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Flatiron Building

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Image of Flatiron Building

Lynn Saville
American, born 1950

Flatiron Building


Object Type: Photograph
21 3/4 in. x 14 5/8 in. (55.25 cm x 37.15 cm)
Medium and Support: Gelatin silver print on paper
Accession Number: 2008.0012.0002

Credit Line: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase
Copyright: © Lynn Saville

The Flatiron Building has been a popular subject for photographers since its completion in 1902. Early exposures by Alfred Stieglitz (black and white, 1903) and Edward Steichen (color, 1904) are perhaps the best known images of the skyscraper, but when they were made the Flatiron Building rose above the rest of the city. They used low vantage points to enhance the slender building’s height and to silhouette it against grey skies. A century later, photographer Lynn Saville pictured it from above, perched in or atop one of the many mid-town towers that now dwarf the landmark. The broad and busy streets isolate the iconic building, which looks like an island in a sea of streetlights, stoplights, and taxis. The roadways form a prominent vee shape on the picture plane, which is flattened and tilted up sharply as a result of the camera’s optics and the artist’s intent. The result is a strong abstract composition of light and dark created by a realistically captured city scene. As such, it is similar to the Stieglitz and Steichen photographs. Like the older and smaller prints, this mammoth image conveys the distinctive character of the Flatiron Building, a landmark architectural structure still standing tall and proud in the midst of the city that never sleeps.

Saville, a native of North Carolina who now lives in New York City, has been making photographs at night for many years and eschews flash photography, relying instead on ambient light from illuminated signs, automobile headlights, street lights, and light escaping from building interiors.

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