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Peter Spaans: New York from the Yards


New York From the Yards documents a two-year escapade, from 1982 to 1984, along the railways of the American megalopolis. The Dutch photographer Peter Spaans invites the viewer to discover his wide-angle vision of some of the five boroughs’ most characteristic architecture. “At the time,” writes Spaans, “I was trying to photograph the city with a certain distance. When you’re walking down the streets of New York, you’re either extremely close to your subject, or you’re shooting from a weird angle, pointed up at the skyscrapers. You simply cannot shoot them from the street. Maybe for some of the details, but not if you want to see one in its entirety.”

Spaans’New York differs from the one seen in Bruce Davidson’s celebrated Subway series. There are no atypical passengers or night scenes. Spaans chose to turn his lens on another fringe of society. The Metro Transit Authority granted Spaans access to its desolate rail yards, where only the graffiti-covered walls and security cameras to stand guard. The trains seem like empty playgrounds. These are the shots that set Spaans’ work apart, though they’re otherwise somewhat lacking in atmosphere and compositional originality. One image from his cold topography of the railways that will stay with me: the setting sun bringing a glint of luster to the rusty steel, if only for an instant.

Jonas Cuénin

New York From the Yards

Harper’s Books
87 Newtown Lane
East Hampton, NY 11937
Tel: (631) 324-1131
[email protected]

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