Friday, December 28, 2012


The composition of a photograph is critical to its success.  The rule of thirds can be called on numerous times, but even with that guide, composition must continuously move the eye all around the image.  No dead space.  Empty space is quite different.  Empty or possibly negative space can stimulate the eye to seek detail.  In this image I tried for a non-symmetrical symmetry.  All the elements are just the slightest bit "off."  The three larger peaks above the doors are not exactly centered and one has a small branch over it.  The six windows are not perfectly equally aligned.  Just a little off center.  I think it creates a better composition to have the sightest (or perhaps larger) variations.  Do you?

Church: NYC

Art genre: black and white architectural detail/art photograph

Photography tip: Use symmetry and add interest within its constructs.

Location: Chelsea, NYC

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Repeating Forms

Often elaborate architectural details seem to be ornate for the sake of detail.  In other words, craftsmen add & add & add more & more to the decorated space.  It would be like adding 2" of frosting to a wafer cookie or yards of necklace, bracelets, rings to an already multi-patterned garment.  Yet highly carved and detailed architectural ornamentation, crafted at a time when such work was prized, was frequently plotted geometrically within repeating forms.  Notice the circles, rectangles and how exquisitely the carvings complement these basic shapes.  There is nothing random about the design of the ceiling which is plotted in its elaborateness on essential forms.

Sepia Ceiling Detail

Art genre: sepia architectural detail/art photograph

Complementary decor: Rococo, Gothic, Romanesque, Eclectic, Modern 

Photography tip: Look for basic forms and frame them.

Location: Austria

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

May All Your...

Wishing you all a Season filled with Peace, Light and Hope.  May Happiness and Good Cheer pour into every corner and Health be yours.  2013 will be the year best yet!

Vienna: 2009

Monday, December 10, 2012

You Never Know

New sights are everywhere, no matter how familiar the territory.  Many times I have walked down certain streets in Manhattan, especially midtown, and been distracted by a shop window or person passing by.  Then, one day, I am amazed to see architectural embellishments that I never noticed.  Perhaps these gargoyles noticed me......rushing down the street.  Amazing stonework.  The perfection of the placements creates overall design that is miraculous.  How truly dedicated to form and design were the creators of this midtown, NYC building.

Art genre: black & white architectural detail/art photograph

Complimentary decor: Rococo, Gothic, Romanesque, Eclectic 

Photography tip: Continue to look at familiar places for subject matter.  You never know.......

Location: Midtown, Manhattan

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Great Honor

Wednesday evening I had the great honor of being elected as a Governor of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York.  The General Society has been an institution in NYC since 1785 when several tradesmen initiated an organization to help trades-people and their families during times of need.  Today, the General Society hosts a magnificent library and a tuition free school: the Mechanics Institute where students can receive an education that is unparallelled in such subjects as preservation, HVAC and Electrical Technology.  The John M. Mossman Lock Collection Museum and the  marvelous Artisan Lecture Series are also a part of the General Society which offers much to make NYC the great city it is.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rockville Centre Revisited

I am delighted and proud to be exhibiting my architectural/ art photography at the Rockville Centre Library.  This is my second series of Rockville Centre photographs. The exhibition, "Rockville Centre Revisited" will be on view until December 29.  To see the wonderful architecture and the charming village of Rockville Centre please visit this link:
For more information about the exhibit visit:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Some Color

Although I present mostly black and white and sepia photographs, I always shoot in color (RGB).  The range of tones in color is far greater than you get when taking photos in black and white in the camera.  Later, in post production, I convert color shots to black and white and sepia primarily in Photoshop, although I sometimes use other applications. For my own architectural art photography, I think that colors distract from the architecture I showcase in my images.  A monochromatic photograph allows the viewer to focus mainly on subject.  Once in a while I feel that the color photograph is so expressive that I leave it alone.  Such was the case with this doorway on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  All the colors seemed perfectly integrated and complimented the architecture marvelously.

