Category Archives: Midtown

New York/Along the High Line


520 West 28th Street — © Brian Rose

It’s been a while since I last walked the High Line on Manhattan’s west side, an overly popular attraction that is often uncomfortably thronged with tourists. A rainy morning followed by cloudy skies dampened the mob mentality enough to make the walkway quite tolerable. It looked incredibly lush at the end of the summer, and the new architecture springing up alongside is impressive, even astonishing.


520 West 28th Street — © Brian Rose

Perhaps the most remarkable is an apartment building by the late Zaha Hadid, which Curbed has already placed on its list of 35 most iconic New York buildings. I have always had mixed feelings about Hadid’s work — its extreme expressiveness — its rejection of rectilinear discipline — its sheer self-aggrandizing voluptuousness. But here, wedged tightly in the dense urban fabric of Chelsea, it is a wondrous outlier, an aggressive interloper in the often buttoned down conservatism of New York architecture.


Hudson Yards construction with Vessel and The Shed — © Brian Rose

A few steps uptown is Hudson Yards, a mega project exploding into the air above the Long Island Railroad train yards. Most notable are two not exactly compatible structures seen above: Vessel, an interactive sculpture by Thomas Heatherwick, and the Shed, designed by Diller Scofideo + Renfro. Having already seen renderings of Vessel, and now viewing its erection — about halfway up — I am can say with conviction that it is a horror — a series of interlocking stairs sheathed in shiny Trumpian copper emerging like an alien mushroom in the midst of the skyscraper forest.

The Shed, adjacent, is a moveable structure that rolls on tracks over the Hudson Yards plaza. It’s an ingenious and elegant design intended to create an indoor/outdoor space for performances of all kinds. I have a couple of concerns, particularly the jamming of so many structures together in such a tight space. it is visually chaotic. And conceptually, I have doubts about the overall programming. Does New York need more spaces for theatrical events as opposed to more intimate artist centered venues?


West 21st Street — © Brian Rose

Just a few blocks away in Chelsea one finds a calmer world composed of simple shapes and subtle colors, a more modest Morandi-like still life, hushed and empty on a holiday weekend.

New York/Black and White 1977


New York, unknown location, 1977 — © Brian Rose

Although my early black and whites are without question documents of time and place, I did not, as a student, consider myself a documentary photographer. There was never any question about the goal, which was to make photographs as art. Not some hybrid mixed media animal — though I did make a painting in school where I stuck a photograph onto the canvas — but photographs pure and simple — crystallized reality, but not reality at the same time. To me, there was power in that. I still think there is power in that.


East 41st Street, 1977 — © Brian Rose

One of the basic, and profound, truths of photography is that the moment preserved, is fleeting. It seems “decisive,” to quote Cartier Bresson, but it remains fugitive, unknowable, When I look at the man above crossing the street in the fedora (they were not so common even in 1977) I cannot know what he is thinking, or where her is going, or just came from. But he strides, nevertheless, through the frame as if there is meaning. It is an awkward meaning in a slightly awkward composition, but somehow compelling, cinematic. To me. Maybe not for you. I’m keeping this one in the mix for now.


Tudor City Place, 1977 — © Brian Rose

New York was a mess in 1977, and you can see it in many of these pictures — in the scraggly vegetation in the parks, the trash on the streets and sidewalks, the frayed edges of the landscape. But the photograph above was not a critique on the condition of the city. I was aware, of course, that a small tree lay uprooted in the left foreground of my picture. It’s a notation, not central to the motive for the photograph. There are two verticals — the trees — and a tangle of limbs, benches, and shadows in between. There is a perfect sunlit square hovering left of center. Several people bask in the winter light, talking, dozing.


East 41st Street, 1977 — © Brian Rose


East 68th Street, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Tudor City Place, 1977 — © Brian Rose

I wanted the camera frame to take in everything evenly — non hierarchical. This was learned from Friedlander especially, and my teacher at Cooper, Meyerowitz. Composition was not just side to side, but front to back as well. Each shot was an experiment in seeing and describing the fabric of things not necessarily the things themselves.


East 40th Street, 1977 — © Brian Rose

I look at many of the pictures I made in 1977 and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Pointing the camera at what seems like nothing. Baffling to me now.

But then — there’s the image above…

 

New York/Black and White


East 14th Street, 1977 — © Brian Rose

Going through some boxes yesterday, I began looking at my early black and white negatives.

During the 1970s I shot dozens of rolls of film, Kodak Trii-x and Plus-x, along with dozens of rolls of Kodachrome and Ektachrome color slide film. Most of the black and white has never been printed, or even contacted. I didn’t have the time, and I was moving quickly from one thing to the next.

So, I scanned eight strips of black and white film — a small sample of negatives — and well, I’m kind of stunned. I literally can’t remember taking any of these pictures. It’s like discovering my alter-ego out on the street in New York, a young photographer fully engaged in making images, densely composed fragments of a now distant past.

Unknown location in New York, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Unknown location in New York, 1977 — © Brian Rose


Unknown location in New York, 1977 — © Brian Rose

A photograph of nothing and/or everything. A nondescript location in some far flung part of the city, a precise balance of interlocking elements welded together at the center of the image, a face staring out from a cigarette ad, two cobra style lampposts acting as quotation marks.


Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, 1977 — © Brian Rose

Similar vertical elements dividing the frame, foreground and background brought together in an overall, highly activated composition. I remember now, the way I thought about things back then. I wasn’t interested in one area of focus, or one subject of interest. I wanted everything treated equally across the field of view.

I’ll scan more images as time permits going forward.

New York/Super Bowl Blvd.

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.

superbowl05

superbowl04

superbowl06

superbowl03

superbowl01

superbowl02

 

 

New York/Times Square

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.

New York/Hell’s Kitchen

DeWitt Clinton Park, West 52nd Street — © Brian Rose

From the New York Times, February 5, 2012:

“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.

 

New York/Kodak


Kodak Gallery at 43rd Street and the Avenue of the Americas, 1978, (current location of ICP) — © Brian Rose

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.