Category Archives: On the Road

New York/Atlantic City


Abandoned Trump Plaza — © Brian Rose

I’ll tell you, it’s big business. If there is one word to describe Atlantic City, it’s big business. Or two words – big business.

— Donald J. Trump


Trump Plaza poking up above Boardwalk Hall — © Brian Rose

During Prohibition, Atlantic City created the idea of the speakeasy, which turned into nightclubs and that extraordinary political complexity and corruption coming out of New Jersey at the time. The long hand that they had-and maybe still do-even had to do with presidential elections.

— Martin Scorsese

 

New York/Atlantic City


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rump Plaza — © Brian Rose

Trump’s wall in Atlantic City.

(Reuben) Kramer shows us the shuttered Trump Plaza, which will likely be torn down. It is one of four casinos that closed in 2014, representing a third of Atlantic City’s gaming halls. Trump’s name has been removed from the Trump Plaza facade. Only the gaudy golden crest, a color reminiscent of Trump’s famous hair, remains.

Matt Katz, from the blog Katz on Christie

New York/Atlantic City

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Abandoned Trump Plaza, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

I made my second trip to Atlantic City. It was a grey, damp, December day — chilly, but not too bad. The project is beginning to take shape. I will focus, to start, on the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza, two recently bankrupted casinos that have sent this already depressed city reeling, and then gradually expand out from the Boardwalk. Is Atlantic City a metaphor for what is happening to the country as a whole? Way back in 1981, Louis Malle said that his film “Atlantic City could be a metaphor for things going wrong all over America.” And recently the New Republic opined that “The closure of Trump Taj Mahal casino is a giant metaphor for Trump’s America.” So, I think we are on solid, if not original, footing here.

christieDriving down on the Garden State Parkway I pulled into a rest stop for coffee, and as I was leaving I noticed Governor Chris Christie’s beaming face lurking behind a couple of coin operated games. Politico called Christie and Trump “the twin villains of Atlantic city,” and I am in constant amazement that these two buffoons have come to exercise such power. Fortunately, it appears that Christie’s path to national acclaim has fallen victim to a traffic jam in Fort Lee, an act of political vengeance stunning for its clownish and petty nature. Ah well.

“Trump and Christie have one thing in common regarding Atlantic City,” says Frank Becktel, a jitney driver and an Atlantic City loyalist suffering along with the rest of the town in its hour of
need. “They both knew how to squeeze a buck out of us and leave us for dead.”


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Trump Plaza and the historic Atlantic City Convention Center — © Brian rose

In 1984 Donald Trump opened the Trump Plaza, at the time the largest casino in Atlantic City. The project was done in a partnership with Harrah’s, an experienced casino operator, and involved a great deal of debt, which Trump was forced to refinance several times.

“Early on, I took a lot of money out of the casinos with the financings and the things we do,” he said in a recent interview. “Atlantic City was a very good cash cow for me for a long time.”

When Trump Plaza closed two years ago, over a thousand people were laid off. The buildings languished, and the embarrassment of  having the Trump name in bold red letters all over exteriors prompted a lawsuit. “Last year, he sued to force the shuttered Trump Plaza to remove every reference to his name, a final pronouncement on his view of Atlantic City. The letters were removed, some carted off in a contractor’s pickup truck.”

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Miss America tribute — © Brian Rose

Just in front of the Trump Plaza is a tribute to the Miss America pageant, which began in Atlantic City in 1921, and has been held, frequently, in the nearby Convention Center, now called Boardwalk Hall. Donald Trump 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,  “They had a person that was extremely proud that a number of the women had become doctors, and I wasn’t interested.”

New York/Atlantic City

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

When people show you who they are, believe them. Donald Trump made a bad gamble in my community, devastating thousands of American citizens. In his own mind, of course, he was a success. In May, Trump told the New York Times about his 25 years in Atlantic City: “The money I took out of there was incredible.”

