Save the date — September 8th — for the launch of WTC! Books are in the port of New York and should arrive soon.
WTC Book Launch
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street
New York, NY
6:30pm (until about 8pm)
Slide talk and book signing afterwards
Light refreshments served
This is it folks. Advance copies of WTC have arrived from the printer, and — what can I say — the book is stunning. The original design for the cover had the letters WTC dissolving into a close-up of the skin of one of the Twin Towers, symbolic of their disappearance and ghostly presence. But we decided to go with silver reflective letters that almost float above the matte background. The effect is stronger, more iconic. It is simple, elegant, and I think, powerful.
The spine and endpapers are a cool blue, taken from wedge of sky seen between the Twin Towers in one of the images. The photographs and text blocks are a consistent scale with white borders throughout except for the bleed images that break up the different sections. This is a book to be read — both the writing and the imagery.
I am very proud of WTC. It is the third in a trilogy of books about New York City. It is the culmination of a lifetime of observing the urban landscape and architecture, the center stage for human endeavor. It is a story both personal and shared — this great city and the tragedy that befell it 15 years ago. It is an attempt to honor and commemorate even in this moment of public vulgarity and corrosive discourse.
The official release of WTC is September 8th. I will be providing more information about the launch later. In the meantime, the book can be pre-ordered on my website.
It may look a little sloppy, but the loose pages shown in the photo above are actual offset printed pages for my forthcoming book, WTC. These are the so-called F&Gs (folded and gathered) straight off the press and air freighted from Hong Kong to New York for approval.
WTC folded and gathered pages — © Brian Rose
The quality of the printing is stunning, and I am expecting to receive a small number of bound books in the next couple of weeks. The rest of the books will be shipped by boat and should arrive by the end of August, in time for the book launch on September 8th. More information on that soon.
Today is the last day of my Kickstarter campaign, and the big news (at least for me) is that I have decided to print 2,000 copies of WTC instead of the 1,000 originally planned. Time and Space on the Lower East Side is sold out, and Metamorphosis is down to the last 200 copies. So, it made sense to print more this time. There are serious financial reasons for and against bumping the print run up to 2,000 — it costs more upfront, but gives me a much lower per unit cost. And the larger number of books require more storage space.
Everything is happening fast, and yesterday, the final proofs came in from the printer for approval. Above is the cover — front, back, and spine — and in the upper right are thread samples for the sewn binding. The letters WTC are reflective silver.
Most of the pages were already approved several weeks ago, but several needed to be tweaked for color or density. The image above is a particularly difficult one because it is a back-lit scene, almost monochromatic, and any change shows in the neutral tones. The print at the top right is my reference C print, and the other two are proofs from the printer.
Each of my books in this series — a New York trilogy — come in either the trade edition or limited edition. The limited book comes with an 8×10 inch print tipped in on the inside of the back cover, and it is housed in a slipcover box. For WTC I chose a dark grey linen slipcover with reflective silver lettering. The three books in their slipcovers can be seen above. The magenta one is Time and Space on the Lower East Side, and the middle one in a Kraft paper slipcover is Metamorphosis, Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013.
The slipcover for WTC is really beautiful.
We are on target for a September 8th release of WTC. There will be more information about it later, but the plan is a slide talk and book signing in New York at Cooper Union in the Great Hall.
Don’t forget my Kickstarter campaign — last day!!
Staten Island Ferry, 1977 — © Brian Rose
I was a student in 1977, a newcomer to the city I had long dreamed of making my own. I walked all around lower Manhattan with a Nikkormat 35mm camera, a brilliantly stripped down camera made by Nikon, shooting color slide film. I was discovering New York, and at the same time, exploring the potential of color photography, which was still in its infancy.
On a trip across the Staten Island Ferry I caught the scene above — a brief interaction — a high-heeled woman and a man in a suit — like a film still. I shot two frames quickly, similar to each other, this one with the Twin Towers framed in a window echoed by the vertical elements of the ferry, the gap of sky, the yellow pole,
This photograph, and a number of others from the ’70s, introduce my book, WTC, a 40 year visual history of New York in which the Twin Towers — their destruction — and the rebuilding — play a central role. It is a personal narrative set against a historical backdrop of epic scale. It is a commemoration, a reflection, and a tribute to New Yorkers and all who carry a piece of this great city with them.
Please help make this book a reality by supporting my Kickstarter campaign.
