BOOK: Gowanus Waters
AUTHOR: Steven Hirsch
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2016
Steven Hirsch’s abstract photography of the Gowanas Canal is collected in this handsome volume, and the images (almost entirely devoid of context) are exquisite.
Years ago, Hirsch was walking along the canal’s banks and noticed the beautiful and ephemeral appearances of oil slicks, of pollutants on the surface of the water…and so he began photographing them, with vivid and lovely results.
Chronos (2014), Steven Hirsch
The canal is now, at long last, being cleaned up (it is a Superfund site) and so these brief moments of beauty are becoming rare. We can, of course, hope, that another form of beauty (a more natural beauty) will soon emerge. In the meantime, here we are in 2016 and, as is usual, things are in a state of transition.
Aphrodite (2014), Steve Hirsch
There are two competing narratives describing the changes to New York City over the last few decades. For some, the dirty old city was full of surprises, full of life, art, and creativity. That which was colorful, unclean, exciting, free, and anarchic has given way to a city that’s a sanitized version of its former self, a playground for the rich, clean, yet oddly dull and sterile. It’s harder and harder to find a dive bar, or even a neighborhood place. There’s a Starbucks on every corner. This is true.
For others, New York City was truly a concrete jungle; menacing, criminal, dangerous, covered in graffiti, unruly, ungovernable, and foul. It’s now safer, cleaner, and has beautiful parks and public spaces, Disney extravaganzas in Broadway theatres, more high-rise luxury apartments than ever before, lovely boutiques, restaurants, and visits by well-heeled tourists from around the world. This is also true.
Steven Hirsch’s gorgeous photographs show us a bit, a very small bit, of that first story, and the glimpses of beauty in the sludge that most of us don’t see. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if this is a 21st century manifestation of romanticism…finding the sublime in decay, the way that 19th century poets were inspired by the fragmented ruins of antiquities.
Mania (2015), Steven Hirsch
In any case, the photographs are truly lovely and very much worth a look. The introduction by critic Jordan Teicher informs us that “Hirsch’s eye for abstraction will find other treasure troves—he’s become fond of dumpsters lately—in parts of New York that would go unnoticed by the rest of us.” I, for one, am looking forward to that.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3.5 Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
Asteria (2014), Steven Hirsch
ALSO ON OUR BOOKSHELVES:
A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler
A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon
Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan
Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer
Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers
Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Malice Aforethought, Frances Iles
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer
My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson
Out of the Blackout, Robert Bernard
Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff
Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse, Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith
Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart
The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)
The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith
The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks
The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah
The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at email@example.com
Photographs Courtesy of Steven Hirsch and powerHouse Books
Lead-In Image: Helios (2015), Steven Hirsch