Category Archives: Chelsea

New York/Meatpacking District

princelumberNinth Avenue and West 15th Street (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

My Meatpacking book is now in production, and I’m working with the same publishing team as the last time led by Bill Diodato. It will have 50 images–about 40 of them before/afters (1985/2013) and the rest will be newly made images. The picture above is one of the new ones. Although the original set of photographs made in 1985 were not an attempt at comprehensively describing the neighborhood, they did in fact hit many of the key spots. The High Line, in its two incarnations as the abandoned rail viaduct and high concept park/promenade, will be a strong presence in the series.

The working title is:

Meatpacking District 1985/2013

I am hoping for external funding for the book, and hope to have some idea of that soon. I raised money on Kickstarter for Time and Space on the Lower East Side, and I may have to do it again for this book. Aside from the money, Kickstarter is a good way to generate interest for a project and build momentum. But doing it is a lot of work, and I’d be happy to avoid it this go round.



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/Meatpacking District

I’ve been hard at work on my Meatpacking before/after series. Most of the direct then and now pictures are done, and I am continuing to do new views of the area as they present themselves. Many of the 1985 pictures were taken on bleak winter days with minimal sunlight. Lately, I’ve been stuck with crisp and pristine fall days, which sometimes work in my favor, sometimes not.

One shot I’ve been trying to replicate was taken on 10th Avenue where the High Line runs along the street and takes a jog to the west where it then runs mid-block. The original photo shows a rundown tenement with an impressively decrepit “liquors” sign. It was taken in open shade with weak sunlight coming up 10th Avenue from the south.

10th Avenue and 17th Street, 1985 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose


highlinecorner10th Avenue and 17th Street, 2013 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Today, the basic infrastructure of the scene remains unchanged. The tenement remains, the High Line still hovers above the street, and the immense warehouse building looms behind. But everything else about the former situation has been altered. The unbroken brick facade of the warehouse has been punched with windows to accommodate offices, the tenement is no longer decorated with signage, and a boutique occupies the ground floor storefront. The High Line is, of course, no longer an abandoned rail viaduct, and at this spot, where it crosses 10th Avenue, a window cut into the steel overlooks the street. People are everywhere where few once ventured.

The weather finally worked for me at this location with the sun straining through light clouds. The liquor sign no longer dictated a vertical composition, so I took a wider view showing people peering through the window on 10th Avenue.





New York/Meatpacking District

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.


New York/Meatpacking District

mp011 14th and Hudson Street, 1985 — © Brian Rose

14and9th14th and Hudson Street, 2013 — © Brian Rose

A few months ago I posted some of my photographs of the Meatpacking District taken in 1985. At that time, the area was desolate by day–the city seemingly abandoned. People have been clamoring for me to do before/afters of the images, and I have more or less decided to go ahead with it, even though it was an approach I largely eschewed when doing Time and Space on the Lower East Side. The changes in that neighborhood were much more complex and deserved a more nuanced investigation. But here in “MePa” the transformation of the streetscape is so gobsmacking that it just seems a necessary thing to do. So, the plan is to repeat about dozen of the images made in ’85, and do various other contemporaneous views as they strike my fancy.

Yesterday, I was on 14th Street with my point-and-shoot camera and made the picture above. Soon, I’ll get out there with my view camera.


New York/Dillon Gallery Opening


Time and Space on the Lower East Side at Dillon Gallery — © Brian Rose

It took much of the afternoon Wednesday to lay out the show and get the frames up, but I already had a pretty good idea where I wanted things to go. The opening Thursday evening was well attended, despite wintry weather, and it was great to see lots of old friends and meet new people. Ed Fausty who collaborated on the 1980 pictures was there as was Suzanne Vega, who wrote the foreword of Time and Space along with music friends, Frank Mazzetti and Norman Salant. Bill Diodato, my publisher, was there along with Warren Mason, who designed Time and Space.On the photography side, my friend and mentor, architectural photographer Cervin Robinson was there, and Mark Jenkinson, fellow Cooper Union grad, and Jan Staller, another color photographer who goes back to the late 70s and is still doing strong new work. Very pleased to see Sean Corcoran, the photography curator from the Museum of the City of New York. And it was particularly nice to have my painter friend Tim Raymond down from Buffalo.

I’m leaving out lots of people, but I’m appreciative of everyone who made this a festive occasion on an otherwise “dark and stormy night.” And thanks especially to Valerie Dillon for making it all possible.

Did anyone take pictures? I don’t have a single image from the opening.




Time and Space on the Lower East Side at Dillon Gallery — © Brian Rose




New York/Exhibition

Time and Space on the Lower East Side will be exhibited at Dillon Gallery from March 7 to April 9. Dillon is on West 25th Street in the gallery district of Chelsea on the same block as Pace Gallery and the Tesla electric car showroom. Like most of the galleries in Chelsea, it was originally in Soho. Although they are known mostly for paintings–and even an artist who works in scents–the owner Valerie Dillon was open to considering photography, and decided a few months ago to take me on as one of her artists.

