Friday, December 21, 2012

A Fresh View of Prometheus

A Fresh Perspective on Prometheus, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

Millions of people photograph New York’s Rockefeller Center every year. They’re drawn to the sunken plaza, the fountain, the magnificent Art Deco GE Building with its Diego Rivera frescos and the Radio City Music Hall.
For me the appeal has always been the gilded statue of Prometheus by Paul Manship that faces out over the sunken plaza. Prometheus, by the way, is a bit of a trickster from Greek mythology, known both for his conniving ways, his creation of man from clay, his theft of fire for human use, his championing of animal sacrifice and for his intelligence. He is also, if other stories from mythology are to be believed, a survivor.
I’m not sure which of these traits endeared him to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who developed Rockefeller center. Maybe he liked the connection between Prometheus giving fire to mankind and Rockefeller’s roots in oil. Whatever the case, there Prometheus is, out in front in all his golden glory.
There are several traditional positions for photographing Prometheus.  One is from the staircase across the plaza. The shot there includes the sunken plaza, the statue and 30 Rock in the background. Here’s an example. The problem with using this perspective is that Prometheus is almost always a small background element in the photograph.
A more interesting perspective is from the street level plaza directly behind and over the shoulder of Prometheus.

Prometheus, Over the Shoulders, 2003

On a recent trip to New York I had a few minutes to try to do something different. I’ve taken enough “expected” pictures of the area to last a lifetime. But there I was. So I might as well see what I could do. 
Something “new” turned out to be making my photograph of Prometheus from something other than the usual perspectives. In this case, I used the statue Mankind Figure of Maiden, also by Paul Manship, as my foreground element.  My favorite is the one shown at the top of this post. It's my favorite because it features the Maiden, a piece of art that's been moved around the plaza and tried in various places before finding it's current placement. Another shot using the Maiden as a foreground feature is shown below.
Prometheus Through the Maiden, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bury My Heart in the Choir Loft

Church Window, Troutville, Virginia, 2012

My mother-in-law died two weeks ago, the victim—like my recently deceased brother-in-law—of a rapidly moving disease diagnosed so late in its advance that nothing could be done to slow it. The good thing, as people are wont to observe at such occasions, is that although death came far sooner than expected, her suffering was thankfully brief.

Family and friends gathered this past Saturday at a small country church in the hills of southwest Virginia to celebrate my mother-in-law’s life. The sanctuary was packed. Tears and laughter punctuated the service. Like us all, my mother-in-law had her vanities and faults. But her life was defined more by her liveliness, her love of family, her dedication to her faith, her enjoyment of singing and her constant concern for the needs of others. 

My mother-in-law was still a young woman when her first husband, the father of her four children and a Methodist minister, died young. Late in life she was reunited with a high school beau, himself a widower, who for thirteen years brought her much happiness and love and who is today lost without her. 

It was bright and sunny as Saturday’s service began. From my position in the front pew I noticed over the shoulder of the minister the silhouette of a tree against one of the painted windows. As the tree swayed in the breeze outside, its shadow danced back and forth across the window, a reminder of a vital life and a reminder, too, of my mother-in-law’s love of dancing. 
Trinity Church of the Brethren, Troutville, Virginia, 2012

Despite the seriousness of the proceedings, the photographer in me wanted to capture a photograph of the shadow’s play on the window. I even toyed for a moment with using the cell phone camera in my pocket to quietly capture the moment. But of course that wouldn’t have been right (though I’m sure my mother-in-law would have told me, “Go ahead, Sugar, it is beautiful, isn’t it?”).  But I didn’t, and merely said my own silent prayer that the sun would stay out long enough for me to take a picture after the service was over.

That didn’t happen. So many people came forward to share memories of my mother-in-law that by the time the minister and the congregation said their final prayers the sunny sky had turned cloudy and the dancing shadows gradually faded as the family was escorted from the sanctuary. By the time I got back in the sky was gray and the window was wiped clean of shadows. 

