Read an Excerpt
From the foreword by Charles Simic: "Unlike Paris, Rome, and many other great cities, New York is not conventionally beautiful. There is order to the Old World. What is architecturally ugly and what is beautiful are carefully segregated. Not so in New York, where buildings tend to be thrown together more or less haphazardly. One can take a walk in London in complete confidence that one's aesthetic ideas are not going to be upset. In Manhattan, on the other hand, one may turn a corner to find a skyscraper made of glass next to a dilapidated shack fronting a small parking lot with cars stacked up on top of one another by some clever mechanical contrivance, or glimpse a spire of a cathedral reflected in a store window full of manicurists at work on a block of several boarded-up stores and buildings. If Aristotle was right that "the mark of a poet is to see a connection between seemingly incongruous things," New York makes poets of us all.
Not just poets, of course. Sights, like the ones that I'm describing, in which reality and illusion is not easily differentiated, make one think of photomontage, the art of combining several photographs into a single picture. They give New York a fantastic quality even in broad daylight. In his fascination with the city, Hoepker encounters beauty where no one expects to find it. Like his photograph of a bright red armchair facing three abandoned and gutted brick buildings where someone once sat, or that terrifying and very famous one in which five people are seen sunning themselves and chatting quietly on the bank of East River while behind them on the spot where the twin towers collapsed in Manhattan earlier that day, black smoke and dust rise into the clear September sky. This is what Paul Rosenfeld, writing about Alfred Stieglitz called "the full majesty of the moment", which the mind is not able to retain in its fullness and the camera can. Again and again Hoepker captures in his photographs what even the most sensitive and alert observer has overlooked. That's where the delight and the shock of looking at the images in this book comes from, the recognition that while every living eye has stories to tell, the eye of a great photographer not only tells them better, but tells them so they may last."