PPD Spotlight: Bruce Katz Shoots NYC From Elevated Train Stations

By David Schonauer   Monday June 13, 2016

New York is a perpetual draw for photographers.

It sometimes seems that every inch of the city has been photographed. Some people shoot it from street level, others descend into the crowded subways for a view of New York’s underground life. Still others shoot it from above, capturing aerial views from rooftops.

New York-based photographer and PPD reader Bruce Katz  has combined all three approaches in his project “Elevated Lines.” By photographing the city's working-class outer-borough neighborhoods from elevated subway stations, he has created what he calls a “visual survey of the city as it stands today.”

His glimpses of buildings, streets, rooftops and skylines reveal a place constantly being rebuilt, where the old and the new live side by side.

“Vestiges of 1900s New York remain mixed with new development, gentrification, and sometimes abject neglect. Residential, retail, and industrial exist side by side — sometimes all within the span of one subway stop,” says Katz. “Viewed from the platform edge one can see the city’s discordant mix of old and new and the ever present renewal/decay/transition of its neighborhoods.”

Katz began the project in the summer of 2015, while he was waiting for the 1 train at  231st Steet in the Bronx. “I did a fun iPhone picture, and that photo started me thinking about how we see New York from the subway lines,” he says. Working on the project took Katz through the city on almost all of New York’s elevated subway lines — from the Rockaways, Borough Park and Astoria to Tremont, Bushwick, East New York, and elsewhere.

He shot with a handheld Canon 5D Mark II and 35mm Zeiss lens. “I’d scout the subway lines by traveling in the first subway car and checking out the station as we pulled in,” he says. “If the station was promising as a location, I'd get out and shoot — usually just enough time to wait for the following train, and then I’d repeat the process as I traveled that particular line.”

Katz’s commercial and editorial work features architecture photography, interiors, and portraits. His client list includes Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, New York magazine, Simon & Schuster and the Affinia Hotel Group. Among his personal projects is “City Limits,” which, he told  PDN,  “began when I was exploring the aging grandeur of Riis Park in the Rockaways.”

“I came across a collection of berms created to prevent beach erosion. There was a mysterious and ethereal quality to the scene—the antithesis of the traditional urban vista,” said Katz. “I just loved the idea that this landscape existed in NYC and I set out to see if I could find more.”

With his “Elevated Lines” project, Katz has discovered other urban vistas, hidden in plain site.

See more of his work at his website.


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