Category Archives: photographic

NYC encourages conversation (a photo-essay)

 

 

“The blab of the pave … the … talk of the promenaders”

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” (cataloguing the delights of the City)

 

 

 

I continuously see people on the street, in the park on sidewalk benches, in gathering places such as cafes and bars — everywhere — in pairs or larger groupings, engaged in deep conversation and repartee.

People feel less self-conscious in New York. Free to express themselves. New York encourages thought and exchange of ideas.

It’s wonderfully liberating.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   June 2019

 

 

 

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Addendum: Another thought. The fact that NYC is in large part a city in which people are on foot when they are outdoors, and not in cars, but instead are walking, or resting on benches, say; and, when they are traveling, are often on subways or buses, where conversation frequently occurs, is a facilitator of conversation and interaction.

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

42nd Street

42nd Street

 

 

 

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59th Street

 

 

 

Battery Park City

Battery Park City

 

 

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Bryant Park

Bryant Park

 

 

 

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Central Park

 

 

 

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Central Park

 

 

 

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City Hall Park

 

 

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Grand Central Oyster Bar

 

 

 

 

Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park

 

 

 

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Hudson River Park

 

 

 

Hudson River Park (3)

Hudson River Park

 

 

 

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Hudson Yards

 

 

 

Lexington Avenue

Lexington Avenue

 

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

Madison Square Park (3)

Madison Square Park

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

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Madison Square Park

 

 

 

Gregory's Coffee 7-7-2019

Ninth Avenue coffeehouse

 

 

 

Ridgewood, Queens

Ridgewood, Queens

 

 

 

P. J. Carney's 6-18-2019

Seventh Avenue Tavern

 

 

 

Soho

Soho

 

 

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Union Square Park

 

 

 

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Union Square

 

 

 

Upper West Side

Upper West Side

 

 

 

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West Side, Midtown

another Manhattan jaunt

 

 

“A City Walk-Just a list of all that is seen in a walk through the streets of Brooklyn and New York and crossing the Ferry.”

 

— Walt Whitman, idea for a poem (published in Walt Whitman: Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, Volume IV: Notes, edited by Edward F. Grier, New York University Press 1984, pg. 1292)

 

 

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On Friday, April 12, I walked from one end of Manhattan to the another — from bottom to top — and another five miles back downtown before getting tired and giving up.

The photos below were taken by me during different stages of my walk, beginning in Battery Park in the early morning, continuing to 218 Street at midday, and ending in the Columbia University neighborhood in the early evening.

I would like to make a few points about walking that have occurred to me from time to time, and which seemed to be confirmed by this long walk of between twenty and twenty-five miles.

 

 
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First, contrary to what one might expect, walking, counterintuitively, seems to decrease appetite. I had eaten very lightly the day before; I woke up hungry. I walked about three miles before having a light breakfast at around 8:30 a.m., two and a half hours after I had started.

At around five-thirty, I stopped to eat a late afternoon, early evening lunch/dinner. I felt very hungry. But I quickly got filled up and couldn’t finish.

Secondly, walking seems (as I have stated before) to be a perfect form of exercise which does not unduly tax the body while contributing to wellbeing. I have not walked as much as usual lately — this was true in the winter months. Yet, on Sunday, April 7, I walked something like fifteen or sixteen miles, and on April 12, as noted above, I walked another eight miles or so further than on my previous jaunt. I experienced little tiredness at different stages of my walk, did not need to warm up or feel the need to take breaks.

Without being an expert, I would be inclined to say that we are made for walking, evolutionarily speaking. For most of human existence, until recently, people were accustomed to walk constantly, and it is undoubtable that they walked on average a lot more than we do now.

Thirdly, I have noticed that, when I start walking frequently, my “brother body” (a term used by the sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin, apparently adopting the phrase from words of St. Francis) seems to want more and more of the same. I will wake up a day or two later feeling, I want to do that again. Today!

 

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2019

 

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

Battery Park 6-11 a.m. 4-12-2019

Battery Park, 6:11 a.m.

