Greenpoint, October, 2015

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New York with the Works

Another large rectangular volume with a cryptic title. Here is Peter Spaan's first book, published in 1983, a few years before New York from the Yards. In that book, the photographs were all taken from the subway yards of the upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. This time the focus is squarely on Manhattan.

The photographs in the book are silkscreened. Some are relatively "straight," black-and-white shots of buildings. Others are rendered as collages, like the fold-out below, which I photographed on a table in the NYPL's photography collection. (Nice people.)

Samples of Spaans' handwritten notes adorn the gray endboards. Typed versions appear inside, and an English translation is included as an insert. Here is just one sample sequence (spelling as in original):

919.  this evening went on painting.
926.  found $20! - today.
977.  thousands of people arrested at the sit-inns. all this happened at the u.n. delegations. 3,000    policemen were sent to stop the fence-full demonstrators.
656.  it was such a piercing scream.
666.  via avenue of the americas walking downtown, partly west broadway to the warren street, directly on the corner is the cafe "raccoon lodge".
693.  sloans is closed today.

I asked Peter what the numbers signified (I thought they might notes referencing exposures to his photographs). His reply:
I just numbered my thoughts at the moment. In the book, Works of a City, you will find only a few of the notations.... The notations did not relate to specific photographs, at least not at the time. Words are words and photographs photographs. I mean by that I try not to illustrate my words with photographs, or translate my photographs into words. They are next to each other.

Next to each other is good.

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