It would be easy to see the fading of those dancing shadows as a metaphor for the end of my mother-in-law’s life. But as several of the speakers noted, there’s a bit of her dance in all of us who knew her.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two on the Aisle

Nails, 2012
(Click on images to enlarge)

In just three days last week I took six flights. There aren’t many places you can fly directly from where I live unless your destination is a hub airport or, say, Orlando or Las Vegas. Around here you get used to connecting flights and look upon any time you can fly directly to your destination as a gift from the gods, a heavenly nod of appreciation for all the times you missed your connecting flights in Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Washington or New York.
I started last week’s airline travel as I frequently do, with a stack of magazines and photocopies of things I’d been meaning to read but just hadn’t gotten to yet. Two or three reasonably uninterrupted hours on a plane can be a godsend when it comes to catching up on your reading. If I play my cards right, I actually jettison carry-on weight as the trip progresses, leaving behind newspapers and copies of The New Yorker, The Economist, The Nation, Fast Company and other periodicals for others to read.
If I’m going to have even a little while to take pictures when I’m traveling for business I’ll bring along a “real” camera. But on this trip last week I wasn’t going to be in any of my destination cities for as long as twenty-four hours, and most of my waking time would be spent with clients. Except for the aforementioned reading materials, I was traveling light, my only camera being the one in my phone.
So it was with some disappointment that I didn’t have a better camera when I noticed that the woman sitting across the aisle from my on my first flight of the first day had such fancy fingernails that I simply couldn’t let them go unphotographed.
Not that they’re great art. Once ladies stopped using red fingernail polish I stopped paying much attention to fingernails. But these were too ornate and bejeweled to overlook. So as soon as we’d gotten settled into our seats and it was decent to look around and establish eye contact I admired the lady’s fingernails and asked if I could photograph them.
It turns out this lady works with autistic children at a school in rural California. I asked if her nails sometimes hurt the children she works with, especially since some autistic children can be quite active, curious and unpredictable. She assured me without a bit of hesitation that her nails are not dangerous or, at least, “…not after the edges have been worn down some.”
Later on I noticed the couple below. At first I thought the lady might be scared of flying and that the man was comforting her. Then, when he didn’t take his arm from around her, I concluded that he either thought that if he removed his arm she might float away or, more likely, that they are two lovebirds scared of being separated.
Love and Support, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

What is Hip?

 The Hip Room, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

When I travel for work I tend to stay in hotels designed for business travelers who aren’t trying to break their clients’ travel budgets. This means I value cleanliness, comfort, a congenial staff and good wi-fi and don’t go to many places that have swim-up bars.
Over the last year, though, circumstances have landed me in hipper hotels than usual. Many are older hotels that went “boutique” (which used to be referred to as “European” until the designers got hold of the concept and repositioned it as young, urbane and hip).
I don’t have anything against boutique hotels. Some are quite charming and strike a good balance between authentic hip—e.g. young, urbane and edgy design—without completely losing sight of the concepts of comfort, customer service and basic ergonomic practicality. The Mercer, in New York, is extremely hip, but hasn’t lost sight of why people stay in hotels. The Shangri-La, in Santa Monica, manages to combine comfortable and stylish rooms and attentive customer service in a carefully updated Art Deco building overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Despite a name that conjures up images of illicit Hollywood affairs—and any number are said to have taken place there—I could stay at the Shangri La for a while and be quite happy and comfortable.
At the other end of the spectrum, regular readers may remember how I was told, when I complained to thedesk clerk at one of New York’s Gansevoort hotels that the sink didn’t have a stopper, “The designer didn’t like they way they look.”
The Soho Grand, too, is famous for hiring models to do hotel jobs. They don’t care whether the models have any qualification to do the jobs for which they’re being hired. What’s important is that they look good and impart a stylishly insouciant attitude.
I can live with all of these attitudes. You expect it in style-centric cities. Besides, attractive models aren’t hard on the eyes when you’ve been stuffed into a window seat in Row 56 for a few hours on a plane.
What bugs me, though, is the proliferation of self-styled “boutique” hotels that have sprouted around the edges of airports and interstate highway interchanges. I stayed in a place like that last week in Dallas. It was built to resemble an old warehouse. The interior floors are polished concrete. The walls are rough concrete. All of the infrastructure—plumbing, wiring and HVAC—is exposed. The furniture is so tragically fashion forward that it’ll be stylish for all of a week. 

