For those of you outside of New York, this is no longer the Navy. It’s an industrial compound that hosts numerous businesses large and small. There are all kinds of innovative things going on in there.

Anyway, I ignored the guard who was stuck in his little booth, took my picture, and walked away. From there I walked by 475 Kent, a controversial loft building full of artists that has been on the legal razor’s edge for work/live spaces for some time. I don’t know anything about its current status. But a resident coming out suggested I go up to the roof. So, up I went. I did two side by side views that may be combined for a panorama later. The right hand frame can be seen above, although that’s from my digital point and shoot, not the 4×5.