For VISUAL artists who have a passion for urban and suburban places in the American landscape, iconic imagery can become part of the pursuit. Icons as cultural identifiers embody conventional formulas or standards, which in turn represent society at large. While keeping in mind form, color and space do matter as organizing principles of design, equally important is the decisive moment, so I pay attention to atmospheric conditions. When they’re right, but time is short, I often walk down the street to a locally available icon, one I’ve grown very fond of lately. Considering the fact that convention and formula bind hundreds more like it to the countryside and suburban townships in New York, New England and elsewhere in America, one cannot deny, the original Nyack High School has it’s own iconic presence, and is pretty unique in the local landscape.
Completed in 1928, the school was built along a hilltop ridge below an open sky back drop to the Hudson River Valley below. It was set at the back end of its athletic field, which afforded the community a sweeping view toward this stately old world Georgian colonial red brick building with white trim. Its centralized location, pleasing symmetrical form and rising clock tower, which tolled every hour, created an alluring image of peace in the valley and the village’s increasing prosperity amidst the rising new century. One might surmise if they study the scene, that its architect resolved the equanimity between church and state by facing the main entrance west to capture afternoon light on its restful faÃ§ade complete with gleaming white clock tower, silver bell cupola and glistening cross.
The last time I walked there the sky was blanketed with low, dark swirling clouds. At one point they momentarily broke apart forming a diagonal pattern of light from a blue patch in the upper right sky down onto the bell tower, which provided an opportunity to connect the physical with the metaphysical, or the symbolic relationship between church and state, heaven and earth. The dark swirling blanketing clouds completed this visual metaphor, a la El Greco style, as a prediction of darkness on earth if not for heavenly light. El Greco (1541-1614), was a Spanish Renaissance artist who rejected pictorial pleasantry in favor of the emotional and spiritual realm and often painted his biblical figures swirling in an ethereal cloud driven space.
The image was shot from a far vantage point using a wide-angle lens. Open space is important to landscape photography because distance invokes atmospheric perspective which forms an association with the time continuum. I used Adobe Photoshop Cs5 and Lightroom 4 to create luminosity masks, a critical step in landscape photography because of the extreme exposure range between earth and sky. Luminosity masks allow you to darken a portion of an image that may be too light/overexposed, or lighten part of an image that may be too dark/underexposed, the point of which is to better discern detail in that portion of the image, which in turn helps unify the image. It’s a bit tricky and takes a serious effort to get first class results, but it’s well worth it.
Horizontal image shot with Canon 28mm L1.8 lens @ 1/125 F10 @ ISO 640 6:44 pm 06/07/12
- Postcard From New York on NyackNewsAndViews
- El Greco at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Well constructed Photoshop tutorials for Mac and PC’s by Tony Kuper
Alison Perry owns a Nyack-based photography business that combines architecture, landscape and formal space and strives to make personal art about time and place. She received BFA in Studio Art from SUNY Purchase and a graduate degree in Library Science from Long Island University. Previously, she worked in journalistic and editorial photography for several different national/regional newspapers in NYC, PA and CA. See examples of her work at http://www.alisonperryart.com