The Beauty of Facades

BY Lisa Lindblad

April 19, 2014

photo[1] copyI rushed off to see a lovely show at the Met of  Charles Marville’s mid-18th century photographs of Paris streets.  While beautiful in their subtle black and white tones and evocative of another era, they don’t speak fully to me because I cannot connect to the locations.  So much of what we enjoy is because of intangibles –  the references and the memories that connect us.  I don’t know Paris that intimately.

But I do know New York, my home and the home of generations of my family (actually 1626 was the earliest incursion of my family to these parts)  – and not only is it home, it is beloved and known..deeply and intimately known.  Every neighborhood, if not most every street, is a reference point to me because of a story or an event.

Bill Cunningham, the quintessential New York photographer who is a fixture in the NY Times and, if you have a sharp eye, a fixture on these streets, has an exhibition of 75 black and white photographs at the New York Historical Society.  The photos capture fashion and architecture and cleverly match the two, so that the periods jive and, in an interesting way, mirror each other.  An 8-year long project, this photo documentary became a slim paperback entitled Facades.  

It is wonderful and surprising.  The model, photographer Editta Sherman, (she looks like Mrs. Bouquet in Keeping Up Appearances) is wonderfully animated, (an interesting thought on the whole concept of models and modeling) positioned against the facades of the iconic, and the simply beautiful, buildings of the city.  Many of the facades are recognizable but others, taken out of context, stump my visual recognition gene and leave me wanting to take to the streets to find them.  This city – my city – is a beautiful and diverse one, and I love seeing the building facades disembodied, as it were, from their own contexts.

But isn’t that the real meaning of a facade?

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The Mallmann Diaspora