New Architecture

Penn Station — Moynihan Train Hall, NYC © jj raia

Originally completed in 1910, New York’s Pennsylvania Station, and its connecting east and west tunnels linking the rail line from Washington, DC to Boston, were built as a civic monument, not just a railroad station and gateway to New York City. That massive structure served commuters and the traveling public for half a century, but was eventually demolished in the early 1960’s for a more economically viable complex consisting of an office tower, sports arena (a new Madison Square Garden) and a gloomy, subterranean train station without any of the majestic grandeur and open spaciousness of the original building. Having worked in the second, depressing version for over 35 years, construction of this latest version was just beginning when I left 11 years ago. I was curious to see the new one just recently opened after literally decades of planning and construction. I had no idea what to expect since from the outside, the former Farley Post Office Building, which now houses the new station, appeared the same as when I left, with no indication of what was to be discovered inside.

Once inside, there was an immediate feeling of freedom and expansiveness which was severely lacking in the previous station of claustrophobic low ceilings, replaced now with glass roofs that opened to the sky. The grandeur of the original had been captured, although on a much smaller scale. I was enthralled as lights of various colors morphed through a series of changes to illuminate some of the structural steel in varying hues.

Marquee — Moynihan Train Hall © jj raia

Unfortunately, I did not have much time to wander around to make some photographs and was immediately harassed for using a tripod in the near empty space. I was even told I could not sit on the floor when taking a very low angle image and trying to look through the viewfinder (no moveable screen on the camera back or wide-angle image stabilizing lens). But I was allowed to crouch down as low as I wanted so long as my @$$ didn’t touch the floor! Luckily the 70-300mm I used for the three images above does have VR (image stabilization), and was able to crank up the ISO to get a reasonably sharp file. And the idea of shooting on a tripod and blending images with lighting of differing colors was out of the question at the time, until I tried the auto-align feature in Photoshop that proved it could be done (center image)! But looking through the glass to the buildings adjacent to the main Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall (above, right and left), windows reflected the early morning light on the buildings behind my position and the clear blue sky above those building in the upper windows. Had I not gotten there bright and early, shortly after 7am, the lighting may have been very different, without the opposing warm light against the otherwise blue hues of shadow and blue sky.

Then it was time to head downtown and return to the World Trade Center Site and photograph any changes that might have occurred since the last visit, or whatever else caught my eye. It had been almost two years ago when I posted some photos that you can see here from that initial visit. This time I shot more of the surrounding architecture from outside the Oculus, the soaring transit hub building, and tried some “street photography” from a distance, being too introverted to actually ask folks to photograph them. Most of them were mere cliches with none noteworthy. But there is nothing like Manhattan for a continuing parade of characters, special social interactions and situations that make just being there interesting. Getting that energy in a photo is not so easily done, so I have to tip my hat to those folks who are successful at street photography. I did try a combination of architecture and “nature” with the sole leafless tree against the soaring ribs of the Oculus. I suppose not every planted tree survives this concrete forest and this was one of those that didn’t make it.

Bare Tree and Oculus — World Trade Center Site, NY

There are too many images of murals painted on walls with people walking past, and the world doesn’t need another since the concept is no longer imaginative, but there is definitely a pull for you to take one of these, and so I fell victim to the lure and photographed someone else’s art which is something usually avoided. How would you feel if someone photographed a print of yours with some added subject matter and claimed it as their own? Yes, I agree. But one thing about the mural did have a personal connection in the name BOOG. A long time friend of mine since the 1960’s had the nickname “Boog” because he was pretty thin and not all that muscular, so the nickname given to him was taken from a baseball player of the Baltimore Orioles named Boog Powell who was a bit of a “hulk”; just the opposite of my friend’s physique. Note — Click on any of the gallery photos to see them full screen.

One of the first images taken that morning after climbing out from the subway was the shadows of the Oculus “ribs” falling on the 9/11 Museum. At first, the tip of the triangular shape fell above the roofline, so it was flipped into a vertical, while waiting a half hour for the sun to rise a bit higher, brought the tip entirely against the horizontal lines of the museum, to remain within the horizontal frame, giving the shape more focus. (Click on either frame to see it full size).

One of the most important aspects of getting to the site early was the reflected light and shadows that simply don’t exist around the mid-day or pre-dawn hours. So many of the buildings and structures cast shadows on others, while windows reflected light into shadows illuminating those darker areas. It was a constantly changing landscape of photographic opportunities as the sun rose higher in the sky that made leaving so difficult.

Subway Entrance — WTC Site, NY © jj raia

So the final shots of the day before heading back to NJ, were of the reflected light on the turquoise subway entrance across the street from the Oculus. It was a simple procedure to set up the tripod and compose the frame; the difficulty was having the patience to wait for traffic to clear for an unobstructed view, and have someone of interest walking toward the camera position without other folks in the frame. Those opportunities were few and far between. It was always a narrow window when there were no cars blocking the view, and quite often an interesting person was heading this way only to be blocked by the heavy traffic in the area. But it was the light reflecting off windows of the building on the opposite side of the street into this shaded area that gave the scene a spotlight effect; and the interesting paint color brought all the elements together.

If any of you should happen to be in New York City, visiting the World Trade Center Site it a worth while destination for photography along with a visit to the 9/11 Museum. My visit to the museum two years ago was a deeply moving experience for me, having lived through that day operating a train from Penn Station into Washington, DC and seeing the smoke in the sky from the crash of the plane into the Pentagon. A stop at the new Amtrak Station is also an interesting place to visit, but be prepared to hand hold every shot as there is an army of security personnel on hand to make sure you don’t use your tripod. I just don’t understand the reasoning behind the ban.

4 thoughts on “New Architecture

  1. I’d gotten behind on your posts & am really enjoying catching up this morning. Fabulous as always! I am always inspire by your critical thought processes & planning.

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    1. Thanks so much. Hope all is well. I enjoy creating the posts as an expressive outlet, and get big kick knowing others can get something from them.

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