Signs of the times.
Ok, if you’re a New Yorker I don’t need to tell you this. Don’t go to Super Bowl Boulevard — the stretch of Broadway between Times Square and Herald Square that has been turned into a writhing mass of football/commercial hysteria. You don’t need to line up for an autograph with — I couldn’t tell who it was — or line up for a slice of Papa John’s Pizza — or get your picture taken with a Disney character — or line up to see the actual Vince Lombardi Trophy — or line up to see whatever is going on in the various temporary structures set up in the street. There must be something in them to see because everyone is lining up.
But I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures for those of you with the common sense to avoid the area at all costs. Here are six random pics.
42nd Street near Times Square — © Brian Rose
Times Square is not the tawdry danger zone of the past–a delicious feast for the eyes, a hellish tourist trap–42nd Street a ghoulish gantlet of porn for commuters rushing to the Port Authority bus terminal, an underworld of prostitutes, teenage runaways, pickpockets, and do-gooder preachers leaching off the whole bloody mess. Ah, those were the days.
The tourists remain, more pastel present than ever, discovering their own faux New York. The nostalgia whiners are correct–the present is never as cool, never as rich and creamy as the past–but they too easily miss the buzz of the present. If you’re going to be a photographer–one who bears witness to this time–you can’t wallow in the gauzy, yellowy instagrammatic glow of the past. You’ve got to be here, now.
Enjoy. Have a gelato.
DeWitt Clinton Park, West 52nd Street — © Brian Rose
“Think of layers of wax that are just squeezed,” Mr. Horenstein said. “Even when it’s weathered, you can see all those convolutions.” The marvels continued, as a granitic substance filled in the cracks after the deformation, creating delicate traceries. Retreating glacial ice finally gave the whole thing a terrific polish that endures to this day.
When I first began shooting color in the mid-70s, making prints was difficult. You couldn’t easily set up a home darkroom–color enlargers were expensive, and the chemicals were finicky compared to black and white. So, for several years I just shot slide film, mostly Kodachrome, which could be projected on a screen or looked at through a hand-held viewer. In my first color classes at Cooper Union taught by Joel Meyerowitz, all our discussions and critiques involved images that were projected. Meyerowitz, at that time, was exhibiting his work as dye transfer prints made directly from Kodachromes. They were beautiful, archival, required a custom lab, and were very expensive.
At some point I began teaching myself how to print color using an enlarger newly installed at school. There was no printing class. The chemicals were poured into a drum, which rotated on a mechanical base, and I could do prints up to 11×14 inches. To make prints from Kodachromes, I first had 4×5 internegatives made, with the end product being a so-called C print. The printing process was slow and labor intensive, and the results were sometimes less than perfect. But I made 25 prints one semester, and had an exhibition in the hall of the photo department. I also began shooting and printing from 35mm negative film, though I still liked working with the generous size of 4×5 internegatives. Looking back, that probably influenced my decision to shoot with the 4×5 view camera in doing the Lower East Side project with Ed Fausty. I liked printing from big sheets of film.
The one constant in all of this–film, paper, and chemistry–was Kodak. I had yellow boxes everywhere in my apartment until a few years later when green Fuji boxes began to infiltrate. I still have yellow Kodak boxes of film in my refrigerator and dozens of print boxes on the shelves in my studio. Although 90% of what I do now is digital, I will never entirely escape the yellow boxes.
Yesterday, not unexpectedly, Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Fujifilm continues on, a nimbler, smarter company, making some of the coolest digital cameras around. However, Kodak remains the only producer of negative sheet film, and although Chapter 11 does not mean it’s over for the company, my guess is that it will rapidly shrink, and eventually spin off different operations as separate companies. Where that leaves those of us still shooting film is anybody’s guess.
The photograph above was made in 1978 with my first camera, a 35mm Nikkormat, on Kodachrome. The Empire State Building was seen from below street level in the former Kodak gallery at 43rd Street and Sixth Avenue. The International Center of Photography now occupies that space. Kodak may soon exit the scene for good, but photography lives on, with or without yellow boxes.