Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Art Deco Heaven

In the foreground is the 1936 statue of Atlas by Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan. The Art Deco statue greets visitors to 630 Rockefeller Center (the International Building) as well as passers-by. Through the spherical astrolabe on Atlas' shoulders, you can see 30 Rockefeller Center.

"30 Rock", since 1988, is called the GE Building. Before that, it was the RCA Building. The renaming took place after GE bought RCA (and thus, NBC) 27 years ago.

Prior to 1988, "the GE Building" was the beautiful 1931 Art Deco skyscraper at 570 Lexington Avenue. Oddly enough, the building was designed for RCA, and the original plans refer to it as "RCA Building." As it was being finished, GE and RCA were involved in some anti-trust actions, and in the settlement, GE got the building.

I was privileged to work in the "old" GE Building at 570 Lexington for 8 years. There was a company dining room on the 50th floor where anyone, from Jack Welch to the newest mail boy, could eat for a few bucks. The view to the West from the mens' room on the 50th was spectacular, until the Leona "Queen of Mean" Helmsley built her execrable Helmsley Palace Hotel.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The New Times Square

Several blocks in the Times Square area have been converted to pedestrian-only zones. The City even put out all these chairs (like the ones in Bryant Park over the last several years) as well as cafe tables.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Photo Archeaology - Anatomy of an Image

Rue Foyatier, this oft-photographed stairs, climbs up the Butte Montmartre in Paris, ending near Sacre Couer basillica, the highest point in the city. On a stopover following a business trip in December 1977, I had walked here from a Metro stop a few blocks to the south, and found myself at the bottom of the staircase. I liked the disappering-into-infinity pattern of the steps, railings, and trees, but by itself, the scene looked to static.

So I did what I now realize is a frequent trick of mine - I anchored myself and waited for someone to walk into the scene. The strip of exposures above is the sequence of photos as I took them (click on the image to see a larger view).

Back home on East 83rd Street, I developed the film and checked the contact sheet with my trusty 8x Agfa Loupe, the 20th-century equivalent of the "magnify" button on the back of our digital cameras.

The first three images didn't do anything for me at all. The fourth was a "maybe"... the woman caught ducking behind the fence seemed to lend a tiny bit of mystery. But the fifth photo gave me an aha! feeling.

The position of the woman within this frame, as well as her relative size, works well compositionally. Also, her slightly bent-over and schleppy look at this moment suggeted a tired struggle up the long staircase that matched the somber, lonely look of that soggy, gloomy December day.

Here's the "new" version of that fifth photo, newly scanned from the negative after more than 32 years, slightly cropped, straightened, and lightly adjusted for blacks in Photoshop.

I think it's a great marriage of new and old technology: Epson V500 scanner combined with 1970's Tri-X film and D-76 developer, a 1940 Leica iiiC body, and a 1952 50mm f/2 Collapsible Summicron lens.