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The fourth installment of “Gotham City,” photographer Timothy Briner’s atmospheric black and white study of New York City, exposes the isolation pervasive throughout the five boroughs of the city. From photographs of shadows falling on vacant staircases to the ghostly presence of the words “devil” and “death” carved in the sidewalk by an unknown hand, New York City through Briner’s lens is a city of empty spaces with only slight hints at the existence of the over 8 million residents. In the few images where Briner captures a person, their singular presence is fleeting, as seen in the photograph of a man quickly striding past an image of a skyline on the street.
Highlighting the sense of New York isolation, Briner focuses on the iconic architecture of New York City. Rather than photographing the over-represented icons of the New York City skyline, Briner portrays the city’s verticality, its textures and its materials from concrete to steel through oblique, detailed shots. Through Briner’s photographic eye, the structures of a street lamp and a traffic camera become monumental, mirroring the city’s giant skyscrapers. Similarly, a close-up of one of New York’s bridges reveals the geometric patterns, originating from its industrial construction. For Briner, the textures that appear throughout the city become important whether it is a chain-linked fence or a metal subway grate on the sidewalk.
In addition to its architectural height, New York City is filled with words, letters and phrases from advertisements to graffiti to bumper stickers on cars. Like Lee Friedlander’s photographic interest in signs, Briner also emphasizes the presence of words and lettering on the streets of New York. Photographing odd car decals that read “man up” and “big leg,” Briner selects words and phrases that, while their actual meaning is near indecipherable, add a sense of foreboding to his moody black and white photographs.
Words by Emily Colucci