City Surveys

Canal Street, New Orleans by Serhii Chrucky


I’m standing on the neutral ground of Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. It’s early October but today the lighting is uncharacteristically gray. The undifferentiated mass of clouds and the wet blanket of humidity turns the world into a luminous softbox. This type of weather is decent for shooting architecture so long as you crop the sky or need to photograph a north facing building in the colder months. All these years and I’m still not sure how I feel about photographing on overcast days.

I have the tripod set up next to the curb cut, a safe distance from the streetcars whizzing by my back. The camera is pointed southwest at a Walgreens drugstore on the opposite corner. I’ve been meaning to photograph this building for almost ten years. Built in 1938 in the Art Moderne style in vogue at the time, it’s a three story commercial building with a limestone facade, twice as long as it is wide. There is a cylindrical turret on the corner crammed with neon text: “Walgreen Drugs - Photo - Cosmetics - Prescriptions.” A band of rainbow neon tubes frame the text, coming to a semicircular crescendo at the top of the turret next to a yellow mortar and pestle signifying “pharmacy.” The neon glows nicely on overcast days like this, and it looks even better than it did in my mind all this time.

People are coming and going in waves, alternating with cars doing the same, so I wait for the breaks in between phases. There is one obnoxious truck, wrapped to resemble an alligator, parked in an intrusive position. If I want to get this shot now, and I do, I’m going to have to live with the alligator truck. The universe is often ungenerous in this way - there always seem to be objects like light posts, trees, magazine stands, and parked cars getting in the way of an otherwise perfect vantage point. People aren’t as problematic when they walk through the frame since they can be useful to show scale, utility, or both. Is it better to embrace the chaotic disorder in front of a building than it is to fret about it? I’m standing on the neutral ground of Canal Street like the psychological divide between being satisfied with results, or chucking them and trying again tomorrow. I’ll come back tomorrow.


CTA Flyover Demolitions Update #1 by Serhii Chrucky

I went back to Clark and Roscoe yesterday to check on the progress of 14 buildings that are being demolished for a new flyover for the Brown Line. (If you haven't yet take a look at my documentation of the area prior to the start of demolition.) So far, the two and three flat buildings on Wilton are gone and the newer multi-unit building on the corner of Wilton and School is half demolished. I assume it will be entirely gone by tomorrow (Monday 4/9/18).

The two triangular commercial buildings at Clark and Roscoe are also gone. The removal of the building on the northeast side of that intersection revealed a large ghost ad for "Banke's Coffee" as well as a poster advertising Riverview amusement park (the latter is not pictured here). 

I will be documenting the remainder of the demolition work as well as the construction of the flyover over the next few years, so stay tuned for more as this progresses.

St. Louis' Lafayette Square by Serhii Chrucky

Lafayette Park, located just southwest of downtown, is the oldest park in the city of St. Louis. It is square in shape, much like other town squares and urban parks from the early 19th century. The surrounding neighborhood is called Lafayette Square -- development began in the 1850s, but most of what is there today was built in the aftermath of a devastating 1896 tornado.

The neighborhoods south of downtown from Lafayette Square to Soulard and Benton Park are excellent examples of the Victorian-era American city, and are easily some of the most picturesque places in the St. Louis metropolitan area.  On my last visit, I photographed most every building that faces Lafayette Park with the exception of two or three buildings on the southern end.