Category Archives: On the Road

New York/London


Prufrock Coffee, Leather Street, London — © Brian Rose

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

We stumbled upon Prufrock Coffee in Leather Street in Clerkenwell, a formerly industrial area, now full of architecture and design firms — and the gallery where my photograph is hanging. Not only was the coffee good at Prufrock, so was the food. I had an avocado toast served on a rugged slice of brown bread doused in olive oil and sprinkled with chili pepper flakes. Renee had an amazing “sandwich” featuring peas and a perfectly soft boiled egg on top.

We’re headed back to New York today.

New York/London


Sto Werkstatt, London

At the opening of the exhibition Building Images at Sto Werkstatt in London, which features the 20 shortlisted photographs for the Architectural Photography Awards. My wife, Renee Schoonbeek on the right.


Sto Werkstatt, London

My photograph of Atlantic City.

New York/Beginnings


Richmond, Virginia (35mm Kodachrome) 1971

I’ve been think a lot lately about the early days of color photography, and I’ve done a number of posts on the subject in the past. I am making a proposal to do an exhibition at Cooper Union about the school’s role in the emergence of color photography in the 1970s. I don’t know if the idea will get traction or not — it will take a lot of work to put together.

The picture above was taken when I was 16 or 17 — around 1971. I had just gotten a camera and was shooting black and white primarily. One day I ran a roll of Kodachrome through the camera and ended up with several pictures that resonated deeply with me. All I could do at first was look at the slides through a little viewer — I didn’t even have a projector. So, I got a few drug store prints made, and the seed was planted. I go back to this image from time to time as a reminder of what got things started.

Here’s what I looked like back then.


Brian Rose self portrait (35mm Kodachrome) — 1972

New York/Atlantic City


Caesar’s garage, Atlantic City (4×5 negative) — © Brian Rose

Difference in scale — almost a photographic genre in itself — is stupefyingly on display in Atlantic City. And every city planning truism about livable streets has been blown to smithereens. Learning from Las Vegas, AC gets a PhD in architecture.

I am torn between celebrating the wanton caziness of it all and seeking the smug moral high ground on this low lying spit of sand. Atlantic City seems to be imploding at the same time as it is once again being resurrected. The story goes on — the gamblers play on in windowless rooms — while the waves crash closer and closer to the boardwalk.

New York/Washington, D.C.


The Lincoln Memorial (4×5 film) 1982 — © Brian Rose

There have been more perilous moments in American history — the Civil War, certainly — but few. The coming days will shake the pillars of this great democratic experiment. Be strong. Be prepared for anything.

New York/Washington, D.C.


The National Mall, Washington, D.C. (4×5 film) 1982 — © Brian Rose

Another of several views of the Mall in Washington taken in the early ’80s. Hard to imagine such emptiness on the Mall today, even on a rainy day.

New York/Washington, D.C.


Grant Memorial, Washington, D.C. (4×5 film) 1982 — © Brian Rose

From a small group of photographs I made in Washington, D.C. in the early 1980s. The Grant Memorial, by sculptor Henry Shrady, stands directly in front of the Capitol, an equestrian statue with dramatic depictions of battle on either side. In my photograph, the cavalry charge is shown silhouetted against the early evening sky.

Trump himself told us plainly on Friday night in Pensacola, Fla., that he will do whatever it takes to hold power, and he should be taken seriously. “There are powerful forces in Washington trying to sabotage our movement,” he declared. “These are bad people, these are very, very bad and evil people. . . . But you know what, we’re stopping them. You’re seeing that right now.”

We are far closer to the edge than we want to think.

E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post

New York/Atlantic City


N. Congress Avenue, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Now, I been lookin for a job, but it’s hard to find
Down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t
Get caught on the wrong side of that line
Well, I’m tired of comin out on the losin end
So, honey, last night I met this guy and I’m gonna
Do a little favor for him

— Bruce Springsteen

New York/Atlantic City


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose


Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

A few more digital images — I’m also shooting both 4×5 film of most everything — but they take some time to process and scan. The picture directly above was made with my pocket digital camera with a small lens that can be poked through the openings in chain link fences. That was the case here.

All the 4×5 images for this project are being made with a lightweight camera called a Travelwide, which has no movements and no ground glass. You set the focus manually based on distance, and you can even handhold it, though I usually stick it on a tripod. Last Thursday in Atlantic City was reasonably temperate, but it was very windy. So, the tripod was a must.

The great thing is that I can carry everything in a small camera bag — I usually have the camera and tripod balanced on my shoulder as I walk around — and most of it is made out of plastic or carbon fiber materials, including the tripod. I’m using an old Schneider 90mm lens bought bought for under $200. The camera and lens together cost less than $400, but it works to perfection. The tripod, however, is another story. And the film…

New York/Owls Head, Maine


Owls Head, Maine — © Brian Rose

My son, Brendan, and my wife, Renee. We spent a week in Maine — beautiful weather except the last day when rain moved in. Brendan is now off to college for the first time — SUNY Purchase. Not so far away from NYC, but it feels like a million miles at the moment.

New York/Civil War Monuments


Jefferson Davis gravesite, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia — © Brian Rose

Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond is the final resting place of Jefferson Davis the president of the Confederacy. His statue is visited regularly, and Confederate flags are often placed around the monument. Elsewhere in the cemetery, John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, is buried. Staunchly pro slavery he aligned himself with the Confederacy. And there are 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in the rolling hills of this hauntingly beautiful place perched above the James River. I wrote about Hollywood a few years ago here and here.