 

 

New York Harbor 6-39 a.m. 4-12-2019

New York Harbor viewed from Hudson River Park, 6:39 a.m.

 

 

 

Hudson River Park 8-12 a.m. 4-12-2019

Hudson River Park, 8:12 a.m.

 

 

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coffeehouse, Ninth Avenue and 44th Street, 8:51 a.m.

 

 

Broadway and 103rd St 10-55 a.m. 4-12-2019

Broadway and 103rd Street, 10:55 a.m.

 

 

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Broadway near 155th Street, 11:52 a.m.

 

 

 

Broadway near 195 St 12-48 p.m. 4-12-2019

Broadway near 195th Street, 12:48 p.m.

 

 

 

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Inwood Hill Park, 2:08 p.m.

 

 

 

 

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Inwood Hil Park, 2:23 p.m.

 

 

 

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218 Street (the last in Manhattan) and Broadway

 

 

 

 

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Broadway, Inwood, 3:15 p.m.

 

 

 

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See also my posts:

 

on walking (and exercise)

https://rogersgleanings.com/2018/02/26/on-walking-and-exercise-2/

 

Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/07/22/manhattan-island-from-bottom-to-top-walking-as-exercise/

a Sunday jaunt; Hudson Yards and the City

 

 

On Sunday, April 7, I walked from Battery Park in Manhattan to Dyckman Street (200th Street; the last Manhattan street is 218th Street). The walk took me all day. With zigzagging, I probably walked sixteen miles.

I walked uptown from Battery Park along the so-called Hudson River Park until I reached the 30’s, when I decided to take a look at the New Hudson Yards development. Hudson Yards has just opened. It was built over a railroad yard on the Far West Side.

 

 

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Hudson Yards has not been getting good press from architectural critics.
from The Washington Post:

“Architecture critics have been almost unanimous in their hatred of New York ’s new Hudson Yards development, a generic pop-up landscape of soulless glass towers and high-end retail built over the wasteland of midtown Manhattan’s west-side rail yard. Longtime New Yorkers, and transplants with taste, are inclined to agree: It’s as ugly as Dubai, it reeks of greed and mammon, and it only exacerbates the worst tendencies of a city that seems hellbent on erasing anything distinctive or humane in its built environment.”

— “The Shed is the only reason to go to Hudson Yards, New York’s most hated new development.”, By Philip Kennicott, Art and architecture critic, The Washington Post, April 3, 2019

from The New York Times:

The first massive tower emerged at the apex of the High Line, looming over it, a shingled, spiky, reflective blue-glass behemoth [The Vessel], shaped by eccentric cuts and angles, as if sheared by a giant Ginsu knife.

The largest mixed-use private real estate venture in American history. …, it is called Hudson Yards. … at jaw-dropping magnitudes you can’t begin to grasp until you are actually standing there, Hudson Yards has sprouted a seven-story, 720,000-square-foot shopping mall. There are also four more supertall skyscrapers as well as a $500 million city-sponsored arts center called the Shed.

… [The Vessel, a climbable 15-story sculpture which stands out as a defining architectural symbol/motif is] a 50-foot-high, $200 million, latticed, waste-basket-shaped stairway to nowhere, sheathed in a gaudy, copper-cladded steel. …

For its advocates, the $25 billion development is a shining new city ex nihilo, a wellspring of future tax revenues and evidence of a miraculous, post-9/11 civic volte-face. …

It is, at heart, a supersized suburban-style office park, with a shopping mall and a quasi-gated condo community targeted at the 0.1 percent.

A relic of dated 2000s thinking, nearly devoid of urban design, it declines to blend into the city grid.

It offers 14 acres of public open space in return for privatizing the last precious undeveloped parcel of significant size in Manhattan. But the open space looks like it may end up being mostly a fancy drive-through drop-off for the shopping mall, a landscaped plaza overshadowed by office towers and, for the coming western yards, a scattering of high-rise apartment buildings around a lawn — in effect, a version of a 1950s towers-in-the-park housing complex, except designed by big-name architects. … the whole site lacks any semblance of human scale. With its focus on the buildings’ shiny envelopes, on the monotony of reflective blue glass and the sheen of polished wood, brass, leather, marble and stone, Hudson Yards glorifies a kind of surface spectacle — as if the peak ambitions of city life were consuming luxury goods and enjoying a smooth, seductive, mindless materialism. …

Over all, Hudson Yards epitomizes a skin-deep view of architecture as luxury branding. Each building exists to act like a logo for itself. The assortment suggests so many crowded perfume bottles vying for attention in a department store window display.

