Monday, 14 November 2016
Philip Trager came across the negatives for these photos a year or so ago and Steidl wisely took the opportunity to published them. These aren't architectural photographs in the style of Stoller, Shulman or Abbott, their photos are more a record for posterity.
Trager captures the essence of Manhattan buildings but he adds his vision to the composition, for example frequently keeping the shadows of nearby structures as dark grey overlays on the building he's photographing and creating an extra dimension of depth. Plate fifty-six has a shot taken from the Empire State and it's shadow is clearly discernable as it falls across six blocks. Another noticeable feature is the way he creates depth, plate twenty-six was taken from the sidewalk (with Trager probably using a small stepladder) showing the intersection of Seventh Avenue and West Twenty-ninth Street, the other side of the street looks a long way off, it isn't of course. There are four shots of Times Square looking quite open, admittedly these were taken long before Times Square was fenced in with skyscrapers.
The sixty-four plates are a mixture of street level shots, looking up or from windows high up looking across the roof tops. Most of them are of modern buildings (up to the seventies) with several historical ones including: Flatiron; Grand Central; Trinity Building on Broadway and a lovely one of the patchwork facade of Dorilton Apartments at Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.
Philip Trager (now eighty-one) wanted to seek out visually interesting New York buildings, this book confirms that he succeeded. I have a slight criticism of the production though, the photos were taken with a plate camera which captures precise detail, they were unfortunately printed with a 175 screen instead of using 200 or a 250 screen which would have revealed the detail in the prints.