DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Urban Patterns and Juxtapositions

Filed under: Photography: Structure — Tags: , , , — fred @ 15:23

Chair Shadow, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I like to keep a small camera with me when I’m out and about in the city.  I rarely go anywhere for the specific purpose of photography unless it’s a paying job, but I find having the camera with me helps me to look at the world around me with a more engaged eye.  My personality is neither aggressive enough nor gregarious enough to shoot pictures of strangers in public.  Instead, I look for striking or unusual compositions made by the juxtapositions of shapes and colors and textures, effects of light and shadow, objects and displays, and ever-changing natural and man-made phenomena.  This post consists entirely of shots taken since the beginning of this year with my inconspicuous Canon G11.

The shot above was taken while sitting with a friend in a little outdoor cafe in Central Park on a late spring afternoon.  I was struck by the complex cluster of lines made by the table and chair legs, the elongated chair shadow stretching across the irregular stone slab floor, and my friend’s shoe to one side.  I believe the thicker, inverted Y-shaped shadow is that of a large tree.

Many of the most interesting patterns are seen only by looking at the ground, as above, or to the sky, as in the image below.  This is another composition of angles and lines, at the corner of Bogart and Grattan Streets in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Bogart and Grattan, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

New York City is packed with tall buildings from different eras, creating many different kinds of juxtapositions of shapes and styles depending on your angle of view.  Zooming to the longer position of the lens flattens the perspective, emphasizing the density of the forms.  The view below is looking north from Union Square.

Looking North from Union Square, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

And this one is looking south from Columbus Circle.  These show a striking difference in style between the two ends of Manhattan’s dense midtown cluster.

Looking South from Columbus Circle, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Over on the West Side, near Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, there is, for some reason, an unusually high concentration of pigeons.

Midtown Pigeons, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

And here’s a view looking towards the far East Side of Manhattan, from Long Island City, Queens, with the Queensboro or 59th Street Bridge rising over the streets.  The textures in this picture are fascinating, though I’m afraid it loses something in this small size.

Queensboro Bridge, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Looking up at buildings in the city, a frequently-seen motif is something tall towering above something broad.  The Lever House, a classic of the 1950’s International Style, deliberately invokes this juxtaposition.

Lever House, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

More often, it’s an accident of separate buildings seen from a particular angle.

Bloomingdales at Dusk, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Perfectly contrasting the glossy elegance of Lever House is this orange-shrouded construction site rising behind a blank billboard.

NYC Law, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Blankness can give a building a massive feel even when it is surrounded by much larger buildings.

Roosevelt Post Office, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Curved shapes give a much softer impression.

Terraces and Tower Top, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I find something oddly inviting about rounded interior spaces.  The best known of those in New York City is of course the Guggenheim Museum, but here’s an oval plaza in a newer building near Bloomingdales on the East Side.

Oval Plaza, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

A few blocks away from that is found this spiral staircase at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store.

Apple Store Stairs, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Compare that to this old style cast iron and tile spiral staircase in a courthouse on the West Side.

Spiral Stairwell, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

The black vertical bars above contrast with the silvery horizontal bars found in these Subway turnstiles below.

Egg Slicer Turnstiles, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

There are lots of dense grids in the urban environment.  They’re so commonplace we often don’t notice them.  Colored lights can bring them out of the background noise.

Construction Shed Scaffold, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This is a roll-down store security gate, over a window with neon signs.

Neon Security Gate, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Colored lights can be used to break up and add movement to a monolithic surface.

Cascade of Colored Light, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Even a subtle use of colored lights, like these filtered fluorescents in a parking garage, can make an otherwise forbidding space more appealing.

Parking Garage, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I’m fascinated by patchwork patterns, where rectangles and other shapes of different tones and hues are clustered with some kind of irregularity.

Pastel Rectangles and Vendor Cart, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Sometimes these patchworks are an accident of angle of view.

Gate in Red Wall, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Here the weathered red panels are contrasted with the plain gray ones and the mysterious half face on plywood.

The Ghost of Ralph Nader, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Graffiti often becomes an element of patterns in the city.

Blue Anarchy & Red Square, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where much of the culture is driven by the hipster sense of irony.  I don’t know if this Williamsburg window is deliberately or accidentally ironic.

Antidepressant, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

The patchwork effect we’ve been looking at can be generated by distorted reflections in grids of glass windows.

New Reflects Old, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

The effects of light and shadow, especially in the early morning and late afternoon, can transform mundane structures into wonderful visual arrangements.

Security Gate Shadows, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

This store window display is a perfectly nice example of the clean tropical aesthetic, but the late afternoon sun casts shadows that transform it into a joyous abstract painting.

Window Display in Sunlight, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Keep your eyes open – visual pleasures are abundant and free to enjoy!

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