The gallery is quite large, easily accessible on the ground floor, and will provide plenty of  wall space to present my Lower East Side pictures at a scale that is impressive, but appropriate for view camera images. There will be 26 images all together, and twelve will be printed 4×5 feet, enough images to present an overview of the whole project with the focus slightly skewed toward the 1980 images made with Edward Fausty, which may have the most sales potential.

The opening is March 7 from 6 to 8pm, and everyone is invited.





New York/Meatpacking District


Washington Street — © Brian Rose

It was the winter of 1985, and I was casting about for something new to photograph. I had completed projects on the Lower East Side and Central Park, and later that summer I would begin shooting the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, a project that would continue to occupy me up to the present. For reasons I cannot recall, I walked over to the west side with my camera and spent several days photographing the meatpacking district. I began from the West Village, the scene above relatively unchanged today. The yellow and black sign warning illegal parkers that the air will be let out of their tires remains attached to the wall of the building almost 28 years later. In 1985, David Dinkins was running for Borough President–he would later become mayor.


Washington and Gansevoort Street — © Brian Rose

In the morning the meat packing district was a vast open air scene of carnage. Sides of beef were hung from hooks that slid along overhead conveyors. Men in bloodied white coveralls grappled with the carcasses. By mid morning the hubbub of the city’s meat market subsided and the cobblestone streets took on a look of abandonment, astonishing in the heart of such a great metropolis. As evening approached another kind of meat market took over–this one human trade–as prostitutes prowled the empty streets, many of them transvestites, overly tall females tottering about on high heels, while men in black leather  sought the anonymous doors of sex clubs.


Gansevoort Street — © Brian Rose

In 1985 a restaurant called Florent opened on Gansevoort Street. For years it was a late night destination for the downtown social set, gay and straight alike. It was hard to find, and took a certain fortitude to navigate the urban hell/paradise surrounding it. It was not expensive, but for me, blowing all my money on 4×5 film, on a whole other plane of existence. You can see it on the left, the glowing neon florent in the window. A website with the  sign still glows on the Internet here. A recent article about the former owner Florent Morellet is here.


Washington and Little West 12th Street — © Brian Rose

If you look up some of the business names, you see that many still exist, like J.A.W.D. above, operating out of the Hunt’s Point market in the Bronx. That’s where most of the distribution of meat, fish, and produce is handled for New York in modern refrigerated facilities. The red door to the left of the truck was the entrance to the Mineshaft, probably the most infamous of the men’s sex clubs that dotted the meatpacking district. It was closed later in the fall of 1985 at the height of the AIDS crisis.



Washington Street — © Brian Rose

The entrance to the Mineshaft in the winter of 1985.


Little West 12th Street — © Brian Rose

In 1985 the high line was a nameless unused rail viaduct that ran down the west side of Manhattan all the way into the West Village. It cast ominous shadows over streets and vacant lots. The elevated rail line once served the docks and factories lining the Hudson River. It replaced the tracks that ran down the middle of Tenth Avenue–Death Avenue it was called back then. The picture above was taken where the beer garden of the Standard Hotel now is.


Washington and West 13 Street — © Brian Rose

The desolation of the meatpacking district by day was profound, but many parts of lower Manhattan were also quite empty. Things were changing, however, and the Soho gallery scene was already well established, and Tribeca was beginning to take off. Nevertheless, in the winter of 1985, the meatpacking district slumbered undisturbed through the daylight hours.


Washington and West 13th Street — © Brian Rose

Just as in the loft neighborhoods further downtown, there were artists living and working above the meat market below. A telltale sign were the gas heating units that looked similar to window air conditioners. If you didn’t have much money you only ran these for part of the day, and I remember visiting some pretty cold lofts in those days. The other thing that made the meatpacking district less attractive for living was the stench of the meat businesses–it permeated everything.


West 14th, Hudson, and Ninth Avenue — © Brian Rose


Ninth Avenue — © Brian Rose

The parking lot above is the present location of the Hotel Gansevoort.


West 14th Street — © Brian Rose

The “apple” store on 14th Street.


West Street and Tenth Avenue — © Brian Rose

The Liberty Inn shared its odd shaped building with the Anvil, another of the neighborhoods sex clubs. The Anvil is long gone, but the Liberty lives on as a rent-by-the hour hotel.


Tenth Avenue and West 17th Street — © Brian Rose

So much has changed in the meatpacking district and the adjoining gallery area of Chelsea that I hesitate saying anything at all. What was once urban desolation is now the epicenter of fashion and art in the western hemisphere. The High Line is no longer a rusting hulk, but… I’ll let you fill in the blank. I love it–it’s a perfect conjuncture of preservation and contemporary architecture. I hate it–it’s too crowded much of the time to be enjoyed. But what can you do? This is New York. You cannot live here if you cannot abide change.