Art genre: color architectural /art photograph

Complimentary decor: Traditional, Classical,  Mission, Eclectic 

Photography tip: Shoot in RGB for a greater tonal range.  Then, in Photoshop (or other application, such as Lightroom) convert to B&W. Later still sepia if it appeals to you.

Location:Upper East Side: Manhattan

Monday, November 26, 2012

Influences: Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe had a exceptional eye.  He saw marvelous contrasts and form.  These essential principles of all arts are pervasive in Mapplethorpe's photography.  Mapplethorpe is well known for his male and female nude studies.  He also acquired a great following for his celebrity portraits of artists, socialites and individuals who defined the 1970's "scene" in NYC.  Forever, Mapplethorpe will be associated with an era that poured forth revolutionary and exciting art; however, the photographer produced timeless images of great beauty.  Mapplethorpe's flowers are reflections of the sensitivity and aesthetic Mapplethorpe gave to his stunning works.
I long have admired and learned from Robert Mapplethorpe's photography.  His ability to juxtapose darks and lights with form is a continuing reference for me.  I was extremely proud and delighted when, at one of my exhibitions in which I included my photographs of flowers, an associate of Robert Mapplethorpe's purchased one of my images which he liked to Mapplethorpe's own florals.  To be compared with an artist whom I so deeply admire is indeed a supreme compliment!

Contrasts and Form: Robert Mapplethorpe

Elements Juxtaposed with Values: Robert Mapplethorpe

Andy Warhol Artist Portrait: Robert Mapplethorpe

Flower: Robert Mapplethorpe

Calla Lily: Ellen Fisch

Friday, November 23, 2012


Yesterday, Thanksgiving, was a wonderful time of family, food and drink,  beautiful weather in NYC: festivities that are harbingers of the upcoming Holiday Season.  I was very fortunate to celebrate with my family in the wake of Sandy and the Nor' Easter.  We ate, told stories, ate, drank, ate, told jokes and above all delighted in the children.  Reasons for THANKS.  I especially give thanks for the enduring human spirit.  The ingenuity, endurance, courage and creativity of humans is evident in all we are and all we do.  For me, a New Yorker all my life, there are many iconic images that express the human spirit all around the city.  This remarkable statue atop Grand Central Station symbolizes the glory of human creativity and the continuation of the ability of the spirit to soar.

Mineva, Mercury and Hercules soaring above Grand Central Station



Monday, November 19, 2012

Photographer Cole Scott Moffett Exhibits

The White Show at the Jackson Art Studio and Gallery in Jackson, NH, is a wonderful mix of photography; printmaking; painting; and fine art crafts.  Photographer Cole Scott Moffett has three extraordinary photographs in the show.  Cole Scott has the marvelous talents to motivate the viewer to enter, with him, the image and explore.  The exquisitely delicate floral; the striking lone tree and the stunning black and white town all invite us to see, feel and experience with the photographer.  Beautiful works!  The gallery is a tremendous asset to the area, presenting marvelous art.  Congratulations as well to all of the superb fine artists participating in The White Show!

Invitation to The White Show

Cole Scott and Debbie Moffett with the Photographer's Floral Photograph

Friday, November 16, 2012

Joss and Main

I was delighted to see one of my black and white architectural photographs featured on the Joss and Main site.  Joss and Main presents very beautiful and functional home furnishings.  The following appeared on Joss and Main:
DCI Studio
Curator's Collection
Featured on HGTV’s Battle on the Block and Designers’ Challenge, DCI Studio founder Phyllis Harbinger’s impeccable taste is informed by her globe-trotting spirit. An award-winning NCIDQ interior designer and practitioner of Feng Shui, the New York-based decor maven infuses her clients’ homes with stylish opulence and a luxe European air. Phyllis’s Art Deco collection, curated exclusively for Joss & Main, showcases her coveted aesthetic, boasting tufted headboards, vintage-inspired bedding, shimmering accent pillows, striking side tables, and more.

