Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stanley Greenberg: the romance of infrastructure.

My earliest memories of New York City - I was five years old, staying with my mother at the old Henry Hudson Hotel on West 57th Street waiting to board a ship to cross the Atlantic and join my father, an Air Force officer who had been sent to England for a tour of duty - prominently include being awestruck by the magnificence of its public works. Yes, the skyscrapers, the bustling crowds, and the "Manhattan" the waitress served me at Longchamps (ginger ale with a dash of grenadine, garnished with a maraschino cherry, in a cocktail glass) were impressive, but so were the mighty pillars holding up the elevated West Side highway, and the piers jutting into the Hudson sheltering a phalanx of passenger and cargo liners. On later visits - I was through New York as a port of embarkation or debarkation three more times in my childhood - my experience grew to include the great East River bridges, with their soaring towers, tree trunk thick cables and stupendously massive anchorages, and the interior of the old Penn Station, an early twentieth century high-tech cathedral.

So it was that I came to love the photography of Stanley Greenberg, whose camera ventures into places where ordinary citizens do not or cannot venture, such as the interior of the Lower Gatehouse of the New Croton Dam, shown above. His books Invisible New York and Waterworks elegantly document this hidden or often overlooked infrastructure of the City and its environs.

My wife and I attended the opening reception for Stanley's current exhibition at the Gitterman Gallery. Among the photographs displayed were some of City infrastructure, others of buildings under construction, and others comprising a series showing sand castles on the beach at Coney Island. They thereby encompassed the enduring, the transitory and the evanescent. You can see images of the photographs included in the exhibition here.

The exhibition will remain open through May 10. Gitterman Gallery is located at 170 East 75th Street in Manhattan, telephone 212.734.0868 or see

1 comment:

  1. Sounds highly awesome. I'll check it out.

    There's a new novel out in which the Hotel New Yorker, once a city unto itself with a direct tunnel to Penn Station, but now a lame Ramada, plays a major role. It's about the inventor of (among other things) AC electricity, Nicola Tesla. The novel is called The Invention of Everything Else, by Samantha Hunt. Seems up your alley.

    I am all about the romance of infrastructure. I went to college in Philly, and used to love pulling into the decrepit 30th street station, feeling the metal around me and thinking the end of the world was nigh. Fortunately for Philadelphia, the place has changed. But it's something I love about the Northeast in general, the palpable sense of labor