New York City, known as the Center of the Universe, Capital of the World, the Melting Pot or perhaps Gotham or Metropolis to some, the Big Apple is also home to some of the best street photographers to ever pick up a camera. On this Meetup I walked the same streets as Alfred Stieglitz, Joel Meyerwitz, Elliot Erwitt, Martha Cooper, Mary Ellen Mark and Saul Leiter, to name a few, to capture images of life on the streets of New York. The variety of scenes available supplied ample photographic material for any style of photographer. If you like urban portraits, humorous situations, amazing architecture, nature, social commentary, urban landscapes, abstracts or just about any other genre that you can think of, New York is the place to see it all, usually within the same block!
The photo walk covered the mid-town Manhattan area that includes Times Square, Bryant Park, 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Center and lower Central Park. Since I was using my iPhone the walking was easier and much lighter than if I was toting a traditional DSLR.
This particular day in NY was colder than an icebergs tip, like 0-10 degrees cold, with a brisk wind. Shooting street photography was painful so I decided to see an exhibit as a way of doing something to stay warm. However before giving up I was able to capture a few images. More at the end….
Now on with the show..
520 pages, 8.2 lbs and 10×14 inches. This is Sebastiao Salgado’s book that complimented the exhibit Genesis at the International Center of Photography in NYC. I was lucky to be in NY on January 11th, the last day of the show. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Salgado, only seeing posters and signs on the outside of the ICP building on previous trips to NY.
First of all I don’t usually go to landscape photography exhibitions it’s just not my photographic passion. I’ve seen several Ansel Adams exhibits and sometimes I feel other photographers just seem to be making copies of work that has already been done. Especially if the work is exclusively in black and white as is Genesis. Well, it was cold, I needed to get warm and a quick search of Google on my phone indicated the show had many good reviews. So in I went.
The first of more than 200 beautifully printed photographs took my breath away. It was a landscape, actually a seascape, of an iceberg in black and white but it was printed as a 5×3. That’s five feet across and three feet high!! You felt like you were stepping into another world that has never been seen before. The lighting, composition, and exposure of this image were all perfect. The emotion conveyed by this iceberg was a sense of wonder and loss. This iceberg has been carved by ocean waves as well as the wind to a form I have never seen before in a photograph. The top was carved by the wind to appear as a castle. A thin bridge of ice forming an arch, looking very much like a draw bridge, connected the castle to a more traditional looking piece of ice that was severely carved by the water. The lighting on the “castle” centered the eye here for a moment before moving around and across the “bridge” to the “real” iceberg. Knowing the challenges of global warming and its effects on the world’s ice sheets made the “castle” appear as a last vain attempt to ward off the inevitable melting process. Here is a link to the exhibition page so you can see it for yourself.
We’ve all seen pictures of icebergs, mostly in color with deep blue water and a nice sky with cumulous clouds. Some pictures even include the underwater portion giving an admittedly dramatic effect but at the same time they appear as if they were constructed pictures not directly taken. Salgado’s iceberg looks like he was in the right place, waited for the right light and composed thoughtfully to tell his story.
The next 200 or so images were no less amazing. However, unlike Adams and other landscape photographers the images in this exhibition included wildlife, indigenous peoples, action scenes, and portraits. Virtually the entire Earth was covered as Salgado photographed over eight years to produce this project. He calls this “my love letter to the planet” as he explores every region of the planets landscape, people and wildlife. The exhibition was split among many rooms as the images were grouped geographically. The sections of the book mirror the shows groupings of Planet South, Sanctuaries, Africa, Northern Spaces, Amazonia and finally Pantanal.
Upon exiting the exhibit through the gift shop, I decided I wanted the book so I could look longer at the images and gain inspiration from many I saw but could not get that close to because of the crowd. The bookstore was sold out of the hardback format I wanted so another quick Google search on my phone let me know a bookstore downtown in Soho had them in stock. I called to verify, jumped on the subway and away I went. As it turns out the bookstore was a Taschen store, the publisher of the book, so they had plenty in stock. I picked the book up off the shelf and started to page through when I noticed it was signed on the title page by Salgado himself! At checkout the person helping me confirmed the signature was real and the price was the same as the unsigned copies. So, for no extra price I bought a signed copy of Genesis to cap off a wonderful photography exhibition all because it was so cold outside I needed someplace to get warm.