Mark Byrnes writes:
…most who page through WTC will contemplate Manhattan’s relentless transformation since a turbulent and mythologized 1970s. Change has come through economic shifts, public policy decisions, and tragedy. Rose’s work provides a clear, visual understanding of what the city has lost and gained through it all.
Please support WTC by pledging to my Kickstarter campaign.
Your help is needed!!
I am now at 26% of my Kickstarter goal. On target, but only if I can keep up the same pace for the next three weeks. I don’t have any big donors to count on. This is about individuals who are willing to step up and support artists and projects they care about. Small amounts add up. Please participate at whatever level of support you are comfortable with.
I was downtown the other day on business unrelated to my WTC book project, and snapped the image above. It’s a construction fence with a printed photograph of the skyline. In the rear are the ribs of the transportation center, which is now open to the public, although with limited access. There is only one entrance through the lobby of 4 WTC on Liberty Street.
Yesterday, a North Carolina middle school choir singing the Star Spangled Banner at the 9/11 memorial was stopped by a security guard — you are supposed to have a permit. A couple of thoughts. How strange that a school group would travel all the way to New York to sing the National Anthem — uninvited — at the 9/11 memorial. And how weird that they chose the official anthem of the United States, as opposed to, say, a hymn like America or God Bless America. Did they expect everyone to stop and pay respect to the Anthem as they sat on benches eating their lunches or crossing the plaza to get to the Path Train?
Clearly, the group from North Carolina, like many visiting the memorial, have a very different idea of the site’s meaning than those who live and work in the area. And finally, what crazy sense of duty would compel a security guard to interrupt the singing of the National Anthem on the plaza for lack of a performance permit.
We live in strange, and often, unsettling times.
I’ve been showing a cover mockup for WTC that has dull gray lettering — looks good, but not inspiring. Yesterday, we got the cover proof with silver foil stamped onto a matte background. The result is, in my opinion, stunning. The letters WTC appear almost to float in air.
Cover proof — © Brian Rose
The rear cover will have another of the images from my WTC Frieze, comprised of close-ups of the steel piping of the Twin Towers’ skin. The spine of the book will be blue — a somewhat brighter blue than shown above — as will the endpapers inside the cover. The correct blue can be seen below.
The final cover design is something I’ve been playing with in recent years as the overall concept of the book came together. When I would talk to publishing people, they would almost always say, it looks nice, but of course, we’ll need a regular photograph on the cover. My artist and photography friends told me to stick to my guns.
Help make that decision the right one. Please support my Kickstarter campaign.
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.
Under the FDR Drive, 1981 — © Brian Rose/Edward Fausty
A photograph made underneath the FDR Drive in 1981 in the area of the Fulton Fish Market. Early in the morning the area under the highway would have been busy with trucks and all the hustle and bustle of the market. Later in the day, like in the Meatpacking District, the storefronts were shuttered and the streets relatively devoid of people. The Twin Towers loom in the distance.
This is one of the photographs in my upcoming book WTC. Please consider supporting the book on Kickstarter. Thanks.
A final punctuation mark for the end of the year, and for my forthcoming book WTC. This was taken with my new Travelwide 4×5 camera. It doesn’t have movements, but it is feather light and can be handheld — though this was made on a tripod.
It’s been a tumultuous year in our household with any number of highs and lows. But the new year is looking bright as it approaches. Bring it on!
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
— Emma Lazarus
A recent comment on my blog led me to do some research on the time when I first put down roots in New York. It was the summer of 1977, and I had just come by train to the city arriving before dawn, and parked myself in an all night coffee shop in the West Village waiting for the Village Voice to be thrown off the truck. It was 60 cents back then, which was kind of expensive when you think about it, but it was the indispensable weekly at that time, and if you were looking for a place to live downtown, you had to get the Voice for the classified ads.
Since I was going to be studying at Cooper Union in the East Village, I was looking for a place on that side of town. And it needed to be a sublet because I was only at Cooper as a one-semester exchange student. I skimmed dozens of ads, most of which were advertising apartments for $200 or $250. You could easily get an apartment on the high end of that range in the West Village. Or you could get a 2,500 square foot loft for $350 a month in Soho or Tribeca. Maybe even get a 5 to 7 year lease. If you played your cards right, you ended up buying one of those lofts for $50,000, which would now be worth millions of dollars. The sticking point for me was that those lofts often came with a “fixture fee” of several thousand dollars to cover the cost of the things – heater, lights, appliances — inside what was basically a raw loft. There was no way I could come up with that kind of money.