— “Hudson Yards Is Manhattan’s Biggest, Newest, Slickest Gated Community: Is This the Neighborhood New York Deserves?” By Michael Kimmelman, Architecture critic, The New York Times, March 14, 2019

Kimmelman goes on to say, perceptively:

The obvious precedent here is Rockefeller Center, completed during the 1930s, the last comparable development in Midtown Manhattan. … [It was] an object lesson in urban design and a landmark of modern art and architecture, a development ingeniously, democratically woven into the fabric of the street grid.”

At a glance, Rockefeller Center looks unified because of all the masonry construction and Art Deco details. But the real source of its coherence is its plan. … All the parts work in harmony to create a singular place inseparable from the rest of the city.” [Raymond] Hood [Rockefeller Center’s chief architect] grasped the difference between scale and size — how a site with multiple entrances needs to be orchestrated from many angles, how architecture without urban design is just sculpture, how true art enhances the dignity of a place, and how the success of a neighborhood and its retail businesses come down to what’s happening at street level.

Hudson Yards barely acknowledges any of these things.

 

 

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The sage observations of one Roger W. Smith (while walking on Sunday):

 

Hudson Yards deserves the criticisms it’s getting. From critics who know a lot more about architecture and cityscapes than I ever will.

Its stores are for rich people and tourists. The new concert hall/arts venue (The Shed) does not look appealing or inviting.

But the place is thronged (was thronged when I went there on Sunday).

With ordinary people. Congregating, milling about. Mingling. Gawking.

Sitting on benches on a spring day.

Because it’s a place to go. In what was a storage yard for railroad cars. The number 7 subway line has been extended to go there. A new urban space has been created ex nihilo.

People like to be in the midst of other people. People hate isolation, hate to be cooped up. (Pity the poor, inhumanely and cruelly treated inmates in our prisons.) This is very true of New Yorkers.

NYC invites its apartment dwellers OUTDOORS. On a beautiful early spring day in April. Streets and thoroughfares for walkers and bicyclists everywhere. People out on Sunday. Congregating in parks seemingly everywhere. Walkers predominating and defining the streetscape (on a lazy non-business day), like you see nowhere else in America.

Many interesting looking people. Snatches of conservation overheard. Attractive young women. Attractive young couples. People sunbathing themselves on the grass. People in crowded bars and cafes, jammed with customers.

Young ladies walking dogs. Parents with kids. A father free from work for the day taking his son or daughter for a walk, presumably heading to the park, or in the park. Mothers with strollers. Kids frolicking and kicking a soccer ball in the park, with the utter abandonment characteristic of kids at a play.

New York is wonderful.

Rockefeller Center is accessible in a way that Hudson Yards isn’t. Michael Kimmelman makes an excellent point. But Hudson Yards is another place to go. New York keeps changing, sometimes not for the better, but it’s hard to destroy its vitality and appeal to common humanity, despite cement and steel.

 

– Roger W. Smith

   April 2019

 
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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

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The Vessel, Hudson Yards; an ugly, monolithic “artwork”

 

 

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Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

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Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

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Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

park at West and West 11th Streets 12-53 p.m. 4-7-2019

Hudson River Park at West and West Eleventh Streets, April 7, 2019

 

 

Rockefeller Center 4-01 p.m.-9-26-2017

Rockefeller Center on a weekday afternoon; September 26, 2017

 

pre-spring haiku

 

 

 

all over the place

water running faster than you can walk:

snowmelt

 

 
— Ella Rutledge (posted on her Facebook page, February 2019)

 

 

I wish to thank my friend Ella Rutledge for giving me permission to post her haiku on this site.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 24, 2019

 

 
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photographs of Central Park taken February 21, 2019 by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

 

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a surge of positive energy

 

 

 

 

 

Being in New York City — or, more specifically, Manhattan.

