Welcome to the blog for Thomas Parry Photography. My purpose is to inform the public about photographic projects I have recently completed as well as those in progress and planned for the future. I will periodically post articles about different aspects of photographing nature, people and places. As I work with new hardware and software tools, I will pass along lessons learned that may aid other photographers. I will periodically write reviews about photographic equipment with which I have experience and books I read that may be helpful to others. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and return frequently. I invite your thoughts, good ideas, opinions and feedback.
Category: Cityscape Photography
| 09 December, 2013 06:41
Thomas S. Parry
The Hugo Hotel is an abandoned tenement building designed by Theo W. Lenzen located on the corner of Sixth and Howard Streets in San Francisco’s South of Market District. The hotel is the site for the “Defenestration” sculptural mural installation created in 1997 by artist Brian Goggin with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The oldest hotel on Sixth and Howard Streets, the Hugo has been vacant since a fire burned out several rooms in 1987. The unreinforced masonry building also suffered structural damage in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In 1997, a group of artists led by Brian Goggin transformed the Hugo into an immense sculptural mural called "Defenestration." Scavenged furniture and appliances were modified by the artists to make them appear animate and then cleverly affixed them to the outside walls of the building. It appears as if tables and chairs are leaping out from the windows or falling from the roof and running across the walls. Lamps are corkscrewed from some windows and sofas, refrigerators, bathtubs, even a grandfather clock are all visibly appearing to cast themselves out the windows. There is even a television set situated on the precipice of the roof poised to come crashing to the ground. Originally intended to be a short-term exhibition of about two years, the furniture has remained there to this day, still appearing to leap and run about and squirm through the windows. Untold thousands of photographs have been taken of the Hugo and its famous “falling” furniture. It is a designated sightseeing stop in the city. It is also very much represents a “housing crisis” turned into public art.
Per artist Brian Goggin, "the concept of 'defenestration,' a word literally meaning 'to throw out of a window,' is embodied by both the site and staging of this installation." The Sixth and Howard Street location in the South of Market District is part of a neighborhood that historically has faced tough economic challenges and has often endured the stigma of “skid row” status. It is also at the heart of the area that was the hardest hit in terms of loss of life in San Francisco's devastating 1906 earthquake. In the early 20th century, the South of Market area was the most densely populated part of the city outside of Chinatown. It was home to thousands of working-class and poor people, many of them immigrants and transients. Sixth Street was lined with cheap hotels and boarding houses. Most of them were two- or three-story wooden structures, but many corner lots featured five-story rooming houses that could contain as many as 300 small rooms.
The total number of those killed near Sixth and Howard in the earthquake will never be known, but it has been estimated to be 500 or more. Eyewitnesses at the time report that 150 to 300 people died inside adjacent structures. Whatever the final toll, Sixth and Howard was the place where the most people died during the earthquake and fire. And the permanently falling furniture that adorns the Hugo Hotel is a grimly appropriate reminder of that horror.
Reflecting the harsh experience of many members of this community, the furniture is literally off the streets, thrown out and unappreciated. Goggin points out that "the simple, unpretentious beauty and humanity of these downtrodden objects is reawakened through the action of the piece. The act of 'throwing out' becomes an uplifting gesture of release, inviting reflection on the spirit of the people we live with, the objects we encounter, and the places in which we live."
"Defenestration" has now endured for sixteen years, although most of the original sideshow-themed paintings have disappeared beneath constantly-changing murals of polychrome street art. As a work of conceptual art, the Hugo Hotel is universally appealing and is well-liked. But there is a very human side to the story. It is not generally understood that the Hugo remained empty for over twenty years because its owners cared more about profits than people. They refused to repair and maintain the building as it was intended to provide low income housing. And they were unable to sell it because their asking price vastly exceeded the building’s actual market value. Their flagrant lack of concern for people in need reflects an attitude that for years has been tacitly encouraged by the policies of local government. After nearly a decade in which the city haggled with the owners concerning the disposition of the Hugo, the city announced that it planned to seize the building by eminent domain to demolish it in favor of developing affordable housing in the area. This is the root of the controversy over the Hugo and why it is viewed as a housing crisis turned into public art.
