Friday, September 12, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 9-12-2014

Attention to architectural detail has diminished over the years for a variety of reasons.  Cost, lack of artisans, fast pace of life have all significantly contributed to paucity of the beautifully designed additions that afforded style and grace to many past architectural genres.  Fortunately there are still evidences of the detailing that was taken for granted not so long ago.  It may be seen in preserved architectural gems if you look carefully.  When I was a child, I looked forward to a trip to department stores not only for their wares but for extraordinary design and extravagant architectural detailing. 

Years ago shopping was a fashionable (literally and figuratively) activity.  Both men and women dressed for the occasion of a day out in the shops, especially one spent in those glamorous department stores in major cities.  My childhood was marked by special afternoons of taking the subway to the dowager stores of NYC: A&S and Martins in Brooklyn; B. Altman's, Bergdorf Goodman's, Best & Co., Macy's in Manhattan and, that mecca of bargains,  Alexander's in the Bronx.  There were others as well, each with its own distinctive merchandise; each with a "look."  The architecture reflected the  style and price tags of the stock as did the little touches, such as fresh flowers "on the floor" and hand milled soaps in the rest rooms. Logo shopping bags and carriers were a status symbol long before branding became the IN thing.  Bonwit Teller's floral decorated bag was so pretty that I kept it in the back of my closet for years!  And of course there were tea rooms or luncheon parlous in the stores.  After a long day of shopping, a cup of tea and tray of bites was definitely in order.

Few of these stores, filled with architectural detail treasures such as brass elevator doors that were heavily embossed; inlaid wood display cases and marble tiled floors, have survived.  Bergdorf Goodman still characterizes grandeur and haute style with its lavish attention to preserving a store that is frosted with architectural details.  My first job was at Bergdorf Goodman's and it is still a treat to visit this venerable department store.  Down the street from Bergdorf's on Fifth Avenue, is Henri Bendel's.  On a recent trip to Bendel's I was captivated by some of the interior decor designs that add a dimension to the ambiance unparallelled in most of today's architectural designs.  In the tread-mill world of current shopping venues it is marvelous to find the stunning echoes of the past.


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Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 9-7-2014

There is something so thrilling and appealing about a pop-up carnival.  On a hot summer's night, neon frosted rides appear in vacant lots surrounded by food trucks.  From distances, the colorfully brilliant lights, aromas of spicy/sweet fried fair foods, and the cries of pleasure from the merrymakers beckon like sirens.  There is an elusive architecture created and constructed by fleeting seasonal spontineity.  It is an architecture of movement, imagination, memory that is built on our link to childhood.  Neon is its core element just as light defines all architecture.

Black and white architectural photography with color.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 9-2-2014

I have been a photographer of architecture for many years.  I am drawn to buildings, details and materials for their beauty, purpose, history and solid presence in the landscape.  I also am passionate about the construction aspect of architecture.  The problem solving, tools, machines and plans that go in to creating a structure intrigue me. 

My Dad taught me a lot about tools and machinery.  Although he was an English teacher by trade, my Dad was raised by a master jewelry maker.  Tools were in his blood.  My maternal Grandfather was a tailor so I guess I inherited a love of art, craft, design and building from both sides.  My Dad was always tinkering around our house.  Fixing the faucet or building a bookcase (to shelve his Shakespeare), Dad would decide he needed another gadget to complete the job. "Come, Ellen," he would say, "let's take a walk to the hardware store."  These outings were memorable for being with my Dad and in the wonders I saw housed in the narrow, dimly lit store.  Rows of every imaginable utensil, mechanism, gizmo shone from the floor to ceiling racks, impacting my imagination with marvelous notions.

Too, the  old row house in which we lived had been built in the early 1900's.  Metal grates, old fashioned spindles, elaborate brass and cut-glass doorknobs, and intricate tile work defined our rather modest home.  In those days, craft and art were part of any building.  In our basement, the big, black old fashioned furnace was an object of mystery and delight for me.  It was detailed with swirls, gold letters and jutting pipes.  I would visit it with awe. 

Recently I had the pleasure of touring a wood shop where stunning moldings and other beautiful wood objects are created.  As ever, I was drawn to the machinery and tools, as well as the wonderful works of wood.  And, majestically in its own alcove stood a furnace that brought back so many memories.  It's powerfully solid presence struck me as magnificent in its design and its purpose.

 Black and white architectural photography

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