Cityscapes 1980-1984 selection
In the series Cityscapes (1980-1984), which began shortly after her arrival in New York, Zimmerman moved away from her interest in enclosed gallery and studio spaces, and on to architectural exteriors. The black-and-white photographs of this series offer a particular view of the city, one devoid of people, modes of transportation, or billboards. The focus is upon the shadowy masses of the buildings that stand in shades of black and gray against brilliant white skies.
Each of the Cityscapes images is softened by the motion of the camera. Zimmerman has explained that when first arriving in NYC she felt it was in constant motion and vibration from the subways, traffic etc. When she first began to take pictures of the city she purposefully blurred the shot by giving a long exposure to represent this 'vibration'. She liked and decided to cultivate the effect, which serves the pictures in a number of ways. In many of the prints, the blurring seems to suggest either that the buildings are in motion or that the photographer is moving, a quasi-cinematic effect that implies the viewer’s mobility as well.
The camera’s movement also generates dislocations and distortions of form. Light reflecting from a tall office tower bounces off a facing building in such a way that a brilliant square of white light detaches from the building and floats off to the left. Or in another photograph a cascade of rectangular prisms runs down the surface of a building making zigzagging lines resembling pencil squiggles.
While the early New York City views tend to feature masonry buildings, the later works present unornamented modern office towers of glass and steel, dramatically massed and jutting into the sky. They changed from utilitarian structures to gridded and striated rectangular volumes that are de-materialized through the camera’s movement.
-Roni Feinstein, 2003
Zimmerman’s Cityscapes take their place in a tradition reaching back to Alfred Stieglitz’s photographs of New York skyscrapers taken in the early 1930’s. But where Stieglitz’s skyscrapers rise like fantastical temples, with every cornice, molding, or girder crisply outlined by sunlight and shadow, Zimmerman moves her camera to create a sense of architecture in motion. The sunlit peaks of office towers detach themselves and float away into the sky, while the cornices of older buildings shoot sideways, leaving dark trails behind them. In Zimmerman’s hands, photography ceases to be a sober means of documentation, and becomes instead a keyboard for composing tone-poems about the city.
-Pepe Karmel, 2013
Untitled Cityscape 5, 1981, gelatin silver print, 36"H x 46"W
Untitled Cityscape 12, 1980, gelatin silver print, 46"H x 36"W
Untitled Cityscape 13, 1980, gelatin silver print, 36"H x 46"W
Untitled Cityscape 15, 1983, gelatin silver print, 36"H x 46"W
Untitled Cityscape 16, 1983, gelatin silver print, 36"H x 46"W
Untitled Cityscape 22, 1983, gelatin silver print, 46"H x 36"W
Untitled Cityscape 118 (World Trade Center), 1984, gelatin silver print, 46"H x 36"W
Untitled Cityscape 217, 1984, gelatin silver print, 46"H x 36"W