It’s the only thing he has to say of my now-destroyed home town. He came, he took and he left. And I hate to break it to you, America — he’s not coming back for us.

— Arielle Brousse in the Washington Post

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Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

New York/Atlantic City

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Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Valerie McMorris writes in “I Was A Trump Taj Mahal Cocktail Waitress:”

Now, 26 years later, I look back and reflect on my personal journey and Trump’s promise of greatness. I see now that the opulence and glamour were all just bait. His rhetoric was supported by majestic surroundings, but they were financed through junk bonds. The profits that Donald Trump enjoyed were not reinvested in the building or the employees. They were shipped back up to the shore to Wall Street. That casino money flowed right out of Atlantic City and into the coffers of the billionaire hedge fund owners. 

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Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

It was Monday around noon, almost 60 degrees at the end of November, and a scattering of people strolled the boardwalk. As I stepped down to the beach across from the Trump Taj Mahal I encountered a half dozen stray cats lounging about as if they owned the place. And in a sense they did. The Boardwalk Cats Project feeds and tends the 150 or so spayed and neutered cats. Atlantic City may be bankrupt along with many of its casinos, but the cats are doing fine.

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Trump Taj Mahal — © Brian Rose

A wall with a discreet no trespassing sign blocks passage to a stairway into the now abandoned Trump realm.

New York/Atlantic City

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Revel, Atlantic City — © Brian Riose

On the north end of the Boardwalk just beyond the abandoned Trump Taj Mahal, Governor Chris Christie’s tax payer supported mega project.

Washington Post:

Two years later, the Revel is shuttered — wiping out thousands of jobs amid an economic implosion of the gambling industry here. Rather than serve as a shining example of Christie’s economic stewardship, Revel now stands as a 57-story example of failure in a city that has bedeviled New Jersey governors for decades.

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Revel, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

There is a party, everyone is there.
Everyone will leave at exactly the same time.
Its hard to imagine that nothing at all
Could be so exciting, and so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

— Talking Heads

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Revel, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

Parking garage and drifting sand.

New York/Atlantic City

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Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City — © Brian Rose

The bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Closed in October 2016. The beginning of a new series of photographs.

Chicago Tribune:

The closure of the sprawling Boardwalk casino, with its soaring domes, minarets and towers built to mimic the famed Indian historic site, cost nearly 3,000 workers their jobs, bringing the total jobs lost by Atlantic City casino closings to 11,000 since 2014. Atlantic City now has seven casinos.

New York/Baseball

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Hitting tunnel, Elizabeth, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

My son is a 17-year-old baseball player just finishing up his junior year of high school. If you have survived the move from the little league diamond to the full-sized diamond, you’re already in an elite group. The fact is, most human beings cannot throw the ball the 127 feet distance from home to second base, or third to first base. Try it sometime. And if you have survived middle school baseball and ended up on your high school varsity team, you are in the approximately 8 percent of little leaguers still playing the game.

Many people can dabble in other sports a good while — just about everyone can shoot a little basketball and play pick-up in the park. And softball is a great amateur sport played by millions. But baseball — hardball — is an activity performed by a vanishingly small group of athletes who can run and throw, and most importantly, hit a fastball arriving a few inches in front of you at upwards of 90 miles per hour. If you think you might be able to do that, try it sometime.

The reality is, however, that most of the high school players are not superior athletes, and only some of them make it on a so-called travel team. Travel teams are clubs that play the summer and fall circuit of tournaments, and individual players often attend showcases and college camps in hopes of being seen by a scout or coach who will offer them a scholarship or help them get drafted into Major League Baseball. Not all travel team players make it to the next level, but there are many opportunities to continue playing baseball in college — some that come with scholarships — though many offers are from academically prestigious schools competing with one another to get the best of the rest. Those schools may not provide athletic scholarships, but they can greatly smooth the admissions process if they want you.

