The Flatiron Building

When I saw we were staying near the Flatiron Building, I had to go and see it, remembering Albert Steiglitz’s famous 1904 photograph.

Steiglitz said that the building “appeared to be moving toward me like the bow of a monster steamer–a picture of a new America still in the making.”  The building was new when Steiglitz took his photograph but now it is much older and like much of New York, a bit jaded and rundown.

He was influenced by Japanese art and the winter snow assists the simplicity of the image.  I now know where he took the image and I’m not sure whether such a perspective is possible these days.  You’d have to be there in winter to find out.

Many years ago I took this image at Mt Haughton in the Budawangs, a wilderness area in New South Wales in Australia.  The weather had closed in, we had reached a huge sheltering overhang and we weren’t going anywhere.  This is peering out from our dry campsite to the wet misty world beyond.  That’s not a tree and a branch at the right, that’s a tree growing out of a cliff.

A friend pointed out the resemblance of this image to Steiglitz’s one above, of which I was not previously aware.  I took it on a 5×4″ film camera, a compact version of a nineteenth-century-style bellows camera.  Steiglitz would have used a similar camera though it may have been a different format (or image capture size) and he would have used a glass plate rather than film.

My image of the Flatiron building is quite different from Steiglitz’s, perhaps more like the Titanic about to run down the iceberg and unlikely to resound in the history of photography.   I took it hand-held on a digital camera at the time and season I happened to be there.  Steiglitz probably planned his image well in advance for a specific time, weather conditions and season and likely used a longish exposure, no doubt on a tripod.

24 October 2011.

4 comments on “The Flatiron Building

  1. […] The Flatiron Building […]

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  2. gfmurphy101 says:

    Reblogged this on gfmurphy101 and commented:
    Interesting and great pictures here and on the blog Murray Foote

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  3. themofman says:

    There are many Flatirons around the world but this is THE quintessential Flatiron.

    It’s deservedly one of the most photographed edifices on the planet. It even continues to be an architectural rival to modern skyscrapers. I photographed it myself but due to my stay in NYC being so brief, I didn’t have time to even go inside. I have to do that one of these days.

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    • Murray Foote says:

      I didn’t go in either and I think there was no access. It’s been an office block for many years but it’s due to be renovated and turned into a luxury hotel. Apparently this will take a while because they have to wait for the leases of existing tenants to run out.

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