Category Archives: On the Road

The Netherlands/Amsterdam

Review in Photo-Eye Magazine

After four days on the island of Texel on the coast of the Netherlands, I am now in Amsterdam. Day before yesterday we had a book party for my Dutch friends and Kickstarter backers. It took place in a beautiful house in the canal district near the Rijksmuseum, and we had at least 30 guests. The atmosphere was warm and convivial. Yesterday, we got a late start, but were able to enjoy some sterling weather (finally), and walked around the center of the city. I stopped in Architectura and Natura, one of my favorite bookstores in Amsterdam, and I am hoping to have Time and Space for sale there soon.

The review I have been waiting for just came in from Photo-Eye written by Faye Robson. Here are a few quotes:

With its carnival atmosphere – the fluttering streamers in the top third of the frame, multi-coloured buildings and cars, and the dynamically positioned boy who swings a baseball bat right into the centre of the image – the image seems to suggest a clarity of vision to match the clarity of composition.

Layering and multiplicity are watchwords for this collection; from the texts that pepper the book – ranging in subject and tone from the macro-historical to the anecdotal (the General Slocum disaster) – to the views across streets and round corners that lay bare the city grid, both its thriving and desolate spaces.

Despite its title, the book cannot even be read in a straightforwardly chronological manner. The photographs are divided fairly evenly between those taken in 1980, in collaboration with Ed Fausty, and images made in 2010 by Rose alone. However, the structure of the book thwarts attempts to compare and contrast the two sets of images either formally or with respect to the neighbourhood they document.

That Rose decided to use a view camera for this project reveals a great deal about his approach – these clear, sharp, detailed images present more visual information than the eye can take in. They are a view across time and space, beyond the merely human perspective. This complex and handsomely-presented project is a portrait, or map, of a place, which challenges our assumptions about urban street photography.

This is an in depth review–the first one to really dig into what the book is about, and I am very pleased with it. Read the whole thing here.

The Netherlands/Texel

Texel, The Netherlands – © Brian Rose

Uh oh. After a couple of decent days, the weather has deteriorated. This is the watery view out of the picture window of our house in Den Hoorn at the south end of Texel on the North Sea coast. Tomorrow we head for Amsterdam.

The Slufter, Texel, The Netherlands – © Brian Rose

Yesterday, we drove around the island revisiting the campsite where my wife’s family used to go for summer vacation. It’s now little houses with lots of amenities instead of tents. Nearby is the Slufter, a tidal inlet among the dunes. We walked through it about a half mile to the sea. Depending on the time of year, tide, and weather, it can be mostly dry or mostly covered by water. Only a small stream flowed through at the time of our walk.

That’s Brendan my 13 year old son on the left, An, my mother in law in the middle, and Renee, my wife on the right.

The Netherlands/Texel

Texel – © Brian Rose

Despite a less than stellar forecast, the weather stayed beautiful all day, and I took my 4×5 camera for a four hour trek through the dunes that stand between the North Sea and the polder on the inland side of Texel. Left alone, the island would be a narrow arc of shifting sand rather than egg-shaped as it is now. At least 2/3 of the island is artificial land.

 

Texel – © Brian Rose

The pictures here were made with my pocket camera, but all were based on compositions set up with the view camera. Sometimes, I actually place my point-and-shoot on top of the 4×5 camera to take as close to the same view as possible. The walk was a 6 mile loop on grassy trails and sand, and I did most of it barefoot. It got a little tough slogging through deep sand with my photo equipment, but mostly this was an easy, pleasurable, walk. Had the weather been less favorable, the whole experience would have been radically different.

 

Texel – © Brian Rose

An odd object that looked like giant shipwrecked calculator with numbers and symbols was leaning against a dune. A few nude sunbathers were lying in the swales of sand just out of view.

 

Texel – © Brian Rose

A little further along near a parking lot and snack bar there are storage huts that are owned or are rented by frequent users of the beach.

 

Texel – © Brian Rose

On the road back to the village of Den Hoorn where I am staying.

