Oct 2, 2007

The Wells Street "L," Chicago

The Wells Street "L," Chicago


Gordon Coster

(American, 1906–1988)

Gelatin silver print

Image: 23.7 x 33.7 cm (9 5/16 x 13 1/4 in.); Matted: 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1994.92



Although the skyscraper originated in the 1880s, it was not until the 1910s and 1920s that a vertical building boom turned Chicago’s downtown and several areas in New York into steep-walled canyons. The construction of massive office buildings was spurred by the need to accommodate a burgeoning white-collar workforce spawned by rapid economic growth. Electrified railroads, some of them elevated like Chicago’s “L,” provided transportation for the throngs of workers. Gordon Coster, a Chicago photographer, began as a Pictorialist, creating soft-focus, artfully manipulated images, but later embraced modernism’s sharp focus and radical compositional strategies. This dizzying view is emblematic of modernist experimentation with unusual camera angles.

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