Gottscho’s order


Samuel H. Gottscho, Vista under elevated railroad at Coenties Slip c1930

From all the evidence, Samuel H. Gottscho was a neat photographer. He certainly knew how to organize a picture. Look at these tidy compositions of New York city taken well back in the 20th century. The sweeping lines of elevated railway are framed by the girder at left and top edge, and by the line of shadow at the bottom edge. This is careful photography. It’s the sort of precision that comes with using large format where the image is upside-down on the screen, therefore abstracted.

Something like that can be seen in the image below of the Chrysler building where lines of shadow frame the city at left and bottom. The rectilinear shapes of the buildings are preserved by his accurate view camera adjustments; they seem to bring out the underlying geometric order of the city.

Why are these images so dark? They were clearly not intended to look this way for the client. It may be because they are negative scans or poorly scanned prints taken from Gottscho’s archive. They are from the extensive pages on the Museum of the City of New York website. Have a look, Gottscho is a discovery.


Samuel H. Gottscho, 42nd St from Tudor City, no date


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