New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 15 April 25 to May 1, 2012

All New York’s a Stage
Matthew Pillsbury
City Stages
Janes Carousel by Matthew Pillsbury. Source: bonnibenrubi.com
Matthew Pillsbury, "Janes Carousel" 2011

Just when you thought you’d seen New York City from every conceivable angle, Matthew Pillsbury comes along and adds a fresh perspective in “City Stages.” Using long time exposures in mostly super-sized prints (50 x 60 inches) his images show iconic views of New York imbued with a ghost-like ethereal quality. The motion captured by his time exposures puts a magical focus on the separate elements of the image — the people and their surroundings. The results are often soothing and compelling.

Of the twelve black and white images in the exhibition, the two least successful were “Sitting on the High Line” and “Above Times Square, New Year’s Eve” where the time exposure blurs are not strong enough to raise the images above the level of cliché. But then there are a few keepers –– “Jane’s Carousel” is a standout. First, it’s heartening to see this magnificent carousel, even in black and white and a blur, in its new home — a glass house under the Brooklyn Bridge. And the photograph itself is transformative –– the moving carousel becomes a giant spinning top. Moving inside, Pillsbury captured “Woody Allen and the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band at the Café Carlyle.” There’s no denying that Woody Allen feels the music – you can see the blurred movement of his knee. In another interior shot, “Contortionist, Big Apple Circle,” the time exposure gives the contortionist at the center of the action four arms or six –- or maybe more. It depends how closely you look. What’s interesting is how the rest of the scene is fairly sharp — the performer has frozen the audience’s attention.

Fausto, Washington Square Park by Matthew Pillsbury. Source: bonnibenrubi.com
Matthew Pillsbury, "Fausto, Washington Square Park" 2011

Finally, the image that sticks in this reviewer’s mind is “Fausto, Washington Square Park.” Who is that ghost-like figure reading a book in front of the fountain’s spray? The long exposure captures him turning pages and moving his knees. The light in the background is reflected by the fountain spray and framed by the Washington Square arch. Beautiful. Or even out of this world.

Matthew Pillsbury captured life on a variety of “stages” in New York –– “City Stages” will be a tough act to follow.

Matthew Pillsbury
City Stages


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