Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin makes me think of New York in the 1920s and 1930s. The opening clarinet rising to a high note conjures up a picture of the Chrysler Building. My viewpoint rises from street level right up to the top of the building, with the 1930s Manhattan skyline visible beyond. I feel I have a connection with the New York of that time as my father lived there from around 1929 to 1931.
A Kind of Blue, the album by Miles Davis, also gives me strong visual associations with Manhattan in the 1950s. The album was recorded in 1959 in New York. When I hear it I can see a yellow cab making its way uptown by mostly empty warehouses.
Does my mental association come from a magical quality of the music to capture the essence of time and place, or is it just that I know it was recorded in New York at around this time? I think it could be a bit of both.
Another group that for me capture the atmosphere of New York is Weather Report. They recorded in the 1970s and 80s and that’s the era I think of. I was in New York in summer 1981, around 50 years after my father was there. When I listen to Weather Report, I can see yellow cabs, the subway, the Twin Towers, the streets and highways.
There is a quality of nostalgia, like the films of Elliott Bristow, with whom I worked when I was in New York. There’s a frustration with taking photos today. The USA of today is quite different from the one we have in our minds from times past.
The cover of the album ‘The Best of Weather Report’ has a remarkable photograph that completely echoes the images in my mind. It looks to me like it was taken on the West Side Highway at a traffic intersection. It must be looking west, as it appears to be a dusk sky.
On a visit to New York and Philadelphia, I took photos in a similar style to the Weather Report album cover. I’ve always found street lighting to be an important part of the cityscape and very visually interesting, especially at nightfall when the lights start to glow against the dusk sky.
These photos are not going to win any photography prizes. I don’t take photos to win prizes or to make money. I take photos to capture my mental impressions and make them visible to others.
All photos taken on the Canon 550D digital SLR camera with the Tamron 16-300mm zoom lens.