Category Archives: Politics

New York/Berlin

Ebertstrasse, Berlin, 1989 — © Brian Rose

28 years ago today, the Berlin wall opened. It was a moment of joyous celebration, a triumph of the human spirit, and an eternal symbol of freedom against repression.

28 years later, we are in a much darker place as the shadow of authoritarianism stalks once again in the United States and abroad.

But let us not doubt, on this day, that an aroused public will not permit the walls of hatred and tyranny to stand. And those who desecrate our ideals, and seek to tear apart the bonds that unite us, will be vanquished.

“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”  — The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

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/Four Freedoms Park


Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island — © Brian Rose

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
January 6, 1941


Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island — © Brian Rose

New York/Arcaid Shortlist


Atlantic City, Revel casino north wall (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

I’m pleased to announce that my photograph of the new, but empty, Revel casino in Atlantic City (above) has been shortlisted for the  Arcaid architecture photograph of the year award. Twenty photographs were selected, and will be exhibited in Berlin, London, and Beijing. The winner will be chosen at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin in November.

Here are the images.

In a contest like this you want an iconic image with a strong composition, play of light, color arrangement — all the elements. And wow factor turned up to 11. I’m not really that kind of photographer. I work in series rather than individual images, though I expect each image to have a purpose and an internal logic.

As followers of this blog know, I’ve been working on an Atlantic City series with a fairly straightforward political intent. To frame Donald Trump as the scam artist we have known about for years, and to place him at the center of the destruction of Atlantic City, a quintessentially American story of greed and (literally) casino capitalism. The image that was selected does not show a Trump casino, and in fact, the fall of Atlantic City is a complex subject, but I think it works to tell the story about as well as any one photograph can.

American values and idealism, however, survive somewhere between the crumbling houses and the monolithic glass wall of the casino — the little American flag in the vacant lot flapping in the sea breeze.

See my other Atlantic City images here.

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

As I set up the composition above with its various interlocking pieces, I noticed that the LED sign at right center, just under the royal crest of Trumplandia, the former Trump Plaza, changed ads every 30 seconds or so. I made several pictures — one with my digital pocket camera — posted a few weeks ago, and one with my 4×5 view camera. All off a sudden an ad for the Miss America Pageant flashed on the sign, and then was gone, before I could get a film holder into my camera. Perfect! I wanted that.

So I waited for the ads to cycle through again, and I waited and waited, but Miss America did not seem to be getting equal time. Finally, she popped up on the screen, a beaming blond wearing a golden crown, adjacent to a royal crest with the words Miss America 2018, Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Miss America pageant has been associated with Atlantic City for as long as I can remember — much longer than Donald Trump’s casino reign — and it remains one of the few vestiges of the past glory of this storied beach resort.

Miraculously, at that moment, a group of people carrying shopping bags acquired from the nearby outlet mall walked into the otherwise vacant pathway leading one’s eye to the smiling face of the beauty queen and the royal escutcheons of Miss America and Donald Trump.


Miss America statue, Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

On the boardwalk, a statue of Miss America holding a crown to be placed on the head of the next winner stands in front of Boardwalk Hall, the historic venue for the pageant. Miss America absconded to Las Vegas in 2006, but has since returned to her rightful realm. A steady stream of tourists photograph themselves beneath the statue’s proffered crown.

The pageant was first televised in 1954, the year I was born, and every Fall my family would gather around the TV set to watch. There were only three major networks in those days, guaranteeing an enormous audience for any event shown in prime time. It’s embarrassing to think about it now, but I remember carefully scrutinizing each contestant for beauty, talent, and poise, as the judges whittled it down to to the final group of worthies. Always of great importance was how well contestants answered questions picked at random, and it was great fun to laugh at the word salad that predictably spewed forth.


Atlantic City (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Donald Trump, despite his dominance in Atlantic City, never got his hands on Miss America, literally or figuratively — he was the owner of the Miss Universe and USA pageants for over a decade. Miss America would have been far too cerebral. When he took over Miss Universe pageant Trump said of one of the pageant executives, They had a person that was extremely proud that a number of the women had become doctors, and I wasn’t interested.”

