In the second installment of “Gotham City,“ photographer Timothy Briner captures the fleeting moments and sights that characterize the everyday experience of walking through the streets of New York from the randomness of a paper bag to a man in a wheelchair entering and exiting the dirty, lighted elevator of the West 4th Street subway station in Greenwich Village. Continuing to investigate the gritty side of New York through black and white photography, Briner’s photographs turn the urban detritus that New Yorkers pass by constantly, such as an abandoned box-spring and piles of shiny, plastic garbage bags, turning them into textural and atmospheric studies of the urban environment.
Like Briner’s first part of “Gotham City,” his photographs present a brooding and eerie atmosphere that portrays a city where anything can happen. A sense of danger looms large in some of the photographs where caution tape lies strewn on the sidewalk. But with this sense of danger, there is also beauty, as the caution tape creates a zigzagging pattern across a mottled sidewalk.
Briner also photographs moments of action, which recall the more spontaneous and violent New York of the mid- to late-20th-century. With images like a garbage can on fire (a sight that used to be more common in New York during the days of the burned-out Lower East Side) Briner’s photographs resemble the cinematography of No Wave filmmakers such as Eric Mitchell and Amos Poe, who portrayed New York life as film noir.
Briner’s New York is a city of contradictions. Documenting not only the signs and advertisements on the streets of New York, he also notices graffiti and the various contradictory messages sprayed on walls from “Love” in one photograph to “Murder” in another. Briner contrasts the idea of open and closed spaces illustrating a city that contains both brick-filled windows and a solid wall with a small opening for, as the stenciled directions state, prayers.
Words by Emily Colucci.