Homage to Manhatta

Manhatta began simply by my looking out the window. While I was working in a new office on a high floor above the rooftops of surrounding buildings, the emerging morning sunlight fell on my face. The light was soft and warm. It pulled me to the window to watch the sunrise and its light reflecting on the surrounding cityscape. As I watched the view while the sun rose and light moved through the clouds, I was mesmerized.

The rediscovery of an old film by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler inspired me to watch the view every morning with anticipation. Sometimes the old, dirty windows in the office further embellished the buildings with new and ethereal qualities of light. Each day, the weather and changing seasons brought a new discovery to what I was witnessing.

Although I see the use of black-and-white still photography as a direct homage to Strand and Sheeler’s film Manhatta, one of my goals was to move beyond the film’s straight documentation of reality by using the compression of space, exposure, and the reflection of light to create an abstraction of the view. My emphasis was on the atmospheric qualities contained in light and its effect on the architectural landscape.

The city architecture is filled with windows. Windows hold a position between an inner view and an outer one. Windows can act like mirrors, scattering the reflective sunlight on the surrounding view, causing an abstract glow. Windows can also act like the aperture in a lens, allowing light to escape its source or showing a glimpse of people from high above the streets, going about their lives, oblivious to the fact that I have captured them. 

Keith Goldstein is a photographer living and working in New York City. More of his work can be seen here.

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