Eugene De Salignac: Manhattan Bridge, Centennial Exhibition, 1909-2009 @De Lellis

JTF (just the facts): A total of 46 vintage cyanotype images, taken between 1913 and 1922, framed in black and displayed throughout the gallery. Many are annotated directly on the image.(Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Eugene De Salignac was a municipal employee, working for the Department of Bridges in New York in the first few decades of the 20th century, taking photographs to provide a record of the various construction projects undertaken during those years. His images were recently rediscovered and became the subject of a book and exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York in 2007. This small but comprehensive show traces the building of the Manhattan Bridge, one hundred years later.

While the pictures clearly have a historical and documentary purpose, it is their surprising modernity that makes them memorable. There are plenty of roads and trolley tracks, spans and wires, fluttering flags and paving stones, all with strong lines and contrasting patterns. There are views of the plaza in Brooklyn, and from the tops of the suspension towers, densely striped with wires, looking in both directions. In the best of the images, De Salignac captured the romantic aura of those years (enhanced by the blue tint of the cyanotype process), the awe and pride in the face of what man could accomplish.
Collector’s POV: The images in the show are priced between $1200 and $4500. These images would make good companions for some of our early New York bridge scenes by Abbott and Bourke-White.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Eugene De Salignac: Manhattan Bridge, Centennial Exhibition, 1909-2009
Through February 28

1045 Madison Avenue
Number 3
New York, NY 10075

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