Here is my photograph:

Checkered Staircase

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Joy of Sharing

Part of the wonderful life of an artist is the ability to share with others who are passionate about art.  I was fortunate to speak at Brooklyn College's IRPE Life Lecture Series to a group of photography enthusiasts whose love of photography and art matches my own.  This communication among people who are deeply involved, whether as amateurs or professionals,  provides not only a joyful interaction, but the ability for me to improve my own photography by looking at my work through the eyes of deeply caring colleagues.

For a transcript of the talk go to and click on The Art of Photography: How to Take Great Photos

Photographs courtesy of Brooklyn College IRPE Life Lecture Series Coordinator Madeleine Appell

Monday, November 12, 2012

Multiple Layers

Often, when I see something that catches my eye, or rather my camera's eye, I don't absorb other parts of the image.  An example of this might be the following.  Let's assume that you are presented with a beautiful flower.  You may not immediately notice the stem, leaves, wrapping paper.  The senses pick up the beauty of the flower first and then the other parts of the whole may be experienced as they are revealed to the eye.  Today, more than ever, our senses must filter an avalanche of perceptions.  We don't take in everything at once.  When I am photographing something that appeals to me, other parts of the image ofter appear when I really look at the "whole" in post production. 

The striking gold numbers on this glass doorway attracted my attention as I was walking in midtown Manhattan.  I took a few shots and then turned my focus on an elaborately ornamented building across the street.  When I carefully examined the gold number image on my computer screen, I saw so many other elements in the photograph.  These "finds" often make photography an unexpected and multilayered way of seeing.

Art genre: sepia art architectural detail/ signage photograph

Complimentary decor: Traditional, Modern, Art Deco, Eclectic 

Photography tip: Carefully look for captured unexpected images in post production.  You may be surprised at the multiple layers of images you find in a single photograph!
Location: Midtown Manhattan

Friday, November 9, 2012

Brooklyn College Talk

--> When IRPE Coordinator Madeleine Appell approached me about speaking at Brooklyn College, I was delighted.  It is my great pleasure to participate as a speaker in the Brooklyn College IRPE Intellectual Life Series.  I earned my B.A. at Brooklyn College where I learned the fundamentals of photography, architecture and art.  As a proud alumnus, I return to speak at the College on Tuesday, November 13.  My topic is The Art of Photography: Getting the Great Photograph which can be seen on my web site under Insights.  Information on IRPE and my talk also appears on my site under Seminars & Workshops.

Brooklyn College

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Contrasts Provide Interest

One of the key, if not THE KEY, ingredient in any visual is keeping the viewer interested.  A photographer would hope that when you look at his/ her photograph your eye travels around the composition, lingering on details and taking another look at the whole.  One way to keep it interesting is to provide contrasts.  It is critical to offer the viewer enough variety to engross the eye, but not so much that the senses are overloaded.  This image, taken on 5th Avenue, contrasts an ornamented building with the sky.  Each element has its own contrasts: the sky has bands of clouds and the building's brickwork is juxtaposed with windows; stone bands; and floral stone embellishments.  While the photograph seems to be divided into two distinct verticals, the horozontals allow the eye to "read" the image fluidly.

Corner on 5th

Art genre: Black & White art architectural detail photograph

Complimentary decor: Victorian, Traditional, Art Nouveau, 

Photography tip: The eye has been taught, in Western culture, to travel in horizontals, such as reading text.  If you want to "divide" your photograph into parts as this image is divided into verticals, make sure that there are horizontal references that carry the eye across the photograph.
Location: Fifth Avenue, NYC

Monday, November 5, 2012


You see them in most major cities that have history.  They watch as newer construction takes place.  Often today the builders do not include the ornamentations of yesteryear.   Hopefully, these watchers will spark recollection of our past and the glories that lay within the work of artisans and builders who paused to include personality in structures.  Modern construction also has its watchers; its marvels and its greatness.  But look we should look to the watchers of the past as we forge the future.