In the Miss America pageant just held in Atlantic City, Miss Texas was asked about Trump’s non committal response to the white supremacists who engaged in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. She said, : “I think that the white supremacist issue — it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack, and I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and making sure that all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”

 

 

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/Atlantic City


Trump Plaza wall — © Brian Rose

I returned to Atlantic City to continue working on my project — Atlantic City: In the Wake of Destruction Left by Donald Trump. I intended to spend part of my time on the Boardwalk, which in mid-August is filled with people and activity. But I ended up mostly on Pacific and Arctic Avenues just to the west of the beach. Even at the height of the summer, the streets were strangely quiet.

The photograph above was taken in the area adjacent to an immense outlet mall and a large fishing and camping store — efforts by the city to generate tourism and commercial activity. The former Trump Plaza stands empty, a black and white shell, its parking structure denuded of the Trump logo, though its possible to just make out the letters to the left and right of Trump’s golden crest.


Caesars Casino Hotel — © Brian Rose

Next to Trump Plaza is Caesars, a casino still doing business on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City’s homage to the Roman Forum.


Pacific Avenue — © Brian Rose

Just a block or two from Caesars and Trump Plaza — the white tower in the background — it’s a different world. Junkies and alcoholics mingle on the corners while beach goers drift toward the Boardwalk carrying umbrellas and towels. The arched wall at center is the site of the former Trump’s World’s Fair, another failed casino.


Arctic Avenue — © Brian Rose

A vacant building and empty lot just behind the outlet malls on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. In the distance is the Sheraton Hotel, which primarily serves the Atlantic City convention center. A man approached from a shop just to the left of the pink structure and asked what I was doing. it turned out he was the owner of the place called The Fishmarket. I explained a little about my project, and asked him whether he thought Atlantic City was coming up or going down. He gave a thumbs up, and told me that business was good. I don’t know if I share his optimism, but I felt encouraged by his attitude, nevertheless.


White House, Arctic Avenue — © Brian Rose

Just in the next block, the neighborhood of Ducktown remains largely intact with densely packed blocks of row houses. On the corner is White House Subs, which was probably not Donald Trump’s inspiration to run for the presidency. It is, however, a wonderfully funky and happening sub shop, which was packed with a diverse melange of people at lunch time.


White House (Brendan and Renee) — © Brian Rose

My family came along on this trip — I deposited them on the beach while I was shooting — and we had lunch at White House Subs.


White House (with Jimmy Fallon) — © Brian Rose

Across from me in the booth a grinning Jimmy Fallon from 10 years ago looked me in the eye holding one of White House’s classic Italian subs. Yes!

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Plaza (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Most of the pictures of Atlantic City and Trump’s abandoned casinos I’ve posted so far were made with a digital camera. But I am actually shooting 4×5 film with the digital camera primarily for backup and preview purposes. It’s hard to appreciate at 72 pixels per inch, but these are scanned at very high resolution and worked up meticulously in Photoshop. Trump’s buildings have never looked so good — in a manner of speaking.


Trump Plaza (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

It is not merely the materialism of the 1980’s that Donald Trump embodies, it is the impatience, the insistence on having everything right now, all of it, the willingness to settle for appearance over substance. This is why it is hard not to sense, for all Mr. Trump has been identified with New York, that he is more at home in Atlantic City, where surface glitter is really all there is.

— Paul Goldberger, New York Times

My Atlantic City mini-website here.

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose (4×5 negative)

President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor . . . and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.

— Hope Hicks, White House spokeswoman

New York/Trilogy


Broadway, one week after 9/11 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

The three books I have published in the past seven years comprise a New York trilogy — the city seen and explored over an extended period of time. Taken together they form a portrait of New York, especially lower Manhattan, during a period of extreme transformation. I hesitate to say “unprecedented” because change is integral to the nature of New York going all the way back to the first Dutch settlers.

