IN NY: HIGH LINE

Last week I was back in New York, the city I fell in love with at the age of five, moved to at age seventeen, then left and returned to several times before moving west in 2012.

When I was in my early twenties I kept a bike in my apartment. I would ride around lower Manhattan on the weekends before my shift at an uptown restaurant, where I waited tables. For a few summers wildflowers grew in profusion on the empty lots that were the future site of the World Trade Center, then just in the planning stages. I could pick flowers for free and bring them back to my apartment. I was always trying to meld city and country. Sometimes I got up onto the High Line, too. The High Line was an old elevated railway on the West side that had been abandoned years before. Wildflowers grew there, and small trees sprouted up through the rubble, totally untended and mostly unseen. It was magic.

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This photo was taken just last week but it evokes the feeling of the old High Line, minus the broken glass and trash. The elevated rail line was used to haul in basic foods like cream, butter and meat back in the 1940’s and 50’s. For a time, it was safer than running trains down on the busy streets. When the trucking industry expanded, the rail line fell into disuse. Instead of tearing down what many people considered an eyesore, the city did the right thing and turned it into a park. It opened in 2009 and became an instant hit with New Yorkers and tourists.

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Above, the park seen from the Whitney Museum. Last year the Whitney moved into a new building designed by Renzo Piano. The building’s hulking, muscular form visually anchors the south end of the High Line. Piano’s design allows visitors to descend from floor to floor outside the building, offering expansive views of the Hudson River waterfront, Manhattan’s West Side, and the High Line. There are nice people-watching opportunities too, if you’re in a sociable mood. I was happy for the crowds that day. I enjoyed the huge portrait show at the Whitney – Seattle doesn’t come close to what New York offers in terms of art. I also liked a Whitney show of work by June Leaf, an older artist who’s not very well known. A gallery nearby had a concurrent show of her sculpture and drawing so we headed over. We passed shows of Sigmar Polke’s painting at David Zwirner Gallery and Richard Serra’s sculpture at Gagosian. We took long drinks at the deep well that is art in New York City. It was a day of serendipity, as one thing led to the next.

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Back on the street next to Whitney, looking up towards the High Line. As you walk north or south through the park, essentially a narrow strip of real estate set with tasteful benches and beautifully landscaped with (mostly) native flowers and trees, you can pass under buildings, peer into windows and gaze down onto streets that cross underneath. You’re just above the fray. It’s enough to gain a different perspective, but not so far above that it isn’t still real, and close.

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If you’re interested, that’s Baptisia in the right corner and Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon) sprouting up through concrete strips that echo the railroad tracks. The pink and blue flowers above are Salvia pratensis (Meadow sage). The metal hoops between the rails are a sculpture called “Steel Rings” that references the Trans-Arabian pipeline, by Rayyane Tabet.

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Tony Matelli’s painted bronze sculpture “Sleepwalker” draws crowds.

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Someone has written “FELIX” on these construction plates. Why, I don’t know. It’s just another manifestation of identity in a city that always strives upwards.

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Frank Gehry’s IAC Building, his first in New York, and one of my favorite sites along the High Line. I love viewing it through these honeysuckle vines winding up a fence, but I understand that may not appeal to everyone.

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DID YOU KNOW that the elevated railroad was built because trains on tracks running down Tenth Avenue caused the deaths of many pedestrians? DID YOU KNOW that “West Side Cowboys” ran ahead of the trains on their horses, carrying red flags to warn passers by of the oncoming train? Eventually the city decided enough was enough and built the elevated line. It fell out of favor when trucking got big. It was considered an eyesore for years, but now lives anew, as one of New York’s big attractions.

The links are excellent – worth a few minutes!

Lynn Purse, of the blog Composerinthegarden, sent a great video link about the making of the High Line:

I made liberal use of some of the so-called art filters on my Olympus camera the day we went to the Whitney and High Line. It was overcast and dull out. The filters added a little punch. I go back and forth about using them, sometimes believing I should stick with images straight from the camera without in-camera modifications that I might later regret (but it’s always good to question one’s “shoulds”).

Two days earlier, I met up with another blogger, Patti Kuche. We sat down in the Rubin Museum and talked a blue streak about photography and blogging. Patti picked up my camera and casually took a few photos from where we sat, using the filters – she knew about them because she had once considered getting the camera.  I liked what she did, and that was all I needed to go back to trying them again. Coming soon: Patti’s photos and thoughts about bloggers’ meetings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


26 comments

  1. Lyn, so excited to see your great shots and how great to spend time here with you in NYC! The conversation has been continuing in my mind ever since, so much more I wanted to ask you, discuss. Next time!
    So pleased you enjoyed the new Whitney and what dramatic shots from this moody sky . . . . what a spectacular memory lane for you having experienced the wilderness days of the High Line.
    Loved your Olympus but will always love your shots whatever the camera, you have a special touch!