Always a surge of positive energy. A sense of exhilaration A lifting of the sprits. It’s hard to be depressed.

How does one account for it?

 

 
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I would say that it’s the following.

The concentration of people. It’s why I love cities.

The concentration of business establishments; of restaurants serving every cuisine imaginable, at a wide range of prices; of coffeehouses everywhere where you can sit musing or chatting for what seems like forever; of places of interest such as libraries, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, museums.

The parks and public gathering spots, such as public sitting areas everywhere on even the most congested avenues.

The wide sidewalks, thronged with people.

The wonderful infusion of people of all races and nationalities. The immigrants. The tourists. What they contribute and share in terms of enthusiasm and amiability.

The incredible variety of languages spoken. Heard all the time, on the street and on the subway. Music to the ears.

The access to water, to the ocean and the Hudson and East Rivers, every which way one turns.

A sense of being impervious to weather. It’s fun to walk the streets on a hot summer day when everyone is without a coat. On a winter’s day when somehow an icy chill doesn’t seem to matter. When it makes your blood tingle, and when walking the streets makes you feel warmer. And when it’s raining, the rain-slicked sidewalks often have a feeling of romantic beauty.

The City. Manhattan. The energy! The fun. The sheer excitement!

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    February 2019; updated March 2019

 

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

fifth avenue 3-20 p.m. 8-16-2018

Fifth Avenue, New York Public Library steps; August 16, 2018

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, August 31, 2018

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, December 20, 2016

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, March 18, 2019

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, February 15, 2019

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, March 2, 2019

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, February 6, 2019

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, February 17, 2017

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, April 27, 2017

 

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, June 14, 2018

 

 

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Fifth Avenue, September 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

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Sixth Avenue, November 30, 2018

 

 

 

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Rockefeller Center, September 26, 2017

 

 

 

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Central Park, May 1, 2018

 

 

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Central Park, August 20, 2017

 

 

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Union Square Park, June 12, 2017

 

 

 

 

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COMMENT

 

email from Mara Williams Oakes

February 20, 2019

Your observations on Manhattan are spot on.

Your phrasing creates a dynamic rhythm structure, complementing the pulse of the City.

the music of the spheres (linguistically speaking)

 

 
I live in the borough of Queens in New York City.

In a metropolitan area with the most ethnically diverse zip codes in the nation, and in a City where far more languages are spoken than in any other city in the world — in public; on the streets and in parks; in stores and restaurants; on buses and the subway; and so on.

To hear the variety of languages spoken in NYC is exhilarating.

I love to hear foreign languages.

Their musicality.

To hear the wonderful sonorities of Spanish being spoken. To hear Russian, and to be able to recognize it. To be able to recognize Polish, which I hear spoken very often in my neighborhood.

To guess at other languages that I hear being spoken during my peregrinations.

To me, it’s just another reason to WELCOME IMMIGRANTS. If only others — some do, but I fear, and in fact know, it’s far too few — could see this.

 

 

—  Roger W. Smith

    August 2018

 

 

 

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photos taken in Manhattan by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

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New York sunlight (and New York joys)

 

 

 

“The grass that grows by absorbing the life-giving energy of the sun becomes [in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass] a metaphor of ‘the ceaseless springing forth of life from death.’” — David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman: A Cultural Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), pg. 240

 

 

 

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My longtime friend Bill Dalzell, who for many years lived in New York City, introduced me to so many things when I first came to New York in the late 1960’s.

Among other things, Bill introduced me to cinema and art. We made several trips together to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bill, a New York transplant from a suburb of Pittsburgh, where he grew up, was — like many having adopted New York City as their home, including myself — an enthusiast of all New York had to offer. He knew all the inexpensive, interesting things to see and do in the City.