 

Texel – © Brian Rose

Back at the house at the end of my walk I was offered a plate of new herring, cut into small bite size pieces served with diced raw onions. The Dutch are not known for their haute cuisine, but it doesn’t get any better than this.

The Netherlands/Den Hoorn

Den Hoorn, The Netherlands – © Brian Rose

It’s been five years since I was last in the Netherlands. I lived in Amsterdam for almost 15 years, traveling back and forth to New York as needed for work. We’re on vacation visiting my wife’s parents on the island of Texel on the North Sea coast. The weather is, as is common here, wisselvallig, or changeable. It rained heavily between the airport and Texel, then the sun came out for several hours, and we were able to eat dinner in the garden. We then took a walk through the surrounding countryside  and the clouds once again rolled in.

We’ll be here for five days and then in Amsterdam. The photo above was taken near our house with my digital blog camera. But I have brought my view camera and may get out in the dunes nearby if the weather holds out. And then possibly add to my series on Amsterdam’s periphery.

New York/Newark, New Jersey


Rutgers University, Newark campus — © Brian Rose

Friday I was on assignment in Newark photographing a couple of renovated classrooms at Rutgers University. The campus, adjacent to downtown is a hodgepodge of different architectural styles built at different times, but the central campus was constructed in the late 60s/early 70s in what is commonly referred to as brutalism. I’ve written about brutalism before with regards to a Robert Geddes building at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a sublime example of a much maligned architectural movement.

It can be a hard to love architecture in that it typically utilizes raw concrete poured into wooden forms–beton brut is the original French term–and many people find it cold, even forbidding. But some of the great architects of the 20th century worked in this idiom including Corbusier and Louis Kahn.

The Rutgers campus in Newark isn’t likely to be compared to Kahn’s Salk Institute, but it is, nevertheless, a fine example of brutalism used to create a sensitively scaled urban environment. Alas, I cannot find a single reference to the architecture of the campus on the internet other than in passing references to urban renewal and the racial tensions present in Newark at the time.

I will ask around and hopefully report back with the  name of the architect or firm that did the project. If anyone knows, by all means speak up. The photo above shows only one of the buildings (Boyden Hall), taken as I was leaving the job, which fronts on University Avenue.

Update:

I’ve been able to find out at least partial information about the Rutgers Newark campus. I read online that Grad and Grad (later the Grad Partnership) had proposed high rises for the urban renewal area that became the campus. That plan was apparently scuttled, but Grad continued to play a role in the project designing various buildings including the Robeson Campus Center.

According to David Nelson, an architect who emailed me earlier today, “Boyden and Conklin Halls, and the Dana Library, were designed by Kelly & Gruzen (now Gruzen Samton), with offices in New York and Maplewood, NJ. The drawings are dated 1964.” Gruzen has been a leading architectural firm in NYC for many years.

Up above I praised a building by Robert Geddes on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and sure enough, Hill Hall, one of the most interesting of the Rutgers structures is by Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham–the same Geddes. I still don’t know who was responsible for the master plan, but I am pleased to discover that the individual buildings were designed by some of the leading architects of the 1960s. It is a time period in architectural history that is often undervalued, and accordingly, the Rutgers Newark campus deserves more appreciation. If I get back there again, I’ll take some more photographs.

 

Portsmouth, Virginia


High Street, Portsmouth, Virginia — © Brian Rose

My mother, sister, and I drove around the Hampton Roads area revisiting places where we once lived, or places that held some significance. Near the picture above, I remember–at age 4–going to a bowling alley above an A&P supermarket. My mother was a competitive duckpin bowler in those days. I remember the pins were set by hand–by young black boys. It was a segregated city then, and it is still. The whites have moved out except for the beautifully preserved Old Town, and much of the city looks like a smaller version of Detroit.

 

New York/Williamsburg, Virginia


My sister, father, and me one week ago in Williamsburg.

It has been a roller coaster of a weekend for me. Saturday, a story and interview about my photos of the World Trade Center ran on the homepage of CNN. Today, I rushed down to Virginia after receiving a phone call informing me that my 90 year old father was rapidly slipping away. I arrived too late. He died this afternoon before I got there.