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Basket of balls, Elizabeth, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

My son is on a travel team, the New York Gothams (really cool name), based in Manhattan, though a number of players come from the other boroughs. When you play the travel team circuit you quickly realize, to some consternation, that the system is rigged. Many of the teams are essentially all star teams with players recruited from all over the country. They only come together to play the tournaments, and many of the players have already committed to big time college programs.

The tournaments are run by various different organizations, many of them non-profit, but the biggest is Perfect Game, which sponsors tournaments and showcases. They are at the center of a money-driven baseball industry that starts with increasingly younger players that feeds into college ball and the MLB. They are not evil, certainly — their events are well-run and enjoyable — but they have upped the ante, in  general, creating a highly pressurized and competitive environment around youth baseball. Some have blamed them for the increase in injuries to young pitchers who push the limits of their bodies in hopes of hitting the magic number of 90mph, which will virtually guarantee a college scholarship. I would look more to the coaches and parents myself for the source of the problem, and I think that Perfect Game understands they are in a unique position to help mitigate the situation.

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Behind the bleachers, Elizabeth, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

These photographs were taken at two different Perfect Game events, a showcase in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and a tournament just a few miles away on Staten Island. The venues, particularly in the Northeast, are not always glamorous. The field in Elizabeth, set in the heart of an industrial landscape of oil refineries and container docklands, had a funky charm. The multi-field complex on Staten Island was scruffy, looked like they ran out of money, and said that’s good enough. Play ball!

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Richmond County Baseball complex, Staten Island, New York — © Brian Rose

New York/Paris

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Paris 1981 `– © Brian Rose

My first trip to Europe was in 1981 to France where I was exhibiting my photographs of the Lower East Side in the city of Nancy as part of a theater festival. The focus of the festival that year was the Downtown New York scene, and my photographs provided a visual context for the performances being presented at various venues in the city. Each day the festival participants lunched outdoors in a city park sitting at long tables laid out with cold cuts, bread, and carafes of red wine. I was there for a week, hanging out with the students who helped me install my exhibition — they were only a couple of years younger than I was — and one day my friend, Jack Hardy, the folk songwriter, showed up in my hotel lobby, fresh from a tour of clubs in Germany.

After a friendly dinner together in a cous cous restaurant, he suddenly lashed out at me accusing me of standing in his way with regards to a certain woman who shall go unnamed, and I did my best to defend my rights and my honor against his torrent of righteous indignation. It was an impressive display of romantic nonsense, and hardly justified given that I was actually quite conflicted about my feelings, and was at that very moment rather smitten with one of the aforementioned French students. Jack left town after a couple of days, and I followed a few days later, ending up sitting on the floor in a packed train stalled for hours somewhere between Nancy and Paris.

I stumbled off the train in the morning in a stupor and found a most wretched buggy hotel near the Gare de l’Est. After a brief walk around the city, I returned to my hotel for a fitful night, the halls echoing with shouted French epithets and slamming doors. I believe I went to the Louvre on that trip, though my memory is clouded, and has blurred together with subsequent visits. I had no idea where I was going most of the time, and somehow, managed to find only horrible food. But I was in Paris, broke, alone, and never happier in my life.

Jack wrote a song after he — and I — got back from Paris.

take the night train to paris
hoping to escape all the rules
take the night train to paris
you hopelessly romantic fool

I regretted leaving France without getting the address of my French student, but such was life, pre-internet, and I moved on. Weeks went by, when one day while having breakfast in my favorite spot on Second Avenue in the East Village, I looked across the restaurant, and to my astonishment, like an apparition, she was there — the French student — alone, her leg in a cast propped up on a chair. I got up, walked over, and said, “Do you need some help?” She did. And so began a short romantic episode that turned into an unsustainable trans Atlantic relationship. Alas.