Art genre: Sepia art architectural detail photograph

Complimentary decor: Any

Photography tip: Squares of window reflections in the lower half of this photograph provide depth to the composition.  Various shapes and highlights further the interest in the reflections.
Location: Fifth Avenue, NYC

Friday, November 2, 2012

Breaking the Rules

Sometimes I break the rules.  In each photograph, I try to devise an interesting composition.  Photographs are essentially ways in which I can express what I see and my interaction with my focus.  Usually, I am drawn to architecture and architectural details that reflect times when artisans left their mark.  Modern architecture is beautiful in its way, too: however, I am frequently fascinated by the older structures and their embellishments.  Recently I was with a friend in a space that has soaring modernistic forms.  I loved the fluid shapes as they ascended to the top orb of light.
In post production, I try to adhere to the rule of thirds: each area of the grid must have varying values.  Here, there is one allotment devoted to the darkest dark. I think it works.  After all, the surprise element also keeps the eye moving around in the image.  That is the optimal for any creative work.

Art genre: Sepia art photograph

Complimentary decor: Modern, Eclectic, Contemporary

Photography tip: Try for the rule of thirds, but occasionally break it.

Location: Chelsea, NYC

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Wishing all of my East Coast friends and family and many others affected by the incredible storm, Sandy, Health, Quick Recuperation and Small Losses.  May Peace and Ease of Mind follow in the wake of nature's wrath.   All my best, Ellen

Chelsea Market

I had never been to Chelsea Market before.  Completed in 1997, Chelsea Market has become a meeting destination for numerous New Yorkers and tourists.  Although I visited Chelsea numerous times for art exhibits, to photograph landmark buildings and to walk the High Line, I never ventured to the fabulous food court/ shopping area located in the old National Biscuit Company factory: home of Oreo cookies.  A lovely and talented young artist friend who attends SVA invited me to Chelsea Market for lunch a few weeks ago.  I was struck by the wonderful use of old machinery and industrial equipment as decor for the au courant dining establishments; shops and great get-together indoor spaces.

Chelsea Market Decor

Art genre: Sepia art photograph

Complimentary decor: Modern, Eclectic

Photography tip: Look for contrasts.  Edges can be sharpened or softened in post production.

Location: Chelsea Market: Chelsea, NYC

Monday, October 29, 2012

Influences: Margaret Bourke-White

One of my earliest influences was the brilliant photojournalist/ photographer Margaret Bourke-White.  Her work was often published in the magazines my Dad loved, like Fortune and Life.  Bourke-White's images impacted the way I saw shapes and their relationship to each other.  Her photographs of machinery in the steel mills are still among my resources for composition and design.  Her work holds up as remarkable for all the visual elements that come together in great photography.

Steel Mill: Margaret Bourke-White

Machinery: Margaret Bourke-White

Steel Worker: Margaret Bourke-White

Steel Mill: Margaret Bourke-White

Diversion Tunnel: Margaret Bourke-White

Friday, October 26, 2012

PhotoPlus 2012

Yesterday I attended the industry trade show I look forward to all year: PhotoPlus.  I love going to trade shows at the cavernous Jacob Javits Conference Center in NYC.  People from all over come together with a shared passion.  PhotoPlus, the photography industry's promotion of product, information and all things connected with photography, is an event for me to connect with new ideas, refresh known concepts and create mental wish lists.  I looked at my dream cameras, printing papers, software, equipment and spoke with sales reps and best of all, other photographers.  I stopped by to see old friends and made some new ones.  Great Day!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Old Friend

Recently I attended an art exhibition.  It was a wonderful time: artists happy to show their new work; wine and cheese; a stunningly modernized  gallery in a great old building in Dumbo: does it get any better!  I love that type of event.  After viewing the art, which was an eclectic exhibit of printmaking, watercolors, oils and drawings, I began, as always,  to look at the space.  Off to the side, away from the art and art lovers, I spotted a grate.  Now metal grates are at the top of my list for beautiful objects.  One of my fondest memories I have of childhood is looking through the air-shaft grate into our backyard.  I thought that this grate was the portal to a secret garden that held marvels to be discovered every day.  Actually, it did.  I saw the seasons change and the natural forms in the yard evolve throughout  my early life.  So while people at the art show looked at the fine art, I photographed the old grate in the corner.  Few people noticed what I was up to, but that was fine: a secret between me and an old friend.

