Category Archives: Williamsburg

New York/WTC


East River and Brooklyn Navy Yard — © Brian Rose

Now that I am no longer using the 4×5 for architectural shoots — it’s hard to believe that era is over — I have switched completely to a field view camera for my personal projects. I’m using an inexpensive Toyo made largely of plastic (blech) but it’s super lightweight. Way lighter than the Arca Swiss monorail camera I was using for architecture.

I went out with the view camera yesterday morning. At 8:30am it was already getting hot, and the sky, while clear, was a bit hazy. I walked along the Brooklyn waterfront looking for distant views of One World Trade Center for my upcoming book, WTC. A few days ago, driving by, I saw some prefab housing units standing near Kent Avenue with the skyline looming behind. It didn’t seem quite so looming when I got there, but I did several photographs. For one picture I stepped a couple of feet beyond the open gate into the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A guard stationed about 200 feet away checking cars entering the yard immediately began yelling and blowing a whistle as if I had done something horribly wrong. For those of you outside of New York, this is no longer the Navy. It’s an industrial compound that hosts numerous businesses large and small. There are all kinds of innovative things going on in there.

Anyway, I ignored the guard who was stuck in his little booth, took my picture, and walked away. From there I walked by 475 Kent, a controversial loft building full of artists that has been on the legal razor’s edge for work/live spaces for some time. I don’t know anything about its current status. But a resident coming out suggested I go up to the roof. So, up I went. I did two side by side views that may be combined for a panorama later. The right hand frame can be seen above, although that’s from my digital point and shoot, not the 4×5.



New York/True Stories


West Street (West Side Highway) and West 10th Street, Greenwich Village — © Brian Rose



Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

Two random photographs walking around town. A few thoughts about movies and photographs.

There are three movies up for Best Picture in the Academy Awards this weekend that have created a swirl of controversy about truth and the telling of stories based on real events. Lincoln by Steven Spielberg will likely walk away with a ton of awards, especially for the masterful performances of Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones. For me, I was most impressed with the staging,  the pre-electric gloom of the interiors, and the overall fidelity to detail in costuming and decor. The movie felt authentic.

Throughout the first 2/3 of the movie I was enthralled and believed that Spielberg had finally reined in the populist pandering that infects pretty much everything he touches. But the final scenes leading to the passing of the 13th amendment  featuring buffoonish characters cajoling votes out of fencing sitting congressmen, the comically raucous debate in the House of Representatives, and the overtly telegraphed dramatization of the final vote left me deflated, though I still clung to the earlier positive glow. Since seeing the movie, I found out why these last scenes, the voting segment in particular, rang false. The depiction of this well-documented event was manipulated for dramatic purposes.

From Maureen Dowd in the Times:

And then there’s the kerfuffle over “Lincoln,” which had three historical advisers but still managed to make some historical bloopers. Joe Courtney, a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, recently wrote to Steven Spielberg to complain that “Lincoln” falsely showed two of Connecticut’s House members voting “Nay” against the 13th Amendment for the abolition of slavery.

“They were trying to be meticulously accurate even down to recording the ticking of Abraham Lincoln’s actual pocket watch,” Courtney told me. “So why get a climactic scene so off base?” 

The screenwriter Tony Kushner defends the changes this way:

…it is completely acceptable to “manipulate a small detail in the service of a greater historical truth. History doesn’t always organize itself according to the rules of drama. It’s ridiculous. It’s like saying that Lincoln didn’t have green socks, he had blue socks.”

The problem is, this easy willingness to distort the facts betrays the thinking that went into the whole enterprise. Small details matter. Maybe not the socks, but the actual votes of congressmen, yes. As Mies van der Rohe, the creator of sublime modernist buildings once noted, “The devil is in the details.”

The other two movies in the discussion are Zero Dark Thirty, which tells the story of the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound, and Argo, the story of the escape of six American diplomats from revolutionary Iran in 1980. Both movies make the pretense of  portraying actual events exactly as shown on the screen. In Zero Dark Thirty CIA agents use torture to obtain critical information–it did not happen–and the diplomats in Argo make a wild skin-of-the-teeth getaway in the Tehran airport–it did not happen.

The argument in all three cases is that artistic license allows for embellishment, dramatic manipulation, and even making things out of whole cloth. As Manholo Dargis and A. O. Scott write at the conclusion of their tortured article in the Times:

Given some of the stories that politicians themselves have peddled to the public, including the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, such concern is understandable. It can often seem as if everyone is making stuff up all the time and in such a climate of suspicion and well-earned skepticism — punctuated by “gotcha” moments of scandal and embarrassment — movies are hardly immune.