NyLo Dining, 2012

But as far as being hip is concerned, it’s a fake. The “warehouse” is three years old. The wall panels in the elevator that are supposed to look like a stainless steel-lined freight elevator are instead made of plastic. My guest room was barely ten feet wide and the bed’s headboard was so hard against the typical and decidedly overworked suburban motel-style heating and cooling unit—a device with such a bad compressor that it groaned like a dying buffalo—that I barely got any sleep.
The place I stayed makes no concession to urban life. It’s surrounded by a big suburban parking lot, for crying out loud! How modern and hip is that?
Sometimes I think I’m getting too old for this s--t. But I’m never too old to hear Tower of Power’s mighty hit, “What is Hip?”

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Dearth of Chipmunk Talk

 Helium Shortage, 2012

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

In case you’ve been wondering why there don’t seem to be as many people walking around talking like chipmunks lately, I have it on good authority—or at least the authority of the young man shown here, and who am I to question him?—that there’s a shortage of helium gas.
I saw a television show recently about how helium is used by people who commit suicide rather than endure the horrible pain and suffering of certain terminal diseases. Apparently, their helium tanks are petite and pink and as close as the local party supply store.
But that must be different helium than the kind used for these big balloons. If I’d paid more attention in chemistry class I might understand the difference. But my knowledge of helium goes no deeper than a single helium element on the Periodic Chart. (“He,” if I recall correctly.)
Whatever kind it is, it took about thirty of these cylindrical tanks of it to fill the half dozen or so balloons shown. When I asked the guy in charge whether they ever take a quick huff of the gas to play with silly chipmunk voices, he answered seriously that the shortage of helium is so severe that they can’t waste precious gas on such frivolity and that, in fact, he was thinking about complaining to the company that supplied these tanks because he was convinced they weren’t filled to the capacity for which he’d paid.
I guess working around helium is like when my wife worked in a bakery during college. At first, all that sugar and icing seemed so enticing. But after a few days it was just so much colored sludge.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Like Harvesting a Crop

The Black &White Christmas Taxi, 2012

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

My illustrator friend Walt and I went out the other afternoon to photograph people who were assembling to take part in a holiday parade. Walt takes pictures to serve as references for his illustrations. I’m just out for the pictures.
To be honest, we didn’t really have any great interest in the parade itself. For photographers and illustrators, the real fun is in mingling with parade participants while they’re waiting for the parade to start. They’re in an expectant mood, alternately doing last–minute and costume checks, practicing whatever it is they’ll do in the parade—dancing, playing an instrument, strutting, etc.—talking with their friends, checking out the other parade participants and taking a few moments for some quiet.
Virginia Beach’s “Holiday” parade relies entirely on groups in the community and a few corporate sponsors to make up the parade. For example, the first group in the parade was a bunch of ladies in various holiday-themed costumes walking their dogs. There are no miles of aging Shriners wearing fezzes and no cheesy themes like the Neptune Festival. It’s pure holiday, no matter how you celebrate them. (Unlike those who rage hysterically about the “war on Christmas,” no one seemed offended by this multi-cultural gesture by the City of Virginia Beach. Anyone who wanted to take part could and any anyone who did could express their holiday cheer in whatever fashion they liked.)
The parade was scheduled to begin just after sunset. Given the quickly changing light in these days leading up to the shortest day of the year, I wanted to work on my flash photography skills some.
Walt and I wandered up and down Atlantic Avenue for an hour or so before the parade started and left no long after it started. On the way back home, Walt said something that I’m sure many of us think after we’d been out to shoot pictures, sketch, paint or do whatever it is we do. He said, “I can’t wait to get home and see what I’ve taken out here today.”
We photographers used to say, “I can’t wait to get my film back” or, if we had our own darkrooms, “I can’t wait to process today’s film.” These days, of course, it’s all digital. The gratification is far more immediate.
Still, there’s a gap of anticipation. Whatever your mode of capturing moments, looking at the results of time spent out making photographs is like harvesting a new crop of opportunities. And there’s a lot of joy in that.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Closing the Loop

