simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: Hell's Gate
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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Hell's Gate

If you are driving in New Jersey on the Turnpike through the industrial corridor, passing through towns like Carteret, Rahway, and Elizabeth, you will see (and smell) many oil refineries. To most travelers, these are hideous. But if you are traveling at night, everything about them can become strangely beautiful because it's so extremely different (I'm reminded of Paul Theroux's fascination with travel in Northern Ireland because of its extreme nature). Here you have a really bleak landscape with no sign of humans, networks of lights, tall dark silhouettes of towers and huge flames shooting into the night sky. It is surreal, like a fairy tale world.
The subject of today's photo is certainly more readily likable but I find it does share some of the issues with the aforementioned landscapes (certainly, elements in this photo are not inherently beautiful, like the smokestacks from Con Edison's power plant) - to really like this vista one does have to find beauty in the industrial or structural. Like the Eiffel Tower, designed by an engineer, it is loved by some and hated by many.
The bridge in the foreground is the Triborough, behind it is the Hell Gate Bridge (formerly the New York Connecting Railroad Bridge) - a steel arch railroad bridge spanning Queens and Wards/Randalls Islands. In the foreground you have the East River looking north (from Manhattan) as it splits around the islands.
I found the scene beautiful - bridges, the river, golden evening light, clouds, and the moon. It's about picking your battles and picking the right vantage point at the right time. For some there is beauty in these vistas; others have abandoned all hope, for they are at Hell's Gate ...


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