But invention remains one of the prerogatives of art and it is, after all, the job of writers, directors and actors to invent counterfeit realities. It is unfair to blame filmmakers if we sometimes confuse the real world with its representations. The truth is that we love movies partly because of their lies, beautiful and not. It’s journalists and politicians who owe us the truth.  

Sorry guys, but this is not how everyone operates as an artist. What I do as a photographer, for instance, is not a “counterfeit reality.” It may not be reality itself–certainly not–but it is a reflection of reality, one that I take great care in preserving even as I make the critical decisions about where to stand, what to show or not, or how to sequence images. The fact that politicians are routinely lying about things like WMD, that teachers are claiming that creationism shares the same legitimacy as science, that right wingers pretend that President Obama is a Kenyan, that paranoid leftists blame the World Trade Center destruction on a U.S. government conspiracy, is exactly the point. We are a society playing fast and loose with the facts, and artists are as culpable as anyone else.

There are lines that need to be drawn and redrawn, despite constantly shifting ground. It is one thing to interpret historic events, to fill in the blanks between things that are known, to speculate on what might have happened when the facts are sketchy. It is another to willfully ignore the tangible, the provable, to fail to see the infrastructure of history and respect the body of knowledge that supports society. It was said that the Bush administration “fixed the facts around the policy” with regard to the war in Iraq. Artists do the same all the time without, of course, the life or death ramifications. Spielberg and Kushner had a climactic scene to their movie, the vote on the 13th amendment. They determined what dramatic sequence of events worked best “artistically,” and then fixed the facts around the policy.

I know it’s just movies, but I take this stuff seriously.




New York/Photoville

Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose


Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose


Brooklyn Bridge Park — © Brian Rose

Photoville, a photo fair/expo located in a not yet finished section of Brooklyn Bridge Park is comprised of two main parts–printed images on vinyl running along a chain link fence, and a cluster of shipping containers that act as galleries. The containers in the photo above aren’t actually part of Photoville, but are nearby.


Photoville fence, photo by Timoth Fadek — © Brian Rose

The fence works well, facing west and getting full afternoon light. Many of the photographs chosen by a jury were excellent, and I was happy to see that each photographer was given a chance to show a series of images. The containers, however, were dark and uninviting in the extremely bright and warm sunshine. Even though it was relatively pleasant summer afternoon, the little village of containers and tents fairly baked under the sun.


Photoville fence, photos by Jeffrey Stockbridge — © Brian Rose


Photoville fence, photos by Peter Andrew Lusztyk —  © Brian Rose


Brooklyn Bridge Park — © Brian Rose

I could imagine an entire exhibition done with photographs printed on vinyl in different sizes mounted on lengths of chain link fencing. Something with a bit more visual dynamic given the visual drama just opposite, seen in the image above.


New York/Williamsburg

N3rd Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

Bags of PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) and Carling Black Label, cheap hipster beers, after another Wlliamsburg weekend.

New York/Williamsburg

Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

This evening I will be introducing my book Time and Space on the Lower East Side. I believe there is a waiting list for seats, but my guess is that there will be some cancellations. So, it’s worth a try getting in touch with the sponsor if you’d still like to go. Hope to see you there.

Here is the link.

New York/Williamsburg

Bedford and N7th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

It’s all one big holiday mash-up this year. Christmas: December 25, Hanukkah: December 20-28, Kwanzaa: December 26-January 1.

A veritable Roman-style Saturnalia.



New York/Williamsburg

Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — © Brian Rose

If you’re building your own sukkah, here are the basic materials you will need:

The Walls: The walls of a sukkah can be made of any material, provided that they are sturdy enough that they do not move in a normal wind. You can use wood or fiberglass panels, waterproof fabrics attached to a metal frame, etc. You can also use pre-existing walls (i.e, the exterior walls of your home, patio or garage) as one or more of the sukkah walls. An existing structure that is roofless or has a removable roof can also be made into a sukkah by covering it with proper sechach.

The Roof Covering: The sukkah needs to be covered with sechach—raw, unfinished vegetable matter. Common sukkah roof-coverings are: bamboo poles, evergreen branches, reeds, corn stalks, narrow strips (1×1 or 1×2) of unfinished lumber, or special sechach mats.