The photo above was taken a week ago. After an extended stay in the hospital and in rehab, my father had come back home to his assisted living apartment. It was a short-lived, but triumphant return. He was happy to be with friends and in familiar surroundings. My sister and I wheeled him around the building greeting residents along the way, and we  sat with him in the dining room accompanied by his table buddies. It appeared, fleetingly, that he might resume a measure of his former routine. But it was not to be.

 

Williamsburg, Virginia


Williamsburg, Virginia — © Brian Rose

Once again in Williamsburg, Virginia attending to my 90 year old father. Heading back to New York later today.


Williamsburg, Virginia — © Brian Rose

 

New York/Deep River, Connecticut


From E25th Street — © Brian Rose

Finished several photo shoots and then got out of town to join up with former members of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums performing at the annual Deep River muster in Connecticut. Some of us have a hard time keeping up our musical chops and remembering all the tunes, but we have enough who can still play admirably. Our sound remains unmistakable, famous within the fife and drum world.

Here we are on Main Street in Deep River:

We stopped at this spot on Main Street to duplicate a photograph taken of the corps back in the early 1960s, before my time. I joined in 1964. The photographer gestures for the banner holders (one of whom is my son Brendan) to move forward out of the shot.

Although we continue to perform music from the 18th century in an authentic style, that’s as far as it goes. No tri-cornered hats, knee breeches or buckled shoes. In fact, three of us marched sans shoes. I’m the tall one. From there we marched to Devitt Field where we opened the afternoon’s stand performances by playing the National Anthem. The present Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums does perform in full costume.

Back in New York on Sunday I replaced my dead Sigma DP1 camera with the newer DP1x. It’s not a perfect camera, but it produces astounding quality for something that fits in a pocket. Ability to shoot RAW files and a large sensor make the DP1 special. Sometimes sensor size is more important than megapixels. That’s the case with this camera.

Washington, D.C./14th and T


Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, Washington, D.C. — © Brian Rose

I stayed in Washington with my family at a hotel on Dupont Circle. We walked up 18th Street through Adam’s Morgan, an ethnically diverse area I lived in briefly in the ’70s. Afterward, Brendan, my 12 year old son, insisted that we return to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a Washington icon that he and I visited a couple of years ago. This being the 4th of July, a line of tourists formed in the adjacent alley.


14th and T, Washington, D.C. — © Brian Rose

From Ben’s we walked down to the intersection of 14th Street and T, a corner mentioned in my song Open All Night. Today, the area has greatly gentrified–a sidewalk cafe and a high end furniture store occupy two corners. But the other corners remain partially empty and somewhat bedraggled. So, despite the upscale incursions, 14th Street still feels like it’s on the edge between one thing and another–which in D.C. usually means between white and black. The t-shirt above says I Am DC, I Demand the Vote, a reference to the fact that citizens of the District of Columbia are not represented in Congress, an inexcusable disenfranchisement of approximately 602,000 people.


14th and T, Washington, D.C. — © Brian Rose

Open All Night

Smoke blue breath in the window
Harsh lights and watery eyes
Burnt out butt out and out of sight
The deal goes down at moonrise

A newspaper blows through this tunnel of love
A tumbleweed in the city blight
Pissing neon in the pouring rain
Open all night

Skin green splitting in the back room
Still praying to God above
Dim names left back in the diner
All for a thimble full of love

There’s news of a murder up at 14th and T
And the waitress shivers with fright
As two cops tell a fish story
Open all night

She wipes the counter and she sweeps the floor
She makes the coffee and she asks do you want some more
She looks in the eyes of a desperate man
She can’t say much but she can understand
Another aimless loner
Another brittle voice
Another ghostly goner
His head in his hands
Open all night

And outside the street is a minefield
To the ex-soldier with the tattooed arm
A cigarette stuck on his lower lip
He thinks of his mom back on the farm

And thick thighs snicker behind him
She says boy you don’t have to fight
Come on home with me baby
I’m open all night

(© Brian Rose)

***

Here is my song:

Open All Night

***

Although I’m proud of my version of the song, go here for Lucy Kaplansky’s stunning performance.