Nantucket Avenue, Oak Bluffs, 2008

I was a holiday print sale and party the other night at photographer Glen McClure’s studio. One of the photographs on the wall of the studio shows a beautiful young woman in a marching band in Ireland. I can’t remember whether the picture was taken on St. Patrick’s Day, or not.  Whatever the event, the band was dressed in its finest ceremonial gear. Just looking at the picture you can imagine the cacophony of marching column of buzzing fifes, moaning bagpipes and rat-a-tat drums.  
The tradition, as told to Glen, is that the band starts beating its drums at first light and marches from village to village over the course of the day, picking up other bands and players in each place. Villagers ply the musicians with food and drink.
But that’s not the story here. What’s relevant is that Glen so liked this particular portrait that on a subsequent trip to Ireland he returned to the town where he’d taken it and tried to find the girl so that he could give her a copy of the photo. She was out of the country. But as luck would have it, the local pub keeper knew the woman’s family and said he’d get the photo to them.
Several months later, after he’d returned to the United States, Glen got an e-mail from the young lady. She was tickled to have such a fine portrait of herself and beside herself with appreciation that Glen had gone to the trouble of bringing a print back to Ireland for her.
Those of us who share photographs online have this kind of thing happen from time to time. We know what it is to connect with someone and give them the gift of a nice photo of themselves or their home or some other subject that has personal meaning to them.
Over the years, a few of the people I’ve photographed have found me and I’ve been able to share copies of photos with them. This happens a lot, too, with homes and farms and such. A photograph of a farmhouse I took out on the prairie near Beatrice, Nebraska, elicited all sorts of comments from Nebraskans who knew the house—one person drives past it every day on her way to and from work—and the family that owns it.   
On another occasion I was contacted by someone whose best friend owns a summer home I’d photographed at Thousand Island Park, a summer community along the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. We arranged for a print to be framed for the homeowner’s 70th birthday party.
Just recently I got a phone call from a man who lives on the lower end of Cape Cod. It turns out I’ve photographed his family’s iconic summer home at Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, several times through the years. (It's the house shown above.) He’d seen one of my photos of the house in a magazine and tracked me down to get a copy of the print.
Sharing photographs like this doesn’t earn you any money. But the joy and pleasure it brings are worth far more than money.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Talk on the Hill

Thanksgiving, 2012

It seems to be our lot in life at the moment to be in a vortex of death and dying. None of it is wholly unexpected. Most of the people involved have had long and full loves. Still, the confluence of so many loved ones on watch at the same time—a perverse bit of natural economy, if you ask me—is a test of one’s fortitude.
When families are separated by hundreds of miles, it can be tough to have frank discussions about the kinds of things families have to talk about in such circumstances. Besides, nobody wants to have these “final” discussions, as if they’re an admission of the mortality of people who’ve been such constants in your life, and whose personalities, appearances and genetic markers explain so much of why you’re you.
All of my wife’s siblings, their spouses, all but one of their children and a favorite aunt and uncle gathered in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia last week to share Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law and her husband, both of whom are in the final stages of terminal diseases.
It was a wonderful gathering. Since everyone was traveling some distance to be there, a local supermarket prepared the food. Outside of a few traditional dishes that no one in the family was willing to go without, preparation consisted mostly of heating things up. It was likely the first Thanksgiving meal since her childhood that my mother-in-law did not have a big part in preparing. This bothered her at first, but she soon settled down to enjoy the pleasure of spending time with her grandchildren while her children did all the heavy lifting.
After dinner there was a furious bit of dishwashing and cleaning up before the ritual turning on of the television to watch football.  Those of us who don’t follow football closely decided to go out and take a walk. My mother-in-law lives on a foothill opposite Tinker Mountain. It’s a beautiful site and it was a warm and clear day.
After a while some of the walkers decided to take a break and sit in the sun. There was small talk at first, punctuated by the kind of laughter than comes from recalling both poignant and embarrassing moments in family history. But conversation eventually turned to the serious matters at hand. Decisions and plans were made. Responsibilities were divvied up.
Eventually the sun dropped behind the mountain and everyone wandered back up to the house for dessert.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Belle Bereft