The story told in these books relates to past photographic projects even to the way in which Marville and Atget documented Paris during the remaking of the city under Haussmann. I was familiar with all of that history when I began photographing the Lower East Side in 1980. At the same time, I was influenced by contemporary strains of street, architectural, and landscape photography. Color was an exceptionally new thing when I started this work in the 1970s, Today, it is the default photographic medium. As I was exploring New York with my camera, I was also discovering color’s descriptive nature, and its capacity to reveal as well as obscure.

These books also form a personal narrative, and I have kept my voice present throughout the text accompanying the photographs. I was 23 when the first images were made, and 62 when the most recent were done. At the center of this trilogy — though not seen directly — the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. That wrenching event propelled the city forward, inexplicably, as a complex barely understood motive — and simultaneously, propelled the nation backward, convulsively, to the present moment of political crisis.

Time and Space on the Lower East Side is a portrait of place, one of America’s most vibrant and historic neighborhoods seen over a span of 30 years.

The trade edition of this book is, unfortunately, sold out, though used copies can be found on the internet.

The limited edition is still available — signed books in a slipcover with an 8×10 inch print inside.

Purchase the limited edition or browse images and reviews here.

Metamorphosis. Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013 is before/after view showing rthe dramatic transformation of the former meat market of New York City. Rose spent several days in 1985 photographing the neighborhood with a 4×5 view camera. The negatives remained in a box unseen for over three decades. Rediscovered a few years ago, the images portray the streets and architecture of New York, stunningly empty, but vividly real.

There are only 150 copies of this book still available.
Purchase the trade or limited edition of the book here.

WTC is a visual history of the Twin Towers and the rebuilding of the city after 9/11. It serves as both historical record and personal story going all the way back to 1977 when the Trade Center was only a few years old and Rose was a newcomer to the city.

WTC pivots off of 9/11 with a series of images made directly after the destruction of the Towers, and moves forward to the ascendance of One World Trade Center on the skyline.

Purchase the trade or limited edition of the book here.

 

New York/AIPAD


Empty AIPAD booth — © Brian Rose

There are hundreds of booths at AIPAD (The Photography Show) and thousands of people attending. Lots of different languages overheard while walking around, which is typical of New York.

But one booth is empty. The sign says:

Due to the recent travel ban and
the uncertainty of international
travel from countries identified
in the ban, Ag Galerie, Tehran,
is unable to participate in The
Photography Show this year.

Ran into several friends, Hans Knijnenburg from the Netherlands who is avid photo book collector, Art Presson and Eve Kessler, who have a wonderful photography collection, Joel Sternfeld, the photographer, and I met Hendrik Kerstens, the Dutch photographer who I wrote about in my blog a number of years ago.

 

New York/DART

DART, the newsletter for design professionals and photographers, is promoting the work of artists who are responding to the election of Donald Trump and the current political fallout from this national disaster. Today, my Atlantic City project is being featured. Thanks go out to Peggy Roalf for providing a showcase for this work and that of other artists.

The full project, Atlantic City: In the Wake of Destruction left by Donald Trump, can be viewed here.

New York/Truth

Eons ago — about 10 years — when George Bush was president, I wrote with dismay about how reality was becoming more and more a relative concept, untethered from facts, infinitely malleable. I quoted a Bush administration aide who said:

”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

This was was from Time magazine, which still exists, despite the vast dispersion of the media across the internet in an information space that freely mixes social media and journalism, where rumor and fake news compete — and oftentimes win — over factually based reporting and observation.

Last week Time’s cover features only the text Is Truth Dead? This is where we are now. A dangerous con man was elected president on a wave of lies, disinformation, and willful ignorance. We are in big trouble.

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about photography and its relationship to truth and  reality. You hear a lot about how Photoshop has undermined the credibility of the image. You hear terms like “post factual.” There are deeply mind numbing discussions about semiotics and the indeterminate nature of meaning — and truth. These themes make wonderful parlor discussions, and graduate school theses.