Bill used to say: “Would you care to hear me sing the praises of New York?” He used to marvel at the fact that so many people of all races and nationalities lived cheek by jowl in harmony. At the richness of culture. At the convenience of things such as getting around. At how much the City had to offer at what were then modest prices.

Admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was free. The main branch of the New York Public Library was open 365 days a year. The subway and bus fares were 20 cents. So was the Staten Island ferry, one of the fun, vivifying, and inexpensive things he enjoyed doing. (We would get off on the Staten Island side, walk around a bit, have a cup of coffee, and take the ferry back to Manhattan.) A meal of wholesome, plain food at the Automat (where Bill used to love to sit and drink coffee while lost in thought) could be had for less than a dollar. A glass of beer in a bar was 20 cents, and usually every third beer was on the house. Films cost less than two dollars. Rents were cheap. Bill paid twenty-nine dollars a month for a one-bedroom apartment on East 5th Street.

 

 

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Bill introduced me to the paintings of Edward Hopper, one of his favorite painters. (Hopper’s paintings are, for the most part, exhibited in New York museums.) Bill and I, at his suggestion, made a one-day excursion to Nyack, NY to view Hopper’s birthplace.

During our museum trips, he pointed out how Hopper made use of light.

“The light is different in America,” Bill would say. (He had traveled practically everywhere in the world on a limited budget.) By “different,” Bill meant brighter. More brilliant. Yes. Brilliant light. An observation which I do believe to be true. I have observed and thought about this often.

I have come over the years to be myself fascinated by light. Early morning light, daylight, late afternoon light. The light hitting the grass. Different shades of light and degrees of brightness. Summer light. Autumn light. Winter light.

While I would and could never aspire to be an artist — I have no innate talent and only a limited appreciation of the visual arts — I have been taking photographs in the City in parks, on the shorelines, and of houses and streets on my walks, I have posted below some photographs of mine in which an appreciation of sunlight as viewed from ground level is expressed in the photo. I am fascinated by the quality of sunlight in different seasons and at different times of the day.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   July 2018

 

 

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Addendum:

 

Some relevant information about Edward Hopper.

Most of Hopper’s figure paintings focus on the subtle interaction of human beings with their environment-–carried out with solo figures, couples, or groups. His primary emotional themes are solitude, loneliness, regret, boredom, and resignation. He expresses the emotions in various environments, including the office, in public places, in apartments, on the road, or on vacation. … In many Hopper paintings, the interaction is minimal.

The effective use of light and shadow to create mood is central to Hopper’s methods. Bright sunlight (as an emblem of insight or revelation), and the shadows it casts, also play symbolically powerful roles in Hopper paintings such as Early Sunday Morning (1930), Summertime (1943), Seven A.M. (1948), and Sun in an Empty Room (1963).

Hopper always said that his favorite thing was “painting sunlight on the side of a house.”

Although critics and viewers interpret meaning and mood in his cityscapes, Hopper insisted “I was more interested in the sunlight on the buildings and on the figures than any symbolism.” As if to prove the point, his late painting Sun in an Empty Room (1963) is a pure study of sunlight.

 

“Edward Hopper,” Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hopper

 

It should be noted that the American landscape painter Winslow Homer did similar things with sunlight in his remarkable paintings.

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

1 - Woodside, Queens

Woodside, Queens

 

 

2 - Murray Hill

Murray Hill

 

 

3- Madison Square Park

Madison Square Park

 

 

Madison Square Park 2-23 p.m. 7-27-2018

Madison Square Park

 

 

4 - Central Park

Central Park

 

 

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Central Park

 

 

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Central Park

 

 

5 - Riverside Park

Riverside Park

 

 

6 - Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park

 

 

7 - Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park

 

 

 

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Isham Park, Indwood

 

 

All of these photos were taken in New York City.

 

 

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Posted here below are some famous paintings of Edward Hopper that show his preoccupation with light and his mastery of representing it visually.

 

 

1-hopper-early-sunday2 - Cape Cod3 - stoop, summertime4- Cape Cod evening5- seven am6 - house by sea

 

 

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Edward Hopper’s birthplace

 

 

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Edward Hopper birthplace, Nyack, NY