About photobooks – old and new.
42nd and Vanderbilt.
First edition, first printing, published by TBW Books in 2017.
4to, hardcover with photographic illustration, issued without dust jacket, 160 pp., and 123 color illustrations
The Danish photographer Peter Funch meticulously photographed urban morning commuters – between 8:30 am and 9:30 am, at the southern corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue in New York City. A project that he undertook for nine years, from 2007 to 2016.
Juxtaposing pictures of the same person, taken in different occasions, reveals how consistent people are in their daily habits. In one example, what appears to be a diptych of a woman with images taken only seconds apart, slowly becomes a ‘Spot the Difference’ puzzle: subtle variations in attire, hair, light and shadow emerge as we the viewer realize, in both wonder and consternation, that the images were in fact taken days, months, or perhaps even years apart.
At first, there is an obvious and frightening point about our routines and habits: how predictable and repetitive they become. We are creatures of habits, invariably choosing the comfort of repetition and slowly losing our sense of creativity. At the same time, repetition and an apparent monotony could simply be a manifestation of consistency and acceptance of our inner selves, enjoying it without looking for superfluous reinventions.
Funch’s photobook also raises another point about street photography: the possibility of methodically registering our daily routine, just by photographing at the same place and time. “The decisive moment” could in fact be an illusion, as any street scene may well be an endless repetition of a same scene. In this sense, there is nothing unexpected, but rather predictable.