They are irrelevant right now. We are in an emergency. We need to employ words and images as we understand them — to drill down to what is essential and knowable in practical terms.

I’m sick to death of hearing things from
Uptight short sided narrow minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic psychotic pigheaded politicians
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth

— John Lennon

UPDATE:

Case in point. I just received an email from a photography organization in the Netherlands promoting their next exhibition, Simulacrum. The basic premise of the show is that reality and manufactured reality are becoming indistinguishable. This is hardly an original concept — a curatorial container for a bunch of artists using technology to create alternative realities. I am not interested in this. I am interested in what artists have to say concretely and coherently — including those who make use of new technology. When we get waylaid by aesthetic and philosophical strategies that purposely blur the difference between truth and untruth in images and language, we run the risk of becoming complicit with the shape shifters and charlatans who seek dominance of our institutions and who currently occupy the White House in Washington, D.C.

Get real!

http://www.noorderlicht.com/en/photogallery/expected/

Simulacrum
What is real, what is artificial? The border between the two is beginning to fade. In the visual language of the advertising industry, the border between real photography and digitally calculated models is almost indistinguishable…  It’s becoming somewhat of a challenge to distinguish between images that represent reality and images that depict reality. This theme lies at the heart of the exhibition: a Simulacrum stands for a simulation that takes the place of the reality it stems from.

 

New York/Wall


Heinersdorf, Germany 1987 — from The Lost Border, The Landscape of the Iron Curtain
— © Brian Rose

The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico.

 

Unsurprisingly, there are engineering firms and architects who are interested. One small architectural firm explains their willingness to participate:

To put it directly: we have never said that we are designing a wall. We are responding to the government’s solicitation for a new model of border infrastructure which we hope will provide a corrective to the privileging of iconicity, spectacle, and security at the border. (full text here)

Jake Matatyaou and Kyle Hovenkotter, JuneJuly, March 3, 2017
management@junejuly.co

 

New York/Atlantic City

We are barely two months into the Trump presidency and it’s been some scary ride. I have gotten a good start on my Atlantic City project, which highlights Trump’s bankrupt casinos as a jumping off point. I don’t know where things go from here — with my project, or with Trump’s reality TV show writ large. As the esteemed blogger Digby says, “He’s running the country like he ran the Taj Mahal.”

Most of my landscape projects have incorporated social/political issues, but this is by the most targeted, and the most connected to current events. So, in the interest of getting the work out into the world as soon as possible, I’ve taken the photographs I’ve run on my blog over the past few months and put them together in a mini-website. Please take a look — recommend to others. Resist!

New York/Williamsburg


Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose (Painting by Damien Mitchell)

Trump unmasked.

Update — a quote from Simon Schama’s piece in the Financial Times. I first came across Schama when living in the Netherlands. His book The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age is highly recommended along with his later Landscape and Memory.

He writes:

The challenge, as with all such imaginative counter-attacks, is the capacity to project the message beyond the halls of college and museum and into the street where it counts. Prints lend themselves perfectly to poster polemics but the most effective challenge may yet come from creative adventures in the digital media, where inspired derision coupled with the defence of truth can go viral. Should that happen, the complacent dismissal of resistance art as the self-indulgent playtime of a defeated “elite” will die on the faces of the powerful. Aux armes, les artistes!

https://www.ft.com/content/0ded5de4-fe6d-11e6-96f8-3700c5664d30

New York/Atlantic City


Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

By the time I get back to Atlantic City, these images of Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza will almost certainly be gone. Workmen were busy removing any signs of Trump’s involvement in Atlantic City when I was there less than two weeks ago. But the evidence will not be easily erased.

In 2015, the Trump Taj Mahal was fined $10 million for money laundering.

“Trump Taj Mahal received many warnings about its deficiencies,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shaky Calvery. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors. Far from meeting these expectation, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
United States Department of the Treasury
Press release — March 6, 2015