I visited and photographed the Hugo Hotel and defenestration exhibit twice in the month of August as part of my San Francisco documentary project. My first visit allowed me to photograph the structure in morning light and I captured a combination of wide angle shots of the building and telephoto/close-up shots of the furniture and the polychrome murals surrounding the street level of the structure. The second visit was at the end of the day one week later to capture wide-angle views in the warmth of late afternoon. Some of the images accompanying this article were post-processed in black and white and accentuate the furniture in color. This is purely my own interpretive approach to this very unusual and unique display of public art.
Homeless people, a common sight in the South of Market District, frequent the corner of Sixth and Howard at most times of the day.
A sampling of the many "street-level" polychrome murals surrounding the Hugo.
Interpretive (color, b&w and b&w/color combination) fine art pigment prints are available for more than thirty-five views of this fascinating structure in a variety of sizes through Thomas Parry Photography at www.thomasparryphotography.com.
References cited for this article, further information on the works of Brian Goggin, additional historical information regarding the Sixth and Howard district of San Francisco and details regarding the imminent demolition of the Hugo hotel may be found at the following links:
| 09 December, 2013 06:41
Thomas S. Parry
I am pleased to announce the publication of my first-ever collection of impressionistic, illustration-style, fine art images of New York City in a beautiful photographic book titled Three Days In Manhattan. The book showcases more than 100 spectacular images of subjects ranging from arial cityscapes to the unique geometry of buildings and architecture; from bold and colorful street art and graffiti to gaudy, fancy cars; from ambitious, forward-thinking urban renewal projects to the depths of subway stations; from the din of Times Square and it's surrounding theater district to picturesque and tranquil Central Park. And in all of these places, people are pictured "on the go." The images that form this collection were captured during three days of walking the streets of inner-city Manhattan in October of 2012.
For me, this collection represents an experiment of sorts in mastering and refining a unique form of photographic expression. It is a deliberate attempt to blend the best of traditional photographic processes and composition at image capture with the creation of an impressionistic, illustration-style, interpretation in post-processing in which the resulting image appears more hand-drawn than photographic.
Most fine art photographers know that the development of true artistic expression is envisioned at the compositional stage and realized in the post-capture processing phase. While in New York, I wanted to capture more than just images of the city. I wanted to create a collection of interpretive-style, artistic, colorful, illustration-like images that would convey my unique vision of this American cityscape and its people. Prior to traveling to New York, I had started experimenting with processing photographic images using a high-dynamic-range (HDR) process using the Apple iPad with the objective of creating bold, saturated, high contrast, illustration-like images commonly found in magazines. Using a series of iPad-based applications, I worked out the processing sequence that would lead to a bold, colorful, almost line-art type of appearance--as if it were an etching. Impressed with the result, I felt this technique would provide me with the means to portray Manhattan with the artistic license I wanted. As I composed and made the captures, I tried to visualize the end result of what I was seeing through the viewfinder. All of the images contained in this book were processed using this technique. The majority of the images were captured using a Canon EOS 40D DSLR and supplemented with additional ones taken using an Apple iPhone 4S and iPad 3.
For the vast majority of us who do not call New York City home, many of our perceptions of this great metropolis are formed through what we see in motion pictures, hear in music, view on television or read in books. Not everything seen, heard, viewed or read through the popular media, however, necessarily reflects the day-to-day reality of a place or its true personality. I have long wanted to capture my own vision of the New York City personality and share my interpretation of what I saw through my lenses in an artistic, impressionistic way. That is what this book is all about.