Belle, 2012

When my brother-in-law passed away recently, he was mourned not only by family, but by an extended community of contemporary friends, friends dating back to his childhood and thirty-four years’ worth of former students and colleagues whose lives he’d influenced as a high school teacher, coach, mentor and class advisor.
One grieving companion, though, who might have easily been overlooked in the crush of events following his death was his dog Belle.
My sister and brother-in-law had celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary not long before his death. They always had at least one dog in the house, so many of them altogether that I can’t remember all their names. Many were beagles that served as both hunting dogs and family pets to my sister, her husband and their three children.
Belle, though, has been a bit of a skittish dog, prone to excessive excitement and the occasional snip at visitors to the house. For reasons I can’t remember now she was excused early in life from hunting. But she remained attached to and protective of my brother-in-law. As his condition worsened, she stayed at his feet or, when he could bear it, crawled into bed with him.
Because of her unpredictable proclivity for nipping at people, Belle was often sent to stay with another family when my sister and her husband entertained or hosted occasions when large groups of people were at their house. However, when family and friends gathered last week to remember my brother-in-law, Belle stayed home, grieving along with everyone else.
When I walked into the house and reached down to pet her—something I do instinctively with most pets, but only tentatively with Belle—rather than barking and snapping at me she nuzzled against my leg and whimpered as I rubbed her soft ears.
Part of the process of getting over the death of someone close is getting past the stage where you walk into a room and still expect to find that person sitting in his or her usual place. For much of last weekend Belle sat faithfully by the couch where my brother-in-law spent a lot of his last months, keeping watch should he return and need her companionship.
When loved ones die, it’s common for someone to invoke that familiar phrase from the Book of Matthew: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Those words certainly fit my brother-in-law.  
They also fit Belle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Thanks

The Fall View, 2006
(Originally posted 11/23/11)
Isn’t it interesting how over the last several years Thanksgiving has picked up a little additional energy? People who used to reserve their appreciations and best wishes for the new year for sharing at Christmas, Hanukkah or on January 31st now send their sincerest greetings at Thanksgiving.
I like this. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It doesn’t have the baggage of Christmas and Easter. It's not a birthday. You don’t have to worry about stepping on anyone’s religious rituals. In some families you might have to monitor the booze and stifle smoldering domestic tensions. But so far as gift giving is concerned, the only gift is the giving of yourself, and what could be cheaper and yet bigger than the fellowship that comes from that? All in all, arguably the most anxiety-free of the holidays.
Well, maybe a little anxiety. Thanksgiving 1963 marked my debut as a boy soprano. I stood up in front of the congregation of the First Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Virginia, and sang “We Gather Together.” I don't remember much about it other than that both of my parents were there, that both encouraged me to just relax and go with the music—they were both  accomplished singers—and both claimed afterwards that I'd done a good job.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;He chastens and hastens His will to make known;The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Every now and then I come across someone who doesn’t have it in them to be thankful. Such people are easy to dislike, but more often than not I end up feeling sorry for them. Maybe I’m just a sucker. I’m reading a book about the elements of happiness, from which I’m learning that one of the most important elements of happiness, regardless of the nation or culture, is the sense of being connected to other people. In my experience, people who can’t be thankful tend to be socially isolated.  I suppose this could be one of those chicken-and-egg quandaries: are people without thankfulness that way because of isolation or are they isolated because they are so without the capacity for thankfulness?
All I know is that I have much to be thankful for in my life. That includes being sincerely thankful for my friends, including those of you who follow What I Saw. I wish you all a wonderful day of thanksgiving. Whether you celebrate as we do in the United States or as it’s celebrated in Canada on a different day or whether it’s not even on the calendar where you live, I appreciate you and the richness you bring to my life.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rime Time

Rime Time, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

How in the world could a guy who grew up by the ocean be expected to know what rime is? I don’t even think the word was mentioned in any science class I took. To be honest, though, science and I weren’t on the best terms. Still, I think I’d remember a word like that.
While we’re at it, virga’s another term they didn’t mention when I was in school, but which apparently became part of the curriculum when my daughter was in middle school. It refers to rain that starts to fall from clouds, but evaporates before it hits the ground. (I swear, sometimes I think they make this stuff up. If it evaporates before it hits you on the head how in the world are you going to know it’s even happening?)
The jury might still be out on virga. But I’m here to tell you that rime is for real.
Yesterday morning my wife and I were driving down the Genesee Expressway in upstate New York. It’s a beautiful highway that hugs the sides of mountains for much of its length. One moment you might be looking over the edge of a deep ravine. The next your eyes will be looking across a wide valley and up to a five mile-long line of giant wind turbines atop an opposite ridge, their blades looking like pinwheels dancing across the tops of mountains.
We’d just come down a few hundred feet in elevation near the town of Avoca, where I noticed off in the distance what looked like the proverbial “winter wonderland.” The trees and the ground were covered with what looked like snow. Only it wasn’t snow. It shined like ice. But it wasn’t ice in the usual ice storm way.
My quick thinking wife, who apparently paid more attention in school, immediately speculated that what we were witnessing was rime, which if you were asleep in Earth Science as I must have been, is “an accumulation of granular ice tufts on the windward sides of exposed objects that is formed from supercooled fog or cloud.” (It's also known as hoarfrost.)
Yep, that’s what it was, for sure. Click on the picture below and you’ll see how this wasn’t just rain that had frozen. It didn’t coat the branches of the tree so much as stand on them like whiskers. The strands looked almost like something you’d see in a photograph taken by one of those fancy microscopes that make items from everyday life look like something you'd immediately want to wash or at least douse with Purell. 
Rime, 2012

