Invisible New York
The Hidden Infrastructure of the City
From the introduction by Thomas Garver:
The Grand Canyon is a Place, Times Square is a Place, the Brooklyn Bridge is a Place, but Consolidated Edison's Ravenswood Station, a mammoth electrical generating facility in New York City's borough of Queens, is not a Place. It is not a Place because it serves a function we no longer think about as having physical dimensions. We expect the electricity to flow when we flip the switch, and in this technologically sophisticated (and arrogant) time we simply assume that the electricity will be there - and that's enough. Stanley Greenberg's photographs lead us to these unnoted and often invisible places of service. Like Virgil leading Dante through the Underworld, Greenberg takes us to places either hidden beneath our feet or hidden in plain sight by virtue of our very indifference to them. In this journey he makes us aware of the Places where some of the services essential to modern urban life are created, harnessed, and directed.
Tunnel #3, the Central Park Reservoir Gatehouse, bridge anchorages, the Ellis Island hospital, the attic of Grand Central Terminal, the Roosevelt Island lunatic asylum, the City Hall Subway Station, Nike Missile Silos, thw West Side Rail Yard, the Brooklyn Navy Yard...
These are the subjects of Stanley Greenberg's photography that are on display in his recent book Invisible New York. Photographed with a 4x5" View Camera, the images have incredible detail and resolution as well as being startling in their crispness and vitality.
The theory, the framing, the composition - all of these aspects of Greenberg's photography are unchallenging, but you're not looking at his photography for the purpose of being challenged. You're looking at it for two reasons, the first is to see the photographer's mastery of the art. The photos are simplistic, because that is what they need to be - they convey precisely what Greenberg wants to convey - that there is immense beauty locked away inside these forgotten remnants of New York. The second reason you're looking at the photos is for the eye candy. Dozens of buildings and structures and places you've always wanted to go and see, but couldn't for whatever reason... coupled with the fact that the images are gorgeous leads to hours of drooling onto his pages as you flip back and forth.
But pages aren't enough - I need prints. Photographs in books are never truly satisfactory. They're never enough. They're not printed with photo paper, they've never been through a darkroom and all the respective toil and tears that go along with that process. You can't feel the tonaliy of the silver - the richness, the dimensionality. Plus: Greenberg's work is begging to be big. I want to see them 20"x24"- maybe bigger. I want to stare at these abandoned walls and pipes and wires and girders as large if not larger than life.
Don't get me started.
Stanley Greenberg, Invisible New York: The Hidden Infrastructure of the City
. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1998.