I only took a few pictures while aimlessly wandering around Paris. 35mm Kodachromes. One of them is above. As foggy headed, and unsteady on my feet as I was, I was still capable of finding moments of visual equipoise. It was 1981 and U2 was playing Paris according to the poster. They just cancelled their most recent Paris engagement, 34 years gone by. The most tragic circumstances imaginable. I won’t even try to comment…

Wyoming/Big Sandy River

A series of photographs made in a 45 minute time period along the Big Sandy River in Wyoming. A small storm skirted the area. There were a few rumbles of thunder, but relatively little rain. As the storm passed by, the sun shone through against a dark backdrop of sky. Returning to the Big Sandy ranch, where I was staying, the storm crossed the Wind River Range of the Rockies in the distance.

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

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Along the Big Sandy River, Wyoming — © Brian Rose

Atlanta/Coca-Cola

I’m a little slow keeping up with things — one day in Atlanta, the next in New York, two days later in Amsterdam. So, let me finish my Atlanta trip with a few pictures and observations.

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High Museum with Roy Lichtenstein’s “House” — © Brian Rose

While the rest of my son’s baseball team hung out in the pool of their hotel, my son Brendan and I took the Marta train to the High Museum in Atlanta. It’s a wonderful museum with brilliant architecture by Richard Meier. The permanent collection is excellent for a regional museum, and the Alex Katz exhibition of the artist’s less appreciated landscape work, was revelatory.

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1915 Coca-Cola bottle

Atlanta, being the home of the Coca-Cola corporation, the Coke logo is ubiquitous, and the High Museum had mounted a large exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the iconic Coke bottle. The show included different artists’ takes on the bottle, but also many who incorporated the actual bottle into their work. There was a whole gallery of images by well-known photographers, particularly those attuned to the vernacular, like Walker Evans and southerner William Christenberry. At the center of the show was a gallery of Andy Warhol works all featuring the Coke bottle. I was especially interested (and amused) by several short films featuring former Velvet Underground musicians Lou Reed and Nico taking swigs from Coke bottles.

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Andy Warhol film and bottles — © Brian Rose

A few days later we visited Cartersville to the northwest of the city, a small town that survived the Civil War mostly intact. We were there looking for a place to eat after one of my son’s tournament baseball games, and despite the preponderance of Chick-fil-A’s and other fast food chains in the suburbs of Atlanta, we did very well all week at local restaurants. Special kudos to Gumbeaux in Douglasville, Georgia, which offered Cajun food that was both delicious and cheap.

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First Coca-Cola wall sign from 1894, Cartersville, Georgia — © Brian Rose

In Cartersville we found a wall painted with a retro-looking Coca-Cola logo that turned out to be the first such mural — painted back in 1894 — of course, restored over the years. We also saw Confederate flags, another historic logo, in the suburbs of Atlanta, usually flying from the backs of pick-up trucks. It had only been a few weeks since the Confederate Battle Flag was removed from the South Carolina capital grounds a few hours away in Columbia, and the issue remains raw. My guess is that most white Georgians feel ambiguous about the flag, and while some may regret its new pariah status, they are also not eager to align themselves with the guys parading it around on pick-up trucks in the parking lot of the Cartersville Walmart, which happened a short time before our visit.

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Stone Mountain, Georgia — © Brian Rose

Atlanta is a sophisticated city with a large black population, and to my eyes, one of the most integrated places I’ve experienced. So, the brazen flaunting of racist symbols — like the Confederate Flag — was hard for me to make sense of. On the last day of our visit, Brendan and I drove out to Stone Mountain to see the giant bas-relief sculptures of Confederate heroes carved into the sheer granite wall of the mountain. We listened to an audio description of the carving, which referred to Robert E. Lee as one of South’s most beloved leaders. Like the city of Atlanta itself, there were African Americans everywhere, visitors as well as employees, I recalled Martin Luther King Jr.’s words “let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!” and once again it was all difficult for me to compute

jesusaves.Stone Mountain, Georgia — © Brian Rose

Finally, as we were leaving the commercialized them park at the base of the mountain, I snapped a picture of a kiosk selling religious t-shirts and knick knacks. On one of the t-shirts were printed the words: JESUSAVES. And above it: “est. 1776.” Anecdotal evidence of the common conflation of a particular brand of Christianity with the founding of America itself, it’s not unlike the way in which Coca-Cola as a brand, and a logo, has become synonymous with U.S. and its values.

