Photