Urban Color: Vivid Visions of the American metropolis
November 4, 2017 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Wayne Sorce's cityscapes captured NYC and Chicago in gorgeous color. In the 1970s and ‘80s, Sorce explored the urban landscapes of New York and Chicago with his large format camera, making precisely balanced compositions of color, geometry, and light that also recorded the era’s particular styles of signage, advertising, and automobile design.
posted by hippybear (18 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Beautiful pictures, but American cities are so dirty and full of garbage!
posted by ashbury at 9:53 AM on November 4


Nice. I took a large format film class this summer and was mostly happy that I didn't manage to drop that giant camera and got any kind of images at all out of it. I only did B&W though, 4x5 color film is so ridiculously expensive that with processing it's about $10 each time you press the shutter.
posted by octothorpe at 10:02 AM on November 4


These are beautiful - thank you. One of the things I appreciate about photographs of cityscapes like these is that they capture the past in its temporal complexity. That is, it's clear from these pictures that the past had its own past - old cars, decaying houses, etc, as well as traces of an emergent future. It seems to me that a lot of our fictional representations of the past are so obsessed with reproducing an image of a period - an image which is largely fictional in any event - that they make the past look shiny and brand-new, as if it had just come into existence.
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 10:05 AM on November 4 [6 favorites]


These are very nice. If you like these, you should check out Richard Estes, who did lots of amazingly photorealistic paintings of cities from the 60s - 80s.
posted by macbot3000 at 10:09 AM on November 4 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that a lot of our fictional representations of the past are so obsessed with reproducing an image of a period - an image which is largely fictional in any event - that they make the past look shiny and brand-new, as if it had just come into existence.

This is precisely the problem I have so many movie and tv depictions of past decades. A show set in, for instance, the 70's, will be decorated almost entirely with 70's era stuff, as if it's a catalog snapshot, totally ignoring the reality that the environment will also contain leftovers from the 60's, 50's and even later eras.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:11 AM on November 4 [8 favorites]


Beautiful pictures, but American cities are so dirty and full of garbage!

These shots are 40 years old. For better or worse, large American cities have been cleaned up a lot since then.
posted by octothorpe at 10:26 AM on November 4 [6 favorites]


Beautiful ! Thanks a lot !
posted by nicolin at 10:28 AM on November 4


I really like these.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:30 AM on November 4


These are really, really good. Great composition throughout. Thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 11:04 AM on November 4 [1 favorite]


Oh my heck, the opera window! Halsted, where the cars match the other people's houses, and they all cast serious shade! Then 124 the intersection of at least eight dimensions! So beautiful.
posted by Oyéah at 11:49 AM on November 4 [1 favorite]


Talk about a thrill! I open this link and the first thing I see is my old hangout Dave's Luncheonette at Broadway and Canal. Ah, the memories. I can still taste the egg creams, sipped while leaning on that outdoor ledge and scanning the street for friends. It was at Dave's inside lunch counter that I had my last hamburger, followed by a lifetime of vegetarianism. Of course, Dave's is long gone (there's some garish and underpatronized Chinese establishment there now). But this wonderfully detailed photo is all I could ask for. Thanks.
posted by Modest House at 12:02 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]


These are gorgeous, thanks for posting this!
posted by carter at 1:16 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


My favourite is the "1978 Halsted Street, Chicago" with the three cars in the shade - I wonder how much of it was staged - it looks just incredibly well planned.
posted by Laotic at 11:36 PM on November 4


What a joy to see these photographs. I lived in Chicago at the time these pictures were taken and visited New York quite a bit during the same time. Yes, both these cities were much rougher-looking back then and both have gone through major beautification since then; but I miss how these cities were back then. For all the dilapidation and garbage, there were so many interesting places, people, stories and mysteries to come across and investigate -- and you could afford to live in these cities. Now when I go to either, I'm rather bored with their shiny corporate presentations and miss all the eccentric ma-and-pa shops, restaurants and other curiosities that have been replaced by phalanxes of Walgreens, Duane Reades, Starbucks and the like.
posted by SA456 at 8:52 AM on November 5 [3 favorites]


Laotic: "My favourite is the "1978 Halsted Street, Chicago" with the three cars in the shade - I wonder how much of it was staged - it looks just incredibly well planned."

I have no way to know how this shot was planned but I do know from doing that a huge amount of photography is careful planning and just patience. Sometimes you have to wait for hours or keep coming back for days to get just the right combination of light and environment. I mean, I don't know about the cars but you don't get perfect light like you have in that shot without knowing just when to be there. He might have even had to wait months for the sun to align just right with the houses across the street. It's easy these days since you can just use a site like suncalc.net but I assume that you'd have to consult almanacs and such in 1978.
posted by octothorpe at 9:31 AM on November 5


octothorpe, exactly: the shadows line up so perfectly that THAT was certainly no accident, but patience. But then you also have the cars parked in just the right spots, AND the two girls running out of that alley at very nearly the golden ratio?

Either he was lucky, or very diligent, or it's a little bit staged. Mind you, I don't think that's bad, but seeing as some of the other photographs could not possibly have been staged I assume that generally he was just portraying regular street-life, and would not have spent too much time waiting for the right moment.
posted by Laotic at 12:19 PM on November 5


You may be right about the staging. I'm currently taking a history of photography course and many images that we're familiar with are either a little or a lot more staged than we think. Or at least not as candid as they first appear. This goes way back; Brady almost certainly moved carts and corpses around Civil War battlefields to get the best compositions and Fenton probably carefully placed cannonballs in this image from the Crimean War.
posted by octothorpe at 1:02 PM on November 5


octothorpe, that is very interesting, are there any publicly available notes from that course?
posted by Laotic at 6:45 AM on November 6


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