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

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