Published through Blurb Press (http://www.blurb.com), Three Days In Manhattan is available in three editions. The collector's edition is a beautifully hardbound book in medium-format (8x10 inches) landscape orientation with special heavy weight pro-line pearl pages. The softbound edition, also medium-format (8x10 inches) landscape orientation, contains the same high-quality, heavy weight pro-line pearl pages. The printing process really highlights the beautiful colors in the images. The e-book edition for iPad shows dramatic color saturation and fine detail in all of the images on a backlit retina display. It is the least expensive edition and may be easily downloaded and viewed on the Apple iPad using the iBooks app.
You may click below for an online preview of the book. Should you wish to purchase one or more of the editions, just follow the online prompts from the preview. Included with this article is a sampling of images from the book. I offer beautiful custom pigment prints on archival fine art matte paper in dimensions up to 11x14 inches of all images that appear in the book. You may peruse additional images from Three Days In Manhattan in my online galleries on my website or you may contact me directly regarding the purchase of any image you may be interested in.
It is my sincere hope that you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them. I welcome your thoughts and feedback on my work.
On a personal note, I left New York City on October 27, 2012 just a day before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy and escaped the destruction wreaked by that terrible storm. The images that appear in this book were made just days before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy to the New York City metropolitan area. Many lives were lost and many people displaced and rendered homeless due to extensive property damage or the loss of their homes. Few of us can understand the suffering they are going through in the aftermath of the storm. The lengthy process of cleaning up and rebuilding what was destroyed has begun. In an effort to contribute in some small way to helping with the rebuilding effort and those displaced by the storm, proceeds from the sales of Three Days In Manhattan will be donated to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
This book is dedicated to the great people of the New York City metropolitan area and their resolve and strength to rise above and overcome one of the greatest natural disasters ever in the history of that city.
| 09 December, 2013 06:41
In April 2011, National Geographic Magazine published an article titled Miracle Above Manhattan describing a unique urban revitalization project underway in Manhattan’s Lower West Side. The project, known as the High Line, really captivated my attention. “What was so unique about the High Line and why did I find myself so interested in it?” I asked myself. When I think of urban revitalization, what comes to my mind are efforts such as cleaning up dilapidated inner city areas and beautification through renovation of buildings and structures or the addition of parks. It is a process of gentrification of old neighborhoods that were once considered undesirable places to live into places with eateries and galleries that add a special quality of life and attract new residents. Such efforts are underway in more or less degrees in many large American cities and they are bringing with them an enhanced quality of life to inner city dwellers. The High Line project embodies all of these things and more. What caught my attention and impressed me the most about the High Line was how a community living for decades under a harsh, dingy, heavy, black steel structure that supported an elevated rail line that once brought freight trains directly into factories and warehouses was able to formulate a vision, face overwhelming challenges from NYC public officials and muster the resources to convert the railway structure falling fast into decay into a beautiful strip park greenway that has become a veritable urban oasis. And, they did so at less cost than would have been incurred had the city moved forward with its original plans to demolish the structure. Today, the High Line extends a mile and a quarter along Manhattan’s Lower West Side between Gansevoort Street and 30th Street and allows unobstructed pedestrian movement above the crowded city streets along a converted railway track bed lined with beautiful native trees, shrubs and flowers as well as benches to sit down and relax. After reading the National Geographic Article, I knew that this was a place I wanted to one day see and experience for myself.
The original High Line was built by the New York Central Railroad between 1929 and 1934 to lift dangerous freight trains above Manhattan’s busy streets. Originally extending down to the St. John’s Park Terminal at Clarkson Street, the High Line was part of a much larger rail infrastructure project known as the West Side Improvement, which eliminated street-level train crossings from Spuyten Duyvil to Lower Manhattan. The High Line’s trains carried meat, produce, and dairy products into warehouses and factories at the third-floor level. It was known as the “Life Line of New York.”
For many years, the High Line was a vital part of the busy manufacturing landscape of the industrial West Side. However, as trucking began to replace rail as the primary means of moving freight in New York City, train traffic declined on the High Line, and the southernmost section was torn down. By 1980, the trains had stopped running completely. What remained of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street, was slowly taken over by a self-sown landscape, showing the power of nature to conquer even monumental, man-made structures.