This sighting being near the beginning of an eleven-hour drive, I didn’t prevail upon my wife to let me stop and photograph the scene at Avoca. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was thrilling. When we drove through the town of Bath a few minutes later, the entire town was covered in rime and indeed shrouded in a “supercooled fog or cloud.”
We did pause at a rest stop a little further down the road, during which time I had a moment to grab the camera and take these pictures for you.
You just never know what you’ll learn here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Regaining Sight

A Moment on the Porch on Sunday, 2012
(Click on image to see larger)

I want to believe I’m coming out of a dry spell, photographically speaking. There've been serious distractions lately, most of them the kinds of low points we all experience from time to time. Still, they’ve kept me from being as observant as I’d like to be.
I’ve learned over the years that although there are things one can do to combat dry spells, sometimes the better choice is to recognize that these may be the times when our brains are catching their breath, recharging and making space for new ideas and, if that’s the case, give them some space.
I’ve also learned, though, that putting down the camera for too long allows muscles and mind to atrophy. Many times when I go out to explore and take pictures I find it useful to fire off a lot of stupid frames right off the bat. The pictures are throwaways.  But the process of mindfully looking around, holding the camera up and releasing the shutter is my way of telling my brain that it’s time to get in gear.
When I’m looking to break out of one of these spells I'm reminded of an observation attributed to the late photographer Ruth Bernhard:
“If you can’t find anything worthy to shoot within forty feet of where you stand, you’re not looking.”
To wit: the other afternoon I was taking advantage of an unseasonably warm fall afternoon and the fact that I was sore from having taken down, cut up and moved two large trees the day before to catch up on some reading on the back porch. Normally our porch is full of colorful pieces of glass, rocks and other things that provide interesting light, reflections and textures. But because we'd packed all that stuff away during our recent storm prep there were just a few things left out.
One of them was a little red glass container with a clear glass stopper in the shape of a fish. I happened to look up at one point and notice the scene shown above. It lasted just long enough for me to catch this picture with my iPad camera. Seconds after I snapped the picture the light changed and the moment was history.    
I don’t know if this picture broke the dry spell. But it did cause a little stirring in a part of my brain that might have been dozing lately.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cathedrals of Commerce

Monticello Arcade East Lobby, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

Three years ago I wrote about my love affair with theMonticello Arcade, in Norfolk, Virginia.
I like to visit the Arcade when I’m downtown. It’s smaller and less ornate than the great gallerias of Milan and Naples. But it’s still a grand public place precisely because of its relative intimacy compared to those magnificent cathedrals of commerce.  
There are a few places like the Monticello Arcade left in the United States. Cleveland has one. Providence, Rhode Island, too. Because of their age and because they were built before the automobile became the dominant form of transportation, arcades like these do not have the cache of modern office building, what with their covered parking, gyms and faceted windows. But for smaller businesses—the Monticello is occupied mostly by law firms and shipping agents—these old arcades are wonderful space.  
 Monticello Arcade East Detail, 2012

During the daytime the Monticello Arcade has a wonderful light. Many of the offices on the upper floors make heavy use of incandescent light, which give the atrium a wonderful warm glow.
Through the years I’ve photographed the Monticello Arcade with different cameras and lenses and in color and black-and-white. When I was there the other day there was scaffolding in the atrium, so I didn’t take pictures than show the whole space. Because I was concentrating on making images that give the viewer an impression of both the detail, style and lines of the structure, it also seemed appropriate to process these photographs in black-and-white rather than have their composition distracted by color.  

Monticello Arcade Railing, 2012