14th and R, Washington, D.C. — © Brian Rose

From 14th and T we walked back to Dupont Circle, and ended the day watching the fireworks on the Mall.

Washington, D.C./Mt. Vernon


Mt. Vernon, Virginia — © Brian Rose

I drove north from Richmond to Washington, D.C. with my family. It’s the 4th of July weekend, so no escaping the crowds in D.C. We rented bikes and cycled down the Potomac to Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s plantation. It’s about 18 miles, the terrain not too difficult, but the temperature was well above 90, and about 3/4 of the way there I started to lose it. I’ve played enough summer basketball in the past to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion, and that’s what was happening. I walked up the final hill to Mt. Vernon–that’s why it’s called “mount” said my son Brendan–and got the necessary liquids into me.

We decided to take a tour of the house, but had to wait a couple of hours before a timed ticket was available. So, we found a shady spot under an immense elm tree at a distance from the other tourists and lounged on the grass. I got stung on the foot by a bee–another little setback–but it wasn’t too bad. After resting a while I roamed around the grounds and took a series of pictures.


Mt. Vernon — © Brian Rose


Mt. Vernon — © Brian Rose

At 5pm, our slot, and the last of the day, I asked a ticker taker how many people went through Mt. Vernon that day, and he said about 8,000. The tour is brief and they keep you moving, but the interiors are beautiful–no photos allowed–and worth seeing. Immediately afterward we mounted our bikes and headed off for the 18 miles back to D.C. My legs were tired, but I experienced none of the earlier day’s difficulty. As we approached Alexandria, to the south of D.C., menacing clouds and bolts of lightening moved in. We almost made it to the city, and shelter, but were caught in a crashing deluge and swirling winds. We managed to take partial shelter under an entrance to a parking garage in an apartment complex, but we were soaked through, and pretty much through all together.

More storms were headed our way. So we ditched our bikes at the Alexandria location of our bike rental company, and took the subway back into the city–wet, cold, exhausted, but pretty happy.

Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia — © Brian Rose

I went to Williamsburg, Virginia for the third time in the past month and half to see my father who is recovering from surgery. He will be 90 on July 16, and it seems pretty clear that he will make it.

On the way north, traveling with my wife and son, we stopped briefly in Richmond, a city I’ve spent a good deal of time in years ago. Some of my earliest color photographs were taken in the area around Main Street Station, the historic train depot in downtown Richmond. For a long time the area was largely derelict with empty tobacco factories and warehouses, but many of those have now been converted to apartment buildings.

Nevertheless, there is still a richly gritty aspect to the market area near the train station as seen in the photo above. The station is the structure to the left. We stopped here briefly, and I got out to snap a few pictures.

New York/Williamsburg, Virginia

Vegetable garden, Williamsburg, Virginia — © Brian Rose

I am back in Williamsburg, Virginia tending to my father who is now in a rehab facility recovering from surgery. He is almost 90, but hanging in there.

The weather has been impeccable, and I’ve made a couple of walks down the Duke of Gloucester Street, the former main street of town. It is now closed to traffic and part of the historic restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. The street remains open to the general public, however, and one sees lots of joggers, some from the nearby College of William and Mary.

I took a  number of photographs of a vegetable garden across from the Bruton Parish Church. It is actually a serious demonstration of agriculture as practiced in the 18th century, though I tend to look at it more for its formal visual elements. One might think it out of character for me to photograph this idealized historical setting, given my images of urban grandeur and desolation on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But remember, I grew up here in Williamsburg, performed in the fife and drum corps for nine years, and took many of my first photographs here in the restored area. I doubt that I would be a photographer were it not for the influence of this place.

 

Williamsburg, Virginia


Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg, Virginia — © Brian Rose

I am in Williamsburg, Virginia visiting my father who is in the hospital. He appears to be doing fine after surgery, but is still unsure where he is and what is going on.

Last night I took a walk down the Duke of Gloucester Street, the original main street of the 18th century town. The light was beautiful.