Stanley Greenberg wants to challenge the way you see cities. His exhibition at Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Museum of Art, titled Excavation, presents a Manhattan that you’ve never seen before. Forget about familiar neighborhoods and buildings. Greenberg lets you walk with him in his journey through Manhattan, peeking through empty spaces and at different landscapes, into a rare urban past.
What was your inspiration behind Excavation?
I kept seeing these interesting open spaces around Manhattan where buildings had been torn down, and either there was a vacant lot or there was a parking lot that was just holding the space…you can see across a block, or across a street to the back of a building that you never would’ve seen before. So I wondered how to find them. The only way was to walk around Manhattan.
…I’d just gotten a small digital camera, which I’d never used before, and I thought I could walk and look for spaces, and see what else I see. And within the first hour or two of the first day, I realized that there were so many interesting typologies that I wanted to see more of, that I would walk every block of Manhattan and catalogue them.
…And then it became a really regular activity. I went out one day a week, every week, and it took me thirty-one weeks. I saw so many things I’d never seen before, which is a little surprising since I spend an enormous amount of time walking around as it is.
Excavation divides the city into typologies: Little Streets, Rocks, Buttresses, Empty Spaces, and Off Grid. Why did you choose to do this?
I didn’t want to divide by neighborhood, because people know what the neighborhoods are like. I wanted people to think of Manhattan as more of a big place with a lot of similarities in different parts of it. So there are empty lots in lower Manhattan and empty lots inward. And there are parking lots everywhere and there’s geology everywhere….it seemed like a more interesting way to organize than by neighborhood, which has been done before.
What are you hoping people will take away from the show?
I’ve studied the city for a long time and in different ways, so I understand why many things look the way they do—because there’s infrastructure underneath, or because of some political upheaval, or the history of war, or the history of geology. There are so many things that make the city look the way it does. And as I walked I realized I didn’t even know a fraction of those things…I’d like people to look at a picture and say, “why is that like that?” I hope to make them want to know more about it.
Excavation: Recent Photographs by Stanley Greenberg runs April 12 – June 14, 2013. For more information on the exhibit, visit the fairfield.edu/museum. For more on Stanley Greenberg and his work, visit stanleygreenberg.org.