  2. Great post and series of shots of NYC ~ such beauty in your photos, and in such contrast to the beauty of the PNW. You do well in being able to call two places ‘home’ and there is a certain dramatic longing in your shots as well, showing me pieces of the city I’ve not seen. NYC is always a city that strives for more, and the filters you use, along with your great eye give the city an added punch. Wishing you a great weekend!

    • Yes, a little different than here! Culturally as well – it took a while to adjust, and getting back to NY, we found ourselves quickly growing that edge again. Now the PNW rain is wearing it off once more…. 😉
      A certain dramatic longing – interesting! Well, I’ll dig up more photos and post soon. Meanwhile, hope you enjoy your week.

  3. I love this post for the view of NYC at its best. I grew up in two different big cities (Boston and San Francisco). Didn’t start drifting into the boonies until I was about 30. These days big cities (esp. their crazy traffic) scare me to bits. But I love this High Line turned into a park for city dwellers. It’s perfect. As is your presentation of it. I love the filters you used. Perhaps not for every situation, but they sure added some snap to what looked to be an overcast gray cityscape.

  4. Lynn, what a fantastic perspective on the High Line and especially the architecture and street scenes around it. Love the filter effects, actually – are you using a tilt shift on the first one? I have never been to the High Line but it is on my “to do” list for this summer or fall; I’m a big fan of Piet Oudolf, who did the planting designs. In fact, he is one of the inspirations for my new pollinator garden. Here’s a link to a great documentary film of the history behind the High Line: https://youtu.be/7CgTlg_L_Sw

    • The filters are in the camera – it’s a setting on the Olympus OMD cameras called “art” on the dial, along with A priority, etc. Then you choose from an array of “filters” like sepia, soft focus, cross process, etc., and within each there are more choices. Dizzying! Most of these were taken with “dramatic tone” and the first is “diorama” but yes, that one is like adding a tilt shift lens.
      When you get to NY, try to see the High Line on a weekday or off hours. It gets very crowded on weekends and it’s hard to stop and study the plantings because everyone keeps walking, and it’s a relatively narrow space. You will find a LOT to interest you – in the Oudolf tradition, the feeling is of overall drifts of color, shape and texture, but when you look closely there are really a lot of different plants there. Impressive. And the hardscape details are fabulous, the way they integrate with the site, it’s history, and the plantings.
      Now I’m going to check your link – thanks in advance for that!

  5. I enjoyed both the images and the commentary. Together they provided an interesting introduction for a ‘foreigner’! I also appreciated your links to the works of the artists, two of whom were new to me.

    • That’s good to hear – probably Polke and Leaf, right? Polke is very popular here, but June Leaf isn’t that well known to the public. Her sculptures made from found objects are fantastic. I will post a few photos later!

  6. I knew nothing of the High Line, nor why the trains were elevated. Thanks for the trip to New York. I like the lower saturation you’ve given many of these photographs.

    • It’s a really beautifully designed space, and well maintained. That slightly subdued saturation comes with the filter – I mean it’s part and parcel with the setting, which is called “dramatic tone” I think. The contrast is stronger, the blacks are blacker, the colors a little different – it’s interesting how they put these together. Sometimes I see similar effects on TV, and I think it must be the same basic changes made to the video. Somewhere out there, there’s a manual for achieving various looks and styles!

  7. What an impressive place! And I like the filter effects you’ve used too, Lynn. As always, its interesting taking a walk along with you and your camera. A 🙂

  8. Welcome back to NYC, Lyn! Love your photos of the High Line—the filters and effects are beautiful. Let us know when you’re coming this way; we’d love to meet. All the best, J&A

    • Oh, I’m really sorry I didn’t get in touch before! Well, next time, and of course, if you’re ever out west…it would be fun! (Oh, the kayaking you would do….) 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing this glimpse at NY. I didn’t know the High Line park existed. I would love to live there for a short time and drink in the art, as you so aptly put it.
    I like the filters. I sometimes capture images with and without filters so I’ll have both choices, but I’ve become less of a purist and have begun enjoying the ‘art’ that filters can create. Also, I’ve realized that I take so many images with digital that I rarely go back to do much with older images, so saving them as I enjoyed them in the moment is becoming sufficient. With film or early digital I often wanted to archive a basic shot and then print or modify it later.

  10. I have visited NYC many times but have yet to do the High Line. After seeing these wonderful pics, I am putting it on my “to do” list!

  11. Very nice photo story, Lynn. Love the way you used the filters to compensate for the grey sky. What a magnificent building designed by Renzo Piano!


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