Last Sunday, I took the subway to 25th Street and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn to walk through and photograph the infamous Green-Wood Cemetery. It was a perfect spring day to wander around in this peaceful and historic resting place. I am one of ”those” people who find cemeteries fascinating monuments of local history and Green-Wood has a pedigree of notable burials a mile long. The cemetery is a big beautiful woodland, with rolling hills, meandering paths and man-made lakes inhabited by geese, snowy egrets and other water fowl, and is now a designated National Historic Landmark.
I started my walk in the “public” lots looking for the older grave stones dating from the late 18th century to the 19th century. Worn down over the years to a soft bar-soap dullness, the headstone inscriptions barely visible or completely washed away. One can only assume that the descendants of these people have either died themselves or have moved away and started a new generation far from where their ancestors lie; the forgotten roots to the family tree. Some of these stones are slowly being covered up by weeds, dirt and grasses and will soon be gone from view. I spotted one grave marker that was so old the tree next to it was growing a wooden arm around it, a comforting friend for the years ahead. One slab stone that cracked horizontally and had grass growing between it looked like a giant’s foot print.
The inscriptions that could be read were short and simple some just a name or designation of who they were like mother, father and sadly baby. Quite a few of the tomb stones were cracked or broken lying among newer neighbors like the fire-hydrant shaped stone, obviously for the beloved family dog. A scattering of tiny purple flowers and bright yellow dandelions were growing among the graves adding a gentle warmth and color to an otherwise somber scene.
In the newer plots there were angels, cherubs, saints and gargoyles watching over and protecting all that slept beneath them. As I continued my walk and ventured further into this memorial park, I was momentarily taken aback when I first came upon a certain area below a hill. At first glance, it appeared to be a nice quiet suburban street with homes on sloping green lawns and stairs leading down to the paved street with a street lamp on the corner. Across from them on the lake shore, sat little pastel colored cottages. These homes and cottages were in fact, family crypts and mausoleums! I thought to myself, ”Wouldn’t this make an interesting and thrilling midnight walk on All Hallows Eve?”
Two pieces of architecture standing out among the mausoleums, statuary and stones are the main entrance gates, designed by Richard Upjohn. Brownstone Gothic spires flanked by two small buildings resembling a Swiss chalet and an Italian villa. And the newly renovated Chapel, designed by the same architectural firm that designed Grand Central Station, Warren & Wetmore.
Sunday’s visit only covered a fraction of this beautiful sepulcher landmark and I have plans to return in the fall and winter to complete my Green-Wood Cemetery gallery of images.
Note: In the morning as I exited the train station and walked up towards the cemetery, I stopped and took photos of an old relic of a building, the Weir Greenhouse, that happily has been purchased by Green-Wood and will soon become a visitors center. Although, it was enclosed by an impenetrable fence (darn it!) I managed to capture a few goods shots of the octagonal cupola.
Enjoy the slide show:
On a gorgeous mid Autumn morning I headed to the west side of Manhattan to revisit The High Line , the urban park created from the old elevated rail road tracks running above 10th Avenue from Grosvenor Street to 34th Street. At one time this was a bustling industrial thoroughfare, still known as the Meat Packing District. I hadn’t been there since the current extension to 34th street and I planned to do some serious urban photography.
As I walked along the newly renovated path flanked by the old wooden and steel track I was amazed at how narrow certain points along this end of the park was and felt a bit claustrophobic ambling through the tapered canyon of old factories and warehouses. This close proximity though, offered me views that I would otherwise not have had and the subject matter was mostly old industrial with just a few bits of modern New York City peeking through. This was going to be a good day.
I arrived early around 7:30am and the sun was casting dark angular shadows across the walkway and I spent a good deal of time prowling up and down the same section taking images as the sun moved across the sky lighting up areas that five or ten minutes before were in the dark. The views were spectacular for a photographer whose niche is urban industrial, filled with some of my favorite subject matter; water towers, chimney caps, steam vents, zig-zagging fire escapes, cityscapes, TV antennas and satellite dishes, construction cranes, scaffolding and enough windows to make a peeping Tom feel he had died and gone to heaven. The morning sunlight exposed the rich red crumbling textures of the bricks and corroding metals against a deep blue sky and the shadows added dimension to an otherwise flat perspective. Mixed into this were the seasonal plants and flowers planted all along the High Line giving a natural look and beauty to this unique public park.
Looking further west up the car lined streets you can see the Hudson River and a little further north a glimpse of the Palisades. Looking east, Manhattan is spread out before you with the pointed top of the Empire State Building soaring high above its skyscraper neighbors. As I walked south toward the beginning of the park I could not help taking images of the rusting metal framework of the historic White-Star Cunard lines on Pier 54 that at one time was the epicenter of travel for the rich and famous from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th. This is where the Carpathia docked with the survivors of the Titanic and where the Lusitania embarked on her ill-fated journey home to England.
When I had descended to the street I became fascinated with the jumbled old cobble stone, a remnant of the horse-drawn carriage days, on Little West 12th Street. I was nearly run over by cabs numerous times as I became fixated on a reflection and would wander out into the middle of the road eyes focused downward trying to create an abstract composition.
My stomach was beginning to growl and I knew it was time for lunch at a local cafe and then the train ride home to Queens with a camera full of photographic treasures captured from this sui generis visual playground. Enjoy this little trip back in NYC history.
My home town is New York City and I am on vacation for a few days and decided to take a tour of my favorite landmarks of this fair city.
My first stop was the observation deck on the roof of the Rockefeller Center building better known as the Top Of The Rock. Seventy floors above the sights and sounds of the greatest city in the world you have a 360 degree view of the awesome skyscrapers and bridges that make up the Manhattan skyline.
My second visit was to the Intrepid a huge World War II air craft carrier now retired and converted into the Air, Space and Sea museum. Its deck is lined with old-time WWII fighting planes and helicopters as well as the British Airways Concord. These machines are all polished and standing proud and at attention telling their stories to tourist from all over the world. A photographer’s dream; I went wild and spent the better part of a very hot summer day collecting memories to share.
My third stop was Liberty Island and the famed statue of Liberty. The ferry ride to and from Manhattan is just wonderful with views of three of NYC’s Islands: Manhattan, Ellis and Governors. The tourists including myself were just in awe of New York Harbor watching ferries, tug boats, commercial vessels, and sail boats sailing up and down the Hudson River. As we got closer and closer to the majestic Statue Of Liberty I’m sure more than one person was imaging what is was like over a hundred years ago when ships filled to capacity with people whose hearts and minds were awash with dreams of a new life in the land of opportunity.
I think the Empire State Building or a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, maybe The New York Aquarium or…..ah, decisions, decisions the life of a tourist is so hard isn’t it? Enjoy the photos and get the heck off your heinies and tour your own home town or come visit NYC. You’ll dig it trust me.
Stay in Focus,
There is nothing that is more New York City-ish or Manhattan like than Greenwich Village. I took the N train from Ditmars Boulevard in Queens to 8th Street and Broadway and started my tour through the campus of NYU and Washington Square Park. You can’t help but love the diversity, eccentricity, excitement and just plain fun of wandering the streets of this little part of Manhattan Island. Snapping street scenes in the thirty degree weather didn’t bother me as I walked along the infamous Bleecker, MacDougal and Christopher streets. Greenwich Village’s history is long, varied and rich and I hope my photos bring a some of this history into your homes and a bit of the Bohemian into your hearts. Enjoy.