In 1999, with the High Line threatened to be demolished, neighborhood residents formed the non-profit organization known as Friends of the High Line to advocate for the preservation and reuse of the structure. In 2002, under the direction of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council, the City of New York boldly committed to transform the High Line into a one-of-a kind park. Innovative design was central to the vision. The goal was to create a public landscape as unusual and unexpected as the High Line itself. In addition to overseeing maintenance, operations, and public programming for the Park, Friends of the High Line works to raise the essential private funds to support more than 90 percent of the park’s annual operating budget.
My desire to see and experience the High Line came last month (October of 2012) when I traveled to New York City for a family reunion and to photograph the inner city of Manhattan. I made it a point to spend a good portion of a day walking the full length of the High Line. Using New York City’s public transit system, I made my way to the southern terminus of the High Line at Washington and Gansevoort Streets. This area, often referred to as the “Meat Packing District,” is characterized by buildings that have been around since the early twentieth century and, while there is much activity in the area, there are signs of decay in the infrastructure.
Seeing the heavy, black structure supporting the elevated rail line from a distance gives, at first glance, the appearance more of an abandoned relic than an urban oasis. But as one gets closer, the presence of trees and shrubs growing on top of the platform becomes more apparent and lures one to ascend the steps to see what is really there. As I ascended the steps to the top of the platform, I felt the commotion and din of the big city give way to the peace and serenity of a magnificent botanical garden. I felt I had truly entered an urban oasis.
Walking on the High Line is unlike any other experience I have had in New York. I felt like I was floating along 30 feet above the city. There is a sense of being connected to life in the city streets and yet far away from it—as if in another world. There were no traffic signals, crowded sidewalks or vehicular congestion to worry about. Being drawn as I am into natural surroundings, I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowering plants. It was a joy to sit down for a spell in the warm sun on a bench surrounded by well-manicured gardens and enjoy Hudson River views. As I walked the High Line and passed between very old buildings and magnificent new ones, the changing cityscape never ceased to amaze me. Time seemed to stand still and sense of distance faded. I must have walked the equivalent of some twenty city blocks but it didn’t seem like it was more than two. And it seemed to take no time at all!
I would offer this final thought. The High Line transformation embodies the fulfillment of a vision of ordinary citizens like you and me and their dedication to creating an innovative urban revitalization project that has raised the standard of living and quality of life in an area that would have fallen into total urban decay. Tens of thousands of West Side residents have been benefitted by new jobs, new and beautiful apartment buildings and rising property values the High Line renovation has brought. If you have never visited the High Line, I encourage you to do so on your next trip to New York City. It is well worth the time and a wonderful respite from the usual popular NYC attractions.
Reference links for additional information.
The High Line official website:
National Geographic article Miracle Above Manhattan:
The High Line glides across the bustling avenues of Chelsea, past the wavy modernism of Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel straight ahead in this view. Gehry's building is the shorter one; Nouvel's is the taller one behind it.
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Calendar Of Posts
- Slot Canyons: Nature’s Abstract Sculpture Studio (Part II of II)
- Brown Pelicans
- The 2012 Transit of Venus
- A Walk on the High Line
- Publication of "Three Days In Manhattan"
- Year of the Snake: The 2013 Chinese New Year Celebration in San Francisco
- Showcase of Nature Photography: Second 2012 Special E-Edition of Nature Photographer Magazine Now Available
- The Hugo Hotel: A Housing Crisis Turned into Public Art
- Publication of The Timeless Faces of China
- Timeless Faces of China is an Honest Portrayal of Chinese Society
- Nature Photography 
- Visions of Budapest 
- Current Projects 
- Techniques 
- Reviews 
- The Timeless Faces of China 
- Three Days in Manhattan 
- Cityscape Photography 
- Landscape Photography 
- Bird Photography 
- Astronomy 
- Event Photography 
- Slot Canyons 
- General 
- Seascape Photography