Introduction by Gay Talese. Photo editors: Jim Mones and Vin Alabiso. 736 pages; 365 photos; hardback; US $29.95, CAN $38.95. ISBN No. 978-0-8109-4942-3. Published by Harry N. Abrams, 115 West 18th St., New York NY 10011; information: http://www.hnabooks.com
There are more than seven million photographs in the archives of The New York Times, but this relative handful of shots makes the case well enough for the tradition of great photojournalism in America's greatest city. From the low-key 1911 image of Wilbur Wright flying one of the first airplanes in range of the Statue of Liberty, to the explosive and dramatically charged sequence that chronicles the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the power and grandeur of Manhattan's iconography is the theme that unites these 365 images.
Walls, bridges, skyscrapers, crowds, walkers, riders, paraders, panhandlers, street vendors, the famous (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Rudolph Giuliani), the infamous (prostitutes on Times Square, before its clean-up in the 1980s) and the unnameable make up the mosaic. And it is not surprising that so many of the shots of everyday life taken by New York Times photographers possess an abstract power--such as Fred Conrad's 2003 shot of a red umbrella adding a single drop of color to a snowy landscape in Madison Square Park, Tony Cenicola's shot of phantasmagoric graffiti murals transforming the walls in the borough of Queens, or Marilynn K. Yee's liquid image of yellow taxis in Columbus Circle, as reflected in the mirrored skin of the Time Warner Center. Indeed, these photographs and so many others continue to reveal "The City" as the ultimate canvas for expression, random action, folly, fear and aspiration. The editors of this volume do a good job selecting a cross-section that emphasizes the infinite variety of New York life and New York looks--the pastoral four-season beauty of Central Park or the Botanical Garden, the scale and energy of the architecture, the sophistication of its high and low players, and the palpable collective will that makes this sliver of land a center of civilization.
Matt Damsker is an author and critic, who has written about photography and the arts for the Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Bulletin, Rolling Stone magazine and other publications. His book, "Rock Voices", was published in 1981 by St. Martin's Press. His essay in the book, "Marcus Doyle: Night Vision" was published this past November.