Friday May 31, 2013

NEW YORK NEW YORK – Today I did homework for my rephotographing New York class. First I took the subway to 154th Street to find a house at 857 Riverside Drive (which oddly doesn’t face the Hudson River up here) that Berenice Abbott photographed in 1937. A poor jpg of Abbott’s original is the second photo below. The original is rather casually put together. The light is far from optional, accenting a bush on the far right and the house is obscured in shadows – it really looks like a snapshot. Number 857 was wedged between two larger apartment buildings -you see the building on the right, and the shadow of the building on the left – the sun was behind her left shoulder. I suspect that she shot number 857 because a wood frame house was unusual in Manhattan even in 1937 – I found no similar house in the area walking around for an hour or so.

Remarkably the house is still there. It’s had the gingerbread stripped off and has been badly “modernized”; it’s in the course of a further “renovation”. It’s clearly inhabited: someone has put cat food out in the foreground on the right. Abbott took the photograph literally pressed against the building to the left so she could show the view though the Charleston-style gallery on the left side of the house through to the river – a view that is now obscured by a building and a mature tree. So here you go: 857 Riverside Drive:

Riverside Drive rephotographed
Riverside Drive rephotographed
Berenice Abbott original
Berenice Abbott original

A second project for the day. James Van Der Zee was a photographic chronicler (among other things} of the Harlem Renaissance. His most famous image, and perhaps the most famous image from the Harlem Renaissance, is the second image below: a marvelously-turned-out couple in raccoon coats posed in front of a massive Cadillac on a street that is thought to be west 127th street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. There are various guesses at the exact location. One of them places the image at 247 West 127th Street, the site of the current PS 154 – the third image below. I’m not certain that I believe – I can just make our the first digit of the address on one of the buildings and it looks like it starts with a “1”. There is a row of a half dozen brown stones a few feet down the block; I managed to shoot a couple in their SUV in front of it.

West 128th Street after Vanderzee
West 128th Street after Vanderzee
James Vanderzee original
James Vanderzee original
The exact spot
The exact spot

On this day last year: Silver man.

Silver Man
Silver Man

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