And so ends our visit to Atlanta.

 

Atlanta/Baseball

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Bats and balls — © Brian Rose

More than 300 teams (with parents) have descended upon the Atlanta area for one of the major baseball travel team events of the year. The Gothams, my son’s team, alas, will not advance to the playoffs, but has performed well at times against some of the best teams in the country.

New York/Stars and Bars

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

I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, the one time colonial capital, and now restored town. It’s a place steeped in history, a place that played an important role in the founding of the United States, and I lived just a few miles away from Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. My ancestors can be traced back to the south side of the James River, and at least one Rose came aboard one of the first ships to Jamestown. Not far away is Yorktown, where the last major battle of the Revolutionary War took place, and it appears that my great, great, great — I’m not sure how many great — grandfather fought and died in that war.

On my mother’s side of the family, I have equally deep American roots. The Berryhills emigrated from Scotland to North Carolina, and some of them headed south to Georgia, marrying into the Creek Indian tribe, which was driven west in the “Trail of Tears.” Despite this Native American heritage, my Berryhill line was clearly white, though my sister and I used to joke when we were kids, that we had slightly asiatic features. That was long before we had any idea that there might be a reason.

Some time before the Trail of Tears, my family traveled from Georgia to Mississippi and settled in the area around Jackson, named for President Andrew Jackson, who, ironically, is responsible for vanquishing the Creek Indians from their homeland. My ancestor Alexander Berryhill was a corporal in the Confederate Army and died in the battle of Vicksburg. His grandson eventually made his way to Richmond, Virginia, and finally to Portsmouth, Virginia, where I was born.

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Berryhill marker, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Growing up in Virginia the symbols of the old South were ubiquitous, and I was accustomed to seeing the Confederate flag displayed, sometimes in official settings, but more often in an ad hoc fashion, as a statement I usually associated with red neck no-nothingism, or a solidarity with suspect southern values, one of which was racism. On the other hand, I knew a number of people who participated in Civil War battle reenactments in which the flag was integral, and although it isn’t my kind of thing, I’ve always understood the way in which both sides in the “War Between the States” were given equal respect. That was what I grew up with correct or not — that Robert E. Lee surrendered with honor at Appomattox — that the South may have been wrong, but it is our heritage, and is part of the history of who we are as a nation today.

So, I am a descendant of families that came to Jamestown, fought and died in the Revolution, married into the Creek Indians, and fought and died in the Civil War. My father once told me that my grandfather was a Republican, which was the party of Lincoln in the old South, and he said that he woke one night to the spectacle of a cross being burned in the front yard. I left the South to make my home in the Yankee city of New York, and lived for 15 years in Amsterdam, among the people who founded that city, New Amsterdam..

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Jefferson Davis and Confederate flags, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
© Brian Rose

Recently, I returned to Richmond for a funeral in Hollywood Cemetery, the gravesite of Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, and the burial ground for 18,000 Confederate soldiers. There were visitors to Davis’s monument, tourists, or perhaps, those who venerated what he represented — I don’t know. And there were Confederate flags. Seeing the flags sent a chill through me on that already cold November day. The Stars and Bars as historical object is one thing, but when flown, (with a calculated impunity) is something else.

Let us remember those who died, right or wrong, in the Civil War. Let us show respect for that history as we seek to learn from it. But it is long past time for the Confederate Flag to fly over any capital in any state, and it is time to acknowledge, finally, that what is a symbol of heritage to some, is clearly a symbol of hatred to others. And as such, should be relegated to museums and text books once and for all.

