Thursday, March 06, 2008

New York/LES

Eldridge Street Synagogue (4x5 film)

From a few weeks ago--I made this picture from the stoop of a tenement building. As I've written before, I've had a hard time figuring out how to photograph the synagogue so that one is aware of the surrounding visual cacophony of Chinatown. This image doesn't exactly do that, but I like the contrast between the old synagogue and cheap new condominium with rising sun balcony railings.

A few days back I wrote about meeting Stephen Lewis at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. I just discovered his blog response:

Last week, in his weblog post, photographer Brian Rose described our recent chance late-winter-afternoon meeting on the corner of 42nd St and 5th Ave. and our follow-up conversations some days later. Brian Rose is a superlative large-format photographer with a unique understanding not only of buildings but of the natures of the cities they comprise and of the people who create them, use them, and imbue them with meaning.

Here is the whole thing on his blog Hak Pak Sak.

Allen Street (4x5 film)

Although the view camera is especially useful for photographing architectural subjects and landscapes, I have always tried to use it as a street camera as well. One does not, obviously, chase after action, but sets up and allows the action to move in and out of the frame.

There's often a stage-like quality working this way. In the image above, I was first attracted to the brilliant late day sunshine and bright colors of the phone shop. The frame pivots off the striped spinning barber pole with the two storefronts splitting the frame. Two women pause to look in to the first store, a shadow of a light pole falls over the plaid coat of one, and my shadow falls just to the right of the other. They appear to be looking at a man talking with someone behind the counter inside. Stage left, a man in striped shirt also pauses, anchoring that side of the frame. He looks toward the women--friends or strangers--I don't know. The relationship of people and objects coalesces into a fleeting moment, both precise and random.

The Bowery (4x5 film)

I shot three sheets of film from the same camera position on a crowded stretch of the Bowery. I was struck first by the posters--The Wire and the eyes--and then by the rendering of the building that's under construction behind the fence. I set the shot up with the yellow sign with walking figures at top left and waited for things to happen. In the first two versions I keyed off of a pair of traffic cops wearing orange vests, and for this one, two people on cell phones amid the flow of pedestrians. The blue sweatshirted man in the foreground came from over my shoulder as I clicked the shutter his head exactly filling one of the eyes of the poster. The finished image is a multiplicity of planes slicing in different directions, spacial and flat at the same time. That's the formal rationale, but ultimately it's about this place at this moment.


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