View Full Version : NYC in Photos at Museum of the City of NY

October 27th, 2005, 06:09 PM
In the Mythic City, Where Beauty Is
in the Eye of the Beholding Photographer

New York Times
By RANDY KENNEDY (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=RANDY KENNEDY&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=RANDY KENNEDY&inline=nyt-per)
October 27, 2005


Museum of the City of New York

From the Museum of the City of New York's
exhibition "The Mythic City," a photograph
of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Samuel H. Gottscho was not exactly a portrait of the artist as a young man. Or, for that matter, as a middle-aged man.

Until he was 50, he was a traveling salesman of lace and embroidery, a Lomanesque figure with a sample case, paying a mortgage and supporting a family. But at an age when most people would have given up their youthful dreams, he followed his and became a full-time professional photographer.

His name is not one that trips easily off the tongue, even among photography cognoscenti. But more than three decades after his death, the meticulous, adoring pictures of New York City architecture and interiors that he took at his creative peak in the late 1920's and early 30's are finding a new audience, placing him more firmly in the ranks of the great architectural photographers of his day, like Ezra Stoller, Julius Shulman and Ken and Bill Hedrich.

Starting on Tuesday, the Museum of the City of New York, which has one of the largest archives of Gottscho's work, will show about 150 of his best city scenes in an exhibition called "The Mythic City: Photographs of New York by Samuel H. Gottscho, 1925-1940," a collective portrait of an almost fantastical, alabaster New York as it was pushing ambitiously up and out.

During his heyday, Gottscho was often grouped with the leading art photographers of the time. In 1932, his work was included in a show at the influential Julien Levy Gallery with that of Walker Evans, Berenice Abbott and Margaret Bourke-White. A year later, some of his night scenes were featured in a book that attracted more admirers, including the editor Christopher Morley, who commented that Gottscho's photos imparted "that delicious sense of sadness that beauty always does."

But Gottscho seemed to see himself more as a kind of dedicated craftsman than as an artist, someone who had found a way to make a living doing something others could enjoy only as a hobby.

Even his admirers describe him not as a great photographer but as one who latched onto a great subject at a great time, when architects like Raymond Hood, the designer of the American Radiator Building and much of Rockefeller Center, sought him out. "The architects who commissioned him found in him an extraordinarily sensitive interpreter of the work of the time," said Jeff Rosenheim, an associate photography curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a fan of Gottscho's work.

In many ways, Gottscho approached his new job the way he had his old one as a traveling salesman. He worked 14-hour days and weekends. He bragged in interviews that he and a driver logged more than 5,000 miles on the streets of the city during the Depression, when commissions declined and he began taking more self-assigned skyline and panorama shots. (When he was hired for interior portraits of well-appointed apartments, he often used the opportunity to clamber up on the roof to take skyline shots for himself.)

His advice to fellow architectural photographers would have horrified most modern artists: "Suppress your ego. Follow the client's lead. Think how best to serve him." He stepped out of these lines only when the clients themselves pushed him to be more artistically adventurous. In one instance, the promoters of a then brand-new Radio City Music Hall asked him to take "ultra dramatic pictures," resulting in low-angle, almost abstract shots that are striking but are nonetheless anomalies in his career.

This might have been one of the reasons that, by the time he died in 1971, Gottscho was little remembered for his architectural work. In fact, in an obituary in The New York Times, he was instead described as a "leading photographer of gardens and flowers, domestic and wild," an obsession that took hold of him later in his life, after World War II brought a halt to most construction in the city.

"I talked to people who knew about photos and design of the 30's, and a lot of them gave me a 'Who?' " said Donald Albrecht, a curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York, who organized the show.

Mr. Albrecht said that what struck him most in poring over the museum's 6,000 prints and contact sheets - and what prompted him to use the word "mythic" in the show's title - was Gottscho's particular talent for shooting, cropping and editing his pictures to make the buildings appear in glorious isolation. It is a kind of Woody Allen (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/a/woody_allen/index.html?inline=nyt-per) movie diorama of Manhattan, close to the real thing but also very much invented, with no evidence of the Depression or the raggedness of the city below its grandeur.

"You don't get a sense of the city changing," he said. "It's frozen, perfect, already done. And in a sense, when things changed after World War II, the city and the kind of architecture that he loved was pretty much done, too. In his pictures he's managed to preserve it."

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

November 5th, 2005, 05:52 PM
If you go to this exhibit, also see "New York Changing". It shows a photo of New York in an earlier time, then another at the same spot in 2002 or 2003. It was very interesting.

November 5th, 2005, 08:46 PM
^ Is that exhibit at Museum of City of NY also?

November 5th, 2005, 11:14 PM
It sure is, I saw it this past Monday.

September 28th, 2006, 03:13 AM
Heck, I could have done the renderings without having seen them. :) Let's see...very nice Georgian building? Musueum addition? Glass box!!! :(

How long is the exhibition on for?

October 8th, 2006, 02:02 PM
Heck, I could have done the renderings without having seen them. :) Let's see...very nice Georgian building? Musueum addition? Glass box!!! :(
More on this here: http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10851