New York/TSA

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On the floor of the Newport News/Williamsburg Airport — © Brian Rose

I recently traveled to Virginia for a family visit, and I brought along some of my work to show a former high school classmate, who is an avid photo collector. But it seems that he was not the only one eager to check out my portfolio. At least the TSA was kind enough to retape the box of prints. I hope they enjoyed the photographs.

New York/Paradise

Back from a week from the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We stayed in a so-called eco-tent overlooking Salt Pond Bay in the southeastern tip of the island. It was a reasonably comfortable structure, but we shared it at various times with a mouse, a lizard, a spider, a walking stick, biting bugs, and marauding birds. Under the hut, which sat on wooden stilts, hundreds of hermit crabs scrabbled about, their shells a constant crackling sound. Nature can be loud.

We were staying at the Concordia Eco-Resort, and traveled around the island to different beaches and snorkeling spots. I didn’t take many photographs, but snapped a few when we made pitstops between locations. As beautiful as St. John and nearby St. Thomas are — and there are many resorts and large houses — the majority of the population appears quite poor and lives in rather chaotic little compounds of makeshift buildings with chickens and, sometimes, goats running freely.

Paradise it is, but rough around the edges.

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St. John — © Brian Rose

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St. John — © Brian Rose

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St. John — © Brian Rose

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St. John — © Brian Rose

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St. Thomas — © Brian Rose

 

MIT Museum/Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Exhibition entrance with wall-size print of Delancey Street 1980

A few weeks ago, an exhibition opened at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Photographing Places: The Photographs of Places Journal, 1997-2009. Places Journal was originally a print magazine dealing with issues relating to architecture and urbanism. Each issue featured an extended photo essay centered on a particular location. In 2004, just after I had begun re-photographing the Lower East Side I was asked to contribute to the magazine. I was approached by Cervin Robinson, the architectural photographer, who was a contributing editor to the magazine. Cervin is also the author of a Architecture Transformed: A History of the Photography of Buildings from 1839 to the Present. I knew Cervin from all the way back in 1980 when I first exhibited by photographs of the Lower East Side. Cervin was for me, and many other photographers, a mentor and great friend. I’ve written about Cervin here and here.

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Blow up of a Places Journal cover by Joel Sternfeld — © Brian Rose

I traveled up to Cambridge with my wife to attend a reception for the exhibition, which included four of my photographs, one of which was printed wall-size at the entryway to the show. The exhibition, curated by Gary Van Zante of the MIT Museum, features the work of about a 20 photographers whose images ran in the print version of Places. Places still exists, by the way, as a multi-dimensional website, and still presents photo essays focused on the built environment.

Almost a third of the photographers in the show were present at the reception, which was great. A couple of us had barely made it on time because of snow-delayed trains coming up from New York. I had very nice chats with Kate Milford, who was showing her photographs of downtown Brooklyn, and Lyle Gomes, who had photographed the landscape of the Presidio (former military base, now park) in San Francisco. I also spoke with Lisa Silvestri who has photographed post Katrina New Orleans. And best of all, the ageless Cervin Robinson was present.

Inside the door of the exhibition there is a blow-up of a cover of the former magazine with an image of the High Line by Joel Sternfeld in its former wild state. And two more images from that series are in the show.

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Lower East Side images — © Brian Rose

Above are my prints in the show — two from 1980 done by me and Edward Fausty working together, and two from 2004 when I had just begun re-photographing the Lower East Side. This is the work that eventually comprised Time and Space on the Lower East Side, my now sold-out book. It was in Places Journal before anywhere else.

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Brian Rose in front of Delancey Street 1980

Here I am standing in front of Delancey Street 1980 at the entrance to the exhibition. I knew that my image was going to be used big, but I didn’t realize it would be this big. Pretty cool! The next day my wife and I walked all the way from MIT to the Back Bay station in Boston through the frozen snow clogged streets. Spring is just around the corner.