Thursday, December 15, 2005

Berenice Abbott NYC: narrow passage through door of Twilight

Usually museums are a little too much for me. If it's a great show it's too much to take on in an atmosphere that can be somehow stifling, like sneaking up on a butterfly while wearing a spacesuit.
My best strategy is to find one compelling item or work of art - and there usually is just one in particular - and just quietly take that one in, leaving and returning and just let it seep in.

Tonight at the Phoenix Art Museum it was a photograph by Berenice Abbott; New York At Night 1934.

I found out the story behind this picture later:
She was said to go about getting the perfect photo "almost as if a trap had been set".
She wanted to get a night shot in Manhattan from high on up, looking down at the criss crossing streetlines and traffic and the buildings illuminated with office lights. It needed to be just light enough to get a clear view of the building forms but with the lights on - in those days a lot of the offices closed down early and turned off their lights.
Berenice (beautiful name)"calculated that in order to get a dramatic night shot with all the lights on she would need to expose the film in her camera for 15 minutes.
The only night in the year that it would be dark enough before 5pm to create the contrast between the building lights and the night sky is the shortest day of the year December 20". Winter solstice.
With no wind that night to blur the film, and permission of the landlord to use a high up window the film Berenice captured the perfect shot...
Sunset December 20, 1934.


Jimmy said...

Can you post the picture on here? The technology exists!

Anonymous said...

I'll need you to coach me through it...God knows i've tried.
yours truly,
early 20th century man

Anonymous said...

Shock...horror...there's a picy up here now.....nice one...