I will return to work on Monday after a two-week long spring break during which I went on a number of largely successful photo shoots along the Harlem River. I tried as best I could to take advantage of the time that I had off to capture some of the subjects that had remained on my to-do-list. As is usually the case, variables such as poor weather, prevented me from checking all the subjects off my list but it was fun and successful break photographically, nonetheless.
I also made time to do a bit of pleasure reading. Cara A. Sutherland’s Bridges of New York City (2003) is a beautiful and richly informative book full of captivating black and white photographs of many of the city’s most significant spans. As expected, most of the book is devoted to the iconic bridges of the East River – Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, (Ed Koch) Queensboro Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge – and the Hudson River’s George Washington Bridge. To my surprise, however, she focuses on the history and significance of the Harlem River’s High Bridge as well as some of the city’s earliest spans, such as the King’s Bridge and Coles Bridge. Moreover, some impressive photographs that I had never seen before of these bridges are included. Attention is also given to the peripheral but vital Verrazano–Narrows Bridge in addition to the Bronx-Whitestone and Bayonne Bridges.
Sutherland’s book also has a selection of images taken by Berenice Abbott during the 1930s.
I must confess that before studying her photographs in this book, I had never given her iconic images much attention. That has all changed now! I was floored and hooked! Impressed and humbled, I purchased Bernice Abbott: Changing New York, which has these and many other of her acclaimed and recognizable 1930-era photographs of New York City.
In sum, Sutherland’s book is highly recommended for NYC bridge and history enthusiasts!
This afternoon I took a short ride on the Metro-North up to the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers where I saw the temporary exhibition – Industrial Sublime: Modernism and the Transformation of New York’s Rivers, 1900-1940 – before it ends next week.
It was my first visit to the Hudson River Museum and I was impressed by both its permanent collection (especially, its Hudson River paintings of the Yonkers area) as well as the temporary exhibit, which I had traveled to see. Industrial Sublime was made up of paintings representing all three area rivers: the Hudson, East, and Harlem. While I was most interested in seeing the artistic representations of the Harlem River, it was inspiring to see them all. In fact, many of the exhibition’s most memorable images were of the Hudson and East Rivers.
Brooklyn Bridge (1900) by Theodore Earl Butler
On the Hudson at Newburgh (1918) by Gifford Beal
As with any art exhibition, it is always a thrill to see and examine images in person that you might have seen previously in a book or magazine. I had the opportunity to do this with a few of the Harlem River paintings there. However, the majority of the works were new to me.
I left the museum rejuvenated inspired by the sublimity of the region. The lower Hudson Valley is such a majestic place and Industrial Sublime did a great job at reminding visitors of this. The train ride north along the Hudson River to Yonkers also brought this point home. With temperatures hovering in the mid-50s coupled with high humidity, a blanket of thick fog and clouds covered the area offering very little visibility all day. I had never seen the Hudson so magical. From the Metro-North train, one could see the enveloping fog billowing just feet above the Hudson River creating a most incredible and unique sight. It looked like steam was rising from the water just as sheets of ice varying in size and thickness moved downriver with the tide. The Palisades of New Jersey were obscured noticeable only for seconds in the small pockets of visibility that appeared and disappeared amidst the thick fog. It was an incredible scene: both ghostly and beautiful, eerie and curious, strange and captivating.
If only I had my camera gear with me, I could have gotten off at Spuyten Duyvil (right where a Metro-North train made national news when it derailed a few weeks earlier) on the ride north and photographed this spectacular sight before hopping on a subsequent train to continue my journey. Despite not having the opportunity to photograph today’s magical weather, it gave me a lot of photographic ideas for the future.
I was pleasantly surprised to find Farai Chideya’s story titled Traveling While Black in Friday’s New York Times. As a African-American, who shares a similar thrill for the road (especially international travel), it was reassuring to read about the travel experiences of Chideya and other people of color.
Ever since my 2002-2003 Watson Fellowship year, I have had the wanderlust bug and during recent years, photography has become an increasingly important element of my travel experiences abroad. Many of the observations that Chideya state, I myself have been a witness to and have wondered about.
Definitely worth reading.
Last weekend, The New York Times wrote a favorable review of the art exhibition – Industrial Sublime – at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers. I hope to check it out during the winter break.
The Hudson River Museum also produced the following video tour of the exhibition.
Last week, my article – The High Bridge Reclaims Its History With $61M Restoration – was published at Curbed NY. It’s a historic piece that dives into the origins of New York City’s oldest bridge and its rise as an important recreational destination; its most difficult period beginning in the 1950s, and then, its long desired rebirth beginning in 2001 and culminating in the present work to restore and reopen it for public use next year.
I hope you enjoy it.
Below are two wonderful images from about 1905 that I found at Shorpy.com, an historical photo archive website. On the left is Highbridge Park and the Harlem River Speedway (the Harlem River Drive today) and dominating the center is the beautiful Washington Bridge. I love the carriages!
View of Harlem River Speedway and Washington Bridge, c. 1905
View of Harlem River Speedway and Washington Bridge, c. 1905
Here’s a great time lapse video by Stephen Mallon documenting the installation of the new Willis Avenue Bridge back in 2010.
A Bridge Delivered from stephen mallon on Vimeo.