Art genre: Sepia architectural detail art photograph

Complimentary decor: Eclectic

Photography tip: Textures are important.  Look for contrasting textures to increase interest when photographing architectural details.

Location: Dumbo: NYC

Monday, October 22, 2012

See the Light

Frequently the eye sees light as as source of brightness.  It streams into a space.  It illuminates an object.  Light allows us to see where we are and whom we are with.  But often we don't look at the light itself.  Light has color, shape, form.  It varies in its intensity.  Light in and of itself is exquisite.  Capturing light as a focal point for an image is formidable, but I continue to be intrigued by light and its many configurations.  I especially love light steaming into a muted space.  Illuminating all it reaches. Conforming to form as it curves and bends, spreads and constricts.  Light is infinitely varied and wonderful, but elusive and challenging to capture.  It is the single inspiration why I am a photographer.

Art genre: Sepia architectural art photograph

Complimentary decor: Traditional

Photography tip: Capture the shape of light, but be aware of soft, diffused edges.

Location: Wall Street area: NYC

Friday, October 19, 2012


Every artist expresses an aesthetic that will hopefully be shared.  Art is a form of communication that transcends time and cultural barriers to connect people universally and throughout history.  It is marvelous to create art and to share it with others. Recently I discovered a wonderful web site devoted to sharing many types of art: furniture, accessories, wall art and other expressive forms of human creativity.  WellFurnished presents beautiful items and is platformed to encourage interactive relationships among decorators, clients and artists/ artisans.  I have posted several photographs on the site.  Hope you'll get an opportunity to spend time looking through the wonders on

Metal Ovals

NYC Art Window

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An Opportunity I Took

On my last full day in New Zealand in April 2011, I was going to laze about.  I had been to Sydney, Australia, Aukland, NZ and was on the final leg of a 17 day solo photography jaunt, gearing up for the 20+ hour trip back to NY.  The last leg of my trip was 5 days at gorgeous Queenstown at the South of NZ.  I had toured around extensively and taken around 6,000 photos.  "Ready for a day of rest," I thought.  Someone at the hotel mentioned Arrowtown, a nearby( 2 busses) place for some great pix. I will be forever thankful that I put relaxation on hold and went to Arrowtown.  Crystal air, history, amazing vistas.  Architecture is eclectic, but even the smallest structures are beautifully set in landscape with gardens. Here is one small, enchanted house from that day.  Every opportunity is one to be taken and enjoyed!

Sepia/ Color Tinted Photograph

Art genre: Sepia/ color tinted architectural art photograph

Complimentary decor: British Colonial, American Colonial

Photography tip: Convert color photograph to sepia.  Slowly and sparingly add back color for an old fashioned tinted effect.

Location: Arrowtown, NZ

Monday, October 15, 2012

Architectural Jewelry

I love metal architectural details.  Railings, door knobs, grates, plaques, the addition of metal accents to a structure reminds me of putting on jewelry after you get dressed.  Men and women (children, too...notice some of the royal infantes and crown princes/ princesses painted throughout the Renaissance!) have always adorned themselves with gold, silver, and other metals as ornaments to enhance their appearance.  Architectural jewelry is a marvelous addition to a space.  The bold glitter or subtle glow of a well placed metal detail adds decorative and/ or functional jewelry to the most modest or lavish building.

The NYC's main branch of the Post Office on 34th Street and 8th Avenue has some beautiful examples of architectural jewelry that, at one time, was a common inclusion in buildings.  The marble and metal of a bygone age have frequently yielded to plastic and other artificial materials.  I love to visit this P.O. to see the elegance that represents care and attention to detail.

