Revealed: Photographer’s Highlights of a Decade
Let’s face it; The New York Public Library has great stuff. Its vast and exceptional collection inspires and draws many into its doors and to nypl.org. I recently overheard a patron say, "This is not just a library… it’s a repository for civilization."
Over the course of my time at the NYPL, I have been responsible for delivering high-quality reproductions of material from its world-renowned collection for Premium Services clients around the world.
Initially hired as a freelance photographer in 2000, while earning my Master of Fine Arts degree at Pratt Institute, since 2003 I’ve been Head Photographer. Within the past decade, Premium Services has gone from sending large format film out to the lab for processing and printing to a fully digital workflow capable of delivering files within several hours. Since March of 2010, the Digital Imaging Unit has been in its new home at the Library Services Center, in Long Island City, Queens - which now boasts a top notch studio that rivals many other libraries and museums. We also have our smaller satellite studio at the main research library, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
I help co-manage and supervise the DIU team of photographers/technicians, work directly with curators and clients, manage day-to-day operations, and oversee off-site scanning projects at both the Schomburg Center and the Library for the Performing Arts, while meeting turnaround times and maintaining quality control of all photographic and digital reproductions, and assuring that Library archival standards are met.
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of handling, photographing and taking in a multitude of rare and priceless materials. From etchings and drawings by Rembrandt and Salvador Dali to silver gelatin prints by Walker Evans and Lewis Wickes Hine; from humor and satire of the contemporary social and political scene in the pages of Punch, Puck and Judge to the influential scene of the Beat Generation…I've been able to experience many moments in history.
Here are just a few of the highlights:
Carrying out the photography of Gilbert Stuart's paintings of George Washington involved the pleasure of working with art handling company, Marshall Fine Arts and their crew of five seasoned pros; they worked like a well-oiled machine when moving the paintings from their walls to the A-frame easel for photography. It was quite the production and went extremely smoothly. The reproductions were made with a 4x5 view camera and strobe lighting.
This painting wasn’t required to be removed from the wall and was photographed with a 4x5 view camera, using tungsten lighting with polarizing gels and lens filter. It can be admired in person in the Salomon Room of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
The meticulously painted scenes of the Tale of Genji, a Japanese narrative handscroll of the mid 17th century, has such an exceptional level of detail, it's difficult to fully appreciate without seeing them in person. It was an honor and a pleasure to photograph.
John Cage scores and illustrations with instructions and timing of how to play.
Seeing this Josef Albers portfolio, “Formulation : Articulation,” brings up fond memories of the ‘Phenomena of Color’ course I took while in undergrad at Maryland Institute College of Art…and the love/hate relationship so many had with Color-aid. Loved that course and the revealing aspects of the relationship and placement of color.
Berenice Abbott was known widely for her Changing New York series, which spanned the 1930s and was later supported by the Federal Art Project. Seeing images like "Birds wing" gives greater insight into her work as a photographer and her interest in science.
In February of 1940, the magazine Popular Photography asked Berenice Abbott to name her "favorite picture." Her response:
"Suppose we took a thousand negatives and made a gigantic montage: a myriad-faceted picture containing the elegances, the squalor, the curiosities, the monuments, the sad faces, the triumphant faces, the power, the irony, the strength, the decay, the past, the present, the future of a city—that would be my favorite picture." (Popular Photography, February 1940)
Versos of photographs and such, something the everyday viewer doesn’t often have the opportunity to see.
Read about and view other versos which Photography Specialist, David Lowe, recently featured in his NYPL blog entry for The Huffington Post, 'Verso: Looking Behind the Picture'.
Edward Hopper's earlier works and etchings from 1921, rendering his strong attention to geometric balance, his interest in urban American life, and his often isolated subjects within their environments.
The ability to walk from the studio to the various exhibitions, programs and lectures within the Stephen A. Schwarzman building, has been phenomenal too!
- LIVE from the NYPL - Blind Spot: Collapsing Images - Part III: Truth and Authenticity in Photograph
- Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City An exhibition of photographic projects by five New York-based photographers: Thomas Holton, Bettina Johae, Reiner Leist, Zoe Leonard, Ethan Levitas and Glenn Ligon.
- Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road The exhibition explored the life and career of Jack Kerouac and gave a rare glimpse into his mind. Upon entering the exhibit, one was met with a long section of famous scroll of On the Road, various fabricated highway signs throughout, and treasured objects belonging to Kerouac. It was an extremely engaging exhibition design.
- The NYPL’s Architectural Explorations in Books Presents: The Urban Sublime. A conversation with photographer Joel Meyerowitz and Lesley A. Martin, publisher of the Aperture Foundation’s book-publishing program, on the occasion of the recent publication of Meyerowitz’s latest book project: Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks. (more info here)
- Making the Scene: The Midtown Y Photography Gallery, 1972-1996
- Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at The New York Public Library
Publish Your Photography Book Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson demystify the process of producing and publishing a book of photographs.
This is the start to regularly featuring some of the noteworthy digitization projects and materials we’ve worked on, from patron driven requests and grant funded projects, to upcoming exhibition materials. I’ll be highlighting some of the behind-the-scenes production and what's involved in reproducing certain rare and fragile materials, and some items of interest to me as an artist. Stay tuned!
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