My friend, the Flatiron…


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.



The New York Series, Part 5

Top of the Flatiron, detailsbandw3

Top of the Flatiron, details1000

Still on the Flatiron Building today in this the fifth part of my New York City series…You can scroll back to see the other four parts, if you wish. I feature shots of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

Because a lot of the joy of looking at the Flatiron Building is in the details, I wanted to show them to you closer up. This was taken with my 70-200 mm zoom, at 70mm. It has been cropped.

Before I cropped it, I took three different exposures into Photomatix and processed them as a High Dynamic Range (HDR) photograph, but with a natural look. Then I converted one to monochrome, leaving a hint of blue.

I may print this one, or one like it. Just curious, which version do you prefer?

Thanks so much for helping me out today — and I really appreciate all your kind and thoughtful comments on this series. I read and smile at every single one!

The New York Series, Part 4…

flatiron busy1000

I would forgive you if you called me obsessed by the Flatiron Building in New York. Given how much time I spent trying to capture its lovely uniqueness from different angles, even on different days and at different times and with different lenses, I could not argue. (And no doubt I will do the same next time I’m in New York — trying yet again to capture its essence.)

This is the building I love — way more than the Empire State or the Chrysler or any of the other iconic buildings. The Flatiron says New York to me…

Completed in 1902, it’s shaped like an old fashioned cast iron clothes iron, thus the name. It sits on a triangular island-block formed by Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 22nd Street.

It was designed by Chicago’s Daniel Burnham as a vertical Renaissance palazzo with Beaux-Arts styling. The bottom of its facade is limestone changing to glazed terra cotta from Staten Island.

H.G. Wells wrote of the Flatiron Building in 1906:

I found myself agape, admiring a sky-scraper the prow of the Flat-iron Building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light.

Now I get one of the reasons I love it. It reminds me of a ship!

I also love the cast iron clock not far from it on Fifth Avenue.  I set out to try to capture them in the same image. Not a terribly easy task, given that the best spot to stand was smack in the midst of crazy traffic. I didn’t try that.

(I hadn’t noticed the sign in the lower right of the first image until just now. “Have an idea. Make it happen.” Appropriate.)

The clock was installed in 1909. One of the most ornate of New York’s cast-iron street clocks, it’s composed of a rectangular, classically ornamented base, and fluted Ionic column. The two dials, marked by Roman numerals, are framed by wreaths of oak leaves and crowned by a cartouche.  A masterpiece of cast-iron workmanship, it is beautifully designed, and a prominent sidewalk landmark.

Such old, historic and delicately intricate beauties make New York City endlessly fascinating to me and are why I return time after time.