Even as the money sloshes through the streets of the meatpacking district, we are reminded of our fragile hold on this island as the waters of Hurricane Sandy flooded the couture shops and art galleries along the Hudson. Our ultimate fate may yet be determined by the melting ice of Greenland.



New York/Chelsea

Chelsea Market – © Brian Rose

Walking through the Chelsea Market the other day I enjoyed seeing Gregg Segal’s show Enactments, images of Civil War re-enactors and people who work as super hero characters. The images are a wry look at American culture–I particularly like the Civil War images, in which authentically uniformed soldiers seem lost in time, lost in suburbia. The Chelsea Market often has photo exhibitions, usually of middling quality, and it is a challenging environment for any sort of contemplative art. But Segal’s photos work here in the crowded hubbub with the market setting adding another layer of odd juxtapositions. Although the images are highly staged scenes–not normally my thing–photographic artifice in this case connects aptly with the staged activities of the characters in the photographs. See more Gregg Segal photos here.


Chelsea Market – © Brian Rose

The Chelsea Market these days is overrun by tourists. There have always been plenty of them, but now it seems, whole busloads of foreigners are milling about, blocking the way, not buying anything. I’ve also noticed that a number of retail spaces are now occupied by boutiques diluting the focus on food that has makes this a great place and the primary reason for its success. Is the Chelsea Market reaching a tipping point? Is it losing its focus as other food markets pop up around the city providing alternatives for New Yorkers?


I’m heading off for Amsterdam this evening, the first time I’ve been back in a number of years. I’ll be celebrating the publishing of Time and Space on the Lower East Side with some of my Dutch Kickstarter backers and friends next Thursday. Anyone who would like to join in please email me for details.

New York/Around Town

Tenth Avenue — © Brian Rose

Odds and ends. Things to recommend. Things to dis.

The New York Times reports this morning that the film On the Bowery will soon be available on DVD. I saw it last year for the first time at Film Forum, and wrote about it extensively in my blog here and here. Alan Rogosin’s film is an astonishing portrayal of lost New York and lost souls, controversial then and now for its hybrid documentary/fictional format. Actual denizens of the Bowery, picked out by Rogosin, played the lead roles filmed in the streets and bars of the Bowery near Houston Street. It’s one of the great realist films ever made, a tour de force of editing and photography. The montage of grizzled faces at the end is unforgettable.

Fifth Avenue — © Brian Rose

The Radical Camera at the Jewish Museum, one of the best museum photography shows in recent years, will be up through March 25th. This show is about the New York Photo League and its community of photographers who explored the streets of the city during the 1930s and 1940s. Their work pushed aesthetic boundaries and embraced political engagement. The show is worth seeing both for its vivid depiction of New York and for illuminating the development of documentary street photography leading up to the modern era. There are a number of familiar names in the exhibition, like Berenice Abbott and Aaron Siskind, but most are lesser knowns, many who have fallen through the cracks, and are typically not included in the dominant narrative of photographic history.

From the blog DLK Collection: For me, I finally started to visually understand the small steps that made up the aesthetic and conceptual changes that took place between the 1930s and the 1950s, those missing evolutionary links between Abbott and Frank; The Americans now seems to me less like a thunder strike of genius out of nowhere and more like an innovative, original extrapolation from visual ideas that were already beginning to percolate around. This excellent show tells a uniquely New York story, and is worth a visit simply for the rich historical details of life in the city that it provides. But the reason I found this to be one of the best photography shows of the year is that it also successfully fills in an important (and largely missing) gap in the recounting of the American photographic narrative. Not only do I now have an increased appreciation for the talents of the many members of the New York Photo League (many of whom have been unjustly overlooked), I now understand much more clearly how the larger artistic puzzle fits together.

Read the whole review here.

We think of serious photography now in the context of museums and galleries, but it wasn’t really until the Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art with its “we are the world” sentimentality that the medium began to find favor in elite institutions. The Photo League embraced work that depicted gritty reality whether on the streets of the Lower East Side or the  beach at Coney Island–it did not celebrate the myth of American ascendency, and as a result, ran afoul of the anti-communist blacklisters of the early ’50s. The fact that many of its members were Jewish was also not coincidental.

Imagine. At the time of the Photo League, there was virtually no museums or art galleries that paid any attention to photography. In retrospect, it appears that the Photo League–its shows and its community of photographers–was central to the development of photography as social instrument and as an art form. And this story has not adequately been told until now. Do not miss this exhibition.

World Press winning photograph — © Samuel Aranda

There has already been lots written about this photograph, and I have no inclination to analyze something that’s not worth the effort. First of all, the premise of a grand prize for a single news photograph is wrong. The most interesting single photographs, in my opinion, are often the most open ended, often the least iconic, images that defy easy reading. That’s the opposite of what the World Press jurors usually come up with. They want a Muslim Mary cradling Jesus, or something.

This is a crappy photograph, maudlin, cliche.