Photos of the New New York

The other day when I was leaving work, I hallucinated that I was going to step out of the elevator into the plan for an office lobby I had been drawing, rather than the actual office lobby I step out into every day. The good news is this means I’ve actually been architecting a bit at work (Plans! Sections! Elevations!), but the bad news is I am kind of overtired lately. You can blame that in part on the kittens resuming their 6am pouncing/snuggling ritual, among other things.

Another consequence of my overtiredness was, as you may remember, blanking on the date of the photo show opening for the Architectural League’s New New York Photography Corps project (The City We Imagined/The City We Made) and generally losing track of the current date. Luckily someone at work reminded me round about 4p that my own opening was happening and I managed to make it (it is a mere 3 or 4 blocks from my office) and even round up a modest entourage to meet me there.

It’s an interesting show—and the opening was jam-packed with interesting people—but I must confess myself a bit disappointed at first glance. The photos were all small and dim and murky—a consequence, I’m guessing, of the paper quality and possibly being printed in RGB mode rather than CMYK (and I know this must have been an expensive show to put together, so it’s understandable though still disappointing). Plus, since I’ve looked at them so much in glowing, radiant on-screen color, anything less than a stellar print was bound to be a bit disappointing. They’re small, too, because there are 1,000 of them. That’s a lot of photos! I’m hopeful that the forthcoming website and possible book will show off the photos a little better. (More info on these, of course, as it arrives.)

That said, the show is worth a visit. The photos are paired with an interesting timeline of the past decade of New York’s history. At first it was difficult to focus on a static, printed timeline (I’ve become so used to interactive hypertext versions of same), but once I slowed down a bit and started reading, I certainly learned a thing or two.

There are many lovely photos (and it’s fun to play Find-The-Photos-By-The-People-You-Know-Or-Yourself), but they are less the journalistic documents they have been posited to be than architectural portraits, and it’s a bit unclear how the many stories they tell might match up with what’s shown in the timeline. Overall the storytelling aspect of the show was a bit lacking and the parts are a bit disjointed, though it is a fantastic slice-of-life documentary, full of new discoveries as well as old friends from the city’s skyline.

I don’t think the review in New York Magazine really got it right. “What emerges from the exhibit is how, even as New York transformed, it hardly changed at all…” Really? Unchanged? Did you see all the photos of new buildings? Did you read the timeline? Though I guess one of the strengths of the show is that it’s such an immense collage of information, you can read into it what you like.

In the end it was a fantastic exercise for me, I learned a ton about photography, and I got to investigate some neighborhoods I hadn’t been to as well as some I frequent.

The show is located at 250 Hudson Street (entrance on Dominick between Varick and Hudson), and is open through June 26. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, from noon until 7p.

This exciting update just in: the exhibition will be moving to Governors Island this summer, from July 2-August 15! More information as soon as I get it…

Those of you who can’t see the show in person will, I hope, soon be able to peruse the forthcoming website. In the mean time, the photos I submitted are on Flickr in this set and this one. I will gather together the photos actually in the show when I have a moment.



This entry was posted on Thursday, May 20th, 2010 and is filed under architecture, photography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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