P.O. Window

Art genre:  Architectural detail photograph

Complimentary decor: Eclectic

Photography tip: Accent metal by crunching darks, lights and mid-tones.
Location: 34th Street and 8th Avenue NYC, Main Branch P.O.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


NYC is a wonderful place.  I am always fascinated by sights that I encounter in my hometown.  The City abounds with all manner of architecture and architectural detail.  From  Native American artifacts and burial places (dated well before the Europeans arrived) found in Northern Manhattan to 1600 Dutch homesteads in Brooklyn to steel and glass skyscrapers, NYC runs the gamut of human creativity in the area of craftsmanship.  As I walk from place to place on the streets of the five boroughs, there are architectural old friends, such as Art Deco apartment buildings of the 1930's which always capture my sense of design and new wonders to see, such as this elaborately decorated doorway of a tenement on the upper East Side.  Imagine today's low income housing looking like this!  However, when this was build in the late 19th/ early part of the 20th century every structure had ornamentation, all houses were to welcome inhabitants.  Craftsmanship was utilized in so many areas of life. 

Doorway of a Tenement: Upper East Side NYC

Art genre:  Sepia architectural art photograph

Complimentary decor: Art Nouveau, Baroque, British Colonial, other elaborate styles

Photography tip:Find light in the darks.  In the dark areas of the doorway are lights.
Location: Lexington Avenue: Upper East Side, NYC

Monday, October 8, 2012

Influences: Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks was truly a Renaissance human being.  Not only did Parks create stunning photography, but he composed music (award-winning Shaft, among many other pieces); designed fashions; painted beautiful surrealistic artworks; wrote poetry and had long reach into many other aesthetics.Who could not be influenced by such a paragon of the arts!  Each and every Gordon Parks' photograph offers a slice of life that adheres to the adage: "One picture is worth a thousand words."  In Parks' work, each image speaks volumes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Detail Selection

I like to look at a building , photograph it and tweak the photograph to create an architectural art image in post production.  When either photographing the architecture or playing with the image in post production, I often find details that are more interesting to me than the entire structure.  The details become greater than the whole and I begin to zero in on one or two that intrigue me.  Here are two different railings.  The first two images show two details of the same wrought iron railing:

Wrought Iron Railing

Detail of Railing

The third railing photograph, which is at Rockefeller Center, was shot as a detail.  I really zeroed in on a specific segment of an Art Deco brass railing.  So engrossed in the shot was I that when a guard asked me what I was doing I jumped, almost dropping my camera.  I showed him the part of the railing I was photographing. I felt really great when the guard told me he had worked in Roc Center for 17 years and had never noticed the railing.  "It's beautiful.  A jewel," he said.  "You've taught me to look at my surroundings," he said.  Can it get better!

Rockefeller Center Brass Railing

Art genre:  Architectural detail photographs

Complimentary decor: Any

Photography tip: Narrow down to details.

Location: Top two photographs: Stockholm, Sweden.  Third photograph: Rockefeller Center, NYC

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Traveling to Australia in the spring of 2011 required tat I capture as many photo images as possible because I didn't know when I would be back.  Good advice was given to me a while ago by a photographer friend who makes his living journeying from one place to the next in search of memorable pix to share with magazine readers from all parts of the world.  "When you see something that you want to remember with a photo, pause before shooting to embed the memory in your mind as well as on your camera card."  Here I stood in Sydney Harbor, a very iconic place.  For a long time, I looked at my surroundings.  Of course, I was ever watchful of the light!  I shot the Sydney Harbor Bridge many different ways, but always tried to get as many memories into the frame as possible.  In this photograph, I captured what the place felt like to me.

View of Sydney Harbor

Art genre: Sepia art photograph

Complimentary decor: Traditional, Art Deco

Photography tip: Capture different elements of a place into the shot.  For example, the palm trees; bridge; stone wall embankment & railing; boat that characterizes the harbor; shore beyond.  Incorporate the elements into a pleasing composition and placeprint.  A placeprint is a memory of a place that recalls the feeling of when you where there (or perhaps of your desire to go there).
Location: Sydney Harbor: Sydney, Australia