Central Park: Studied in Black and White

New York City’s Central Park is a magical, stunning, wonderful place. The park initially opened in 1857.  In 1858, a competition to design the park was launched. Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux won with their innovative, brilliant plan for the park, “Greensward.”

Implementing the plan of the park would take many years. Work began in 1858, but was interrupted by the American Civil War.  In 1873, the park was finally completed.

Over the years, the park has inspired writers, artists, and filmmakers. My friend and mentor, Dr. Rodger C. Birt contributes here a set of prints documenting the park in winter.

Rodger Birt’s talent as a photographer is clearly seen through these prints; the park he has rendered in these images is a study in black and white; a park studied for its contrasts– its natural elements, forms, lines, shades, angles, light. The “green” of the park is replaced here by the tones of winter, sharply divided by shadow between icy white and the absence of light.

The people pictured in the images are acting within the park’s intricate settings, its layers and networks of paths, slopes, and traverses. They make use of the park for pleasure or passage. The park is a backdrop for human activity, and yet, in these images, the park itself remains directly in the foreground. 

The park is indeed “central” in these images, allowing both the inhabitant of the park and the viewer of its depiction to gaze at its intricacy, its complexity, its design. Rodger Birt’s images underscore the park’s truth: in both real life and in its rendition on film, the park is a place of inspiration.

I love looking at these images, particularly knowing that Rodger Birt has a brilliant eye both as a photographer and as a viewer of photographs.

Photographs by Rodger C. Birt




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