Some favourite places in New York City…

In my previous post, I talked about and pictured a favourite building in New York — the Flatiron Building.

Here are a few other favourite places. On this trip, the rain prevented me from going to Central Park — the best park in the world in my opinion —  but I’ve made images there on at least two other occasions.

Union Square Park, which is down around 14th street, was designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same two who designed Central Park. You can see the same design philosophy at work on a much smaller scale. I find it fascinating to read about  how they so consciously used trees and plants, paths, tunnels, bridges, berms and ledges, and water features to affect people’s experience of a park.

Grand Central Terminal is another place I’ve photographed before — but I keep going back there because there’s so many beautiful details to shoot and so many ways to shoot it. And this time I was there on Thanksgiving Day, one of the busiest travel days of the year, so it was bursting at the seams with people. It’s an incomparable place to people-watch. I could do it for hours. Actually, I think I have.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had some exceptional meals in New York — some mind-blowingly amazing meals in fact. The most unbelievable ever was at Eleven Madison Park, where we went to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday some years back. My sister and I thought such a milestone birthday was deserving of a special meal — and I’m sure it will be the only Michelin three-star restaurant I will ever eat at in my life, so I treasure the memory and the event it marked.

Another great meal was at Mario Batali’s Casa Mono on one of my last trips, which was so busy that we could only get a reservation at 10:00 pm. But so worth the wait. I didn’t eat there this year, but I did go back to take a picture of the place, which is in Gramercy Park, a favourite neighbourhood to walk around in.

Of course, I have many more favourite places, including the Metropolitan Opera — where this year I had the good fortune to see world-famous soprano Anna Netrebko perform in Manon Lescaut. Sadly, I did not get a good picture of that amazing place and experience. It will have to live on in my mind only.

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My friend, the Flatiron…

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I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper — the Flatiron building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light.

H.G. Wells

I’ve written about it before and I’ve shot it before. But there I was again. Drawn like a magnet to the Flatiron Building in New York City. It was a sunny day this time and the particular angle of the sun behind the building made it a challenge to capture.

I was a bit blinded by the light, actually. And I didn’t have a tripod or any filters either to help the situation technically. Still, I like how this image turned out. It captures a feeling I have for the building.

Like many innovative buildings, the Flatiron was not universally well received.  Architectural Record thought it was awkward, and criticized the large number of windows (the horror!). The New York Times called it a “monstrosity,” The New York Tribune describing it as a “stingy piece of pie,” the Municipal Journal & Public Works called it “New York’s latest freak in the shape of sky scrapers” and the Municipal Art Society went as far to say it was “unfit to be in the Center of the City.” But popular sentiment eventually won over the critics and now this is one of the most beloved buildings in the city.

I am by no means alone in my fascination with the Flatiron. This building has been the focus of esteemed photographers like Berenice Abbott, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen and it has been painted by Albert Gleizes, Paul Cornoyer and other American artists. It has appeared in the writings of O’Henry and scores of television shows and motion pictures.  Even before its completion in the early 1900s the Flatiron Building was one of the most recognizable and most reproduced architectural images in the United States.

It was so good to be back to hang out with the Flatiron, and I know this good friend will be waiting for me to enjoy on my next trip to New York.

 

 

Being taken by New York in black and white…

 

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Shawna Lemay wrote recently in her rich gift of a blog, Transactions with Beauty: “There is a point one reaches in one’s creative endeavors that … you find yourself covering familiar ground, repeating, circling back to familiar themes and concerns.”

I had just returned from New York City and I was going through my images. I definitely recognized myself in those words. Yes, that is me, for sure.

I’ve gone to New York City three times now since 2013 with more on my agenda than seeing the sights and experiencing some of the best music and art a city can offer. (Which I love to do, by the way.)

But I also strive to come back with images — not just snapshots — that encapsulate what thrills me about New York. And I do find myself considering the same subjects and themes over and over. (See my previous posts — I did a 7 part series in 2013.)

When I look at my gallery called New York City in Black and White, which contains images from more than one trip, I see that I am drawn to arches, windows, reflections, symmetrical and geometrical architectural shapes, buskers, young lovers, and silhouettes and shadows, just as a few examples. I am also fascinated by the contrasts between old and new and the built and natural environment.

(And whatever else I’m doing, I have to find time to shoot the Flatiron Building, my all-time favourite building. In a previous post, I talk about my obsession with it.)

But even as I tend to return to the same preoccupations with my photography, either consciously or unconsciously, I find that something has changed in the way I see. More and more I am struck by a “flash of perception” that hits me fast and furiously and it is a distinct frisson of excitement that compels me to turn my camera in a certain direction. Something I see feels fresh and new to me. Most of my very favourite images have come about this way.

I’ve noticed too that my memories associated with where I was and how I was feeling when I made these photos are much sharper and longer lasting than when I was merely documenting a scene, or even recording a nice memory. The image can bring me right back to the time it was taken with all the details intact.

I know that less and less I want my photography to be about looking at the world and saying to myself: Ah, that’s interesting or beautiful, I should take a picture of that.

It is the times when I am “taken by a picture” — even if I don’t quite know why — which always mean the most to me.

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You must write, and read…

man-in-librarylrYou must write, and read, as if your life depended on it.

Adrienne Rich

It’s simple…

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When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness…

The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.

 

Mary Oliver

The camera is a sketchbook…

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For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

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In memoriam…

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In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.”

In a paradox, opposites do not negate each; they cohabit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and out.

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When I try to fabricate a life that defies autumn’s diminishments, I end up in a state that’s less than human. When I give myself over to organic reality — to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising — the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so.

Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.

From Autumn: A Season of Paradox by Parker Palmer

 

In loving memory of Donald Gordon (1930 – 2016)

 

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