East Village apartment listings 1977
But there were lots of more modest apartments in the East Village, and really, all things considered, I had a lot of choice. In fact, there were dozens of choices, and all in the $200 range. Never mind that many of the buildings were crumbling, and anything east of First Avenue looked like Berlin in 1945. I realized very quickly, however, that I would be making a lot of phone calls and looking at a lot of apartments.
So, there I was, planning on a long day of house hunting, when I saw this:
Cooper Square Vicinity, near NYU, New School, 2 rooms, $800 for whole year. That couldn’t be right I thought. $800 for a year! Well, it turned out to be legit. A philosophy professor at NYU was taking a temporary job teaching at Tulane down south, and decided to sublet his apartment for a year. It was in a city-owned building, pretty rundown, but on a largely intact block, East 4th Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue.
I took it, and by noon I had an apartment in Manhattan, and spent the rest of the day hanging out in the city. In the evening I headed for Penn Station to return to Washington, D.C. (where I was living) with the idea of bringing my stuff up in a week or two. As I got onto my train, the whole station was plunged into absolute darkness. Fortunately, my train had auxiliary power, and we sat in relative comfort — it was still bloody hot — and the police kept coming on board urging us to stay put. The entire city was blacked out. The following morning when power was restored we pulled into Washington and I saw the dramatic headlines about the rioting and looting that had convulsed large parts of the city overnight.
A few weeks later I moved into my tenement on East 4th Street. My professor never came back and the apartment was mine. And after a semester as an exchange student, I applied to Cooper Union and was accepted. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but I was one very fortunate guy.
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.
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:
In the Shadow of the Highway: Robert Moses’ Expressway and the Battle for Downtown
— © Brian Rose
One of my Lower East Side photographs is part of an interesting exhibition about one of Robert Moses’ last projects, a proposed elevated highway that would have connected the Holland Tunnel to the Williamsburg Bridge and an offshoot to the Manhattan Bridge.
New York Times article about Seward Park site — © Brian Rose
Had Moses not been stopped, Soho would have been largely destroyed, and highways would have torn through parts of the Lower East Side. A piece of that imminent destruction had already taken place when I made my photograph above — a view of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area from the Williamsburg Bridge. Thousands of mostly low income residents were evicted from their tenements to make way for the highway, and nearly 50 years went by before a plan was approved to redevelop the site in an economically balanced way. Although they will have the right to return, it will be too late, unfortunately, for most of the original displaced residents.
Frances Goldin and Brian Rose
There were a number of reasons that Robert Moses, the powerful master planner of New York, was finally stopped. After ramming one infrastructure project after another through neighborhoods all over the city, the tide had turned, and the primacy of automobile-centric planning lost favor. Foremost in opposing Moses and his acolytes were activists like Jane Jacobs, whose book The Death and Life of Great American Cities championed the fine-grained urban fabric of Greenwich Village and similar neighborhoods, and called for their preservation. Other activists took up the cause of low income people, the most at risk from the planners’ bulldozers. Frances Goldin, pictured above, was the most tenacious and eloquent of the Downtown activists.
She and Jacobs represent different perspectives of neighborhood activism, but both were essential in turning things around, and reasserting the right of ordinary citizens to defend their neighborhoods, and, in fact, participate in the planning process. While Goldin is most known for her political actions — her flare for street theater and colorful demonstrations — it was her espousal of neighborhood planning that may be her greatest legacy. Under her leadership, along with the planning expertise of her partner Walter Thabit, the Cooper Square Committee prevented the destruction of a six block strip of the Lower East Side, and in the end, saved or built a thousand units of low income housing. She also led the decades-long fight — after stopping Moses — to redevelop the Seward Park urban renewal site so that it includes a significant percentage of affordable units of housing. A lot of people were involved in these struggles, but she was the glue that held it all together.
Frances Goldin, City Hall Blue Room, 1990 — © Brian Rose
It was my privilege to work with her on the steering committee of the Cooper Square Committee. She and I were very different sorts of players — an array of adjectives come to mind to describe her — brilliant, charismatic, persuasive, indefatigable, optimistic. She was a socialist, Jewish, a quintessentially sharp-tongued New Yorker. I was an artist, soft-spoken Virginian, middle class, protestant background, a Jeffersonian idealist. We clashed at times, but my respect for her deepened over the years, and I think hers for me. One of the things I tell people about Frances is that for all her fierce radicalism, she was ultimately pragmatic and capable of compromise. She got things done. And is still getting things done at the age of 91.
Here’s a recent article in Bedford and Bowery about the history of the Cooper Square Committee.