***

I have mixed feelings about the removal of Confederate Civil War monuments for a number of reasons that have not received much attention in the wake of the the shocking events in Charlottesville, Virginia. And I’d like to explore the subject especially with regard to Richmond, a city I know well. Although I have lived much of my life in New York City, I was born and raised in Virginia, and went to the University of Virginia for two years. My family lived briefly in Richmond, but most of my childhood was spent nearby in Williamsburg, the restored Virginia capital.

First of all, let me be clear. I do not regard Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, or any of the other Confederate leaders worthy of veneration. Whether they were brave in battle or noble in defeat makes no difference. As W.E.B. DuBois wrote about Lee in 1928: His personal comeliness, his aristocratic birth and his military prowess all call for the verdict of greatness and genius. But one thing–one terrible fact–militates against this and that is the inescapable truth that Robert E. Lee led a bloody war to perpetuate slavery.

Many historians and commentators have pointed out that most of the Civil War statues were erected well after the war was over – after Reconstruction – when Jim Crow laws institutionalized segregation and the repression of African Americans. Mitch Landrieu, the mayor New Orleans, gave an eloquent speech just hours before the removal of the city’s Confederate statues pointing out the facts in a compelling manner:

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.


Henry Ward Beecher, Brooklyn, New York — © Brian Rose

The Henry Ward Beecher statue in downtown Brooklyn honors the leading abolitionist of his day — some called him the most famous man in America. His sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But even Beecher’s statue has a problematic element. A supplicant slave reaches up to the great man in gratitude.

***

While it is true that these monuments were intended to promote the myth of the Confederacy as a noble cause, they were also an expression of the Beaux Arts movement, which transformed American cities by creating broad boulevards, public parks, and grand classically inspired architecture. The Beaux Arts period, running from 1890 to 1920 corresponds almost exactly with the commissioning of Civil War monuments. In the North, most of the statues, of course, portrayed Union heroes like Ulysses S. Grant or William Tecumseh Sherman. In the South, it was Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. These statues were typically situated in prominent ceremonial places in major cities throughout the United States.

The best sculptors of the time were commissioned to produce these heroic monuments. The most prominent was Augustus St. Gaudens who created the Sherman statue at the corner of Central Park and Fifth Avenue. An angel leads the beatifically rendered Sherman on his path of destruction and victory. St. Gaudens’ masterwork is the Shaw memorial on the edge of Boston Common, completed in 1897, which depicts, in meticulous detail, Colonel Robert Shaw leading a black regiment down Beacon Street on their way to battle.

In the South, the civic goals corresponded with those in the North — to elevate public space with works of grandeur and nobility. Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy best exemplifies the city beautiful movement. A grand boulevard was envisioned west of downtown with designated sites for monuments at major cross streets. The first to be erected was an equestrian sculpture of Robert E. Lee created by the French artist Antonin Mercié, fabricated in France, and shipped to the United Sates, much like the Statue of Liberty.


Washington at Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

Henry Shrady was the creator of the Robert E. Lee equestrian sculpture in Charlottesville. The city’s decision to remove the statue led to protest marches by hundreds of neo-Nazis carrying weapons, torches, and Confederate flags. Three deaths resulted. Shrady was also the sculptor of George Washington at Valley Forge, a powerful presence at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, New York.

***

The J.E.B. Stuart monument in Richmond was created by Frederick Moynihan, who produced sculptures in the North and South depicting both Union and Confederate heroes. He and other artists of Monument Avenue were American, but all studied with the leading sculptors of the time in Europe. In Charlottesville, Virginia, the now infamous Lee Statue was sculpted by Henry Shrady who also is responsible for the Grant monument directly in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. I have no idea if it mattered to Shrady which side of the “War Between the States” he was memorializing.

There were many, however, who understood what Lee represented to the dominant white society of the South. When the Lee monument was proposed in the 1890s, black members of the Richmond city council opposed it. One of them, John Mitchel, the editor of the Richmond Planet wrote: “The capital of the late Confederacy has been decorated with emblems of the ‘Lost Cause,” and the Lee statue represented a “legacy of treason and blood.”


Ulysses S. Grant, Brooklyn, New York — © Brian Rose

The Grant monument on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn was designed by William Ordway Partridge who also was commissioned to create a sculpture of Pocahontas in Jamestown, Virginia. Few New Yorkers know the Grant monument, but the Pocahontas sculpture is popular, and the image of this Native American icon is a fascinating study in itself of American mythology and history.

***

That’s where we are today. Richmond, a greatly rejuvenated city of over 200,000 people, about evenly divided black and white, is grappling with the future of its monuments. Ten years ago the city sought to balance the story of Monument Avenue by erecting a statue of Richmond native and former tennis great Arthur Ashe. The statue is awkwardly executed, too small in scale for its site, and comes off as an add-on rather than an integral part of the avenue’s overall ensemble. Are there contemporary artists who can do life-like sculptures worthy of St. Gaudens? Should we even try?

The people of Richmond will decide for themselves what to do, but I see two possible scenarios. One is to keep the monuments, and introduce a serious and comprehensive program to provide historical context, which will require an honest appraisal of Robert E. Lee, one that sets straight the fictitious myth of the noble warrior. The other is to relocate the statues – a major task presenting its own set of quandaries – and the commissioning of new works to replace the old – installations that respect the urbanistic and historic nature of the boulevard, but address contemporary issues and new aesthetic visions.

I agree that maintaining the status quo is no longer tenable. The Confederate battle flag should certainly not be flying from public buildings, and it’s time to acknowledge that the Lost Cause of the South belongs in the dustbin of history. But if it’s possible in the heat of the moment to slow down, let’s consider the options available for our monuments, Civil War and otherwise. In many cases, these are significant works of art that reflect the rebuilding of American cities, North and South, at the beginning of the 20th Century. The wholesale removal of monuments is an erasure of history rather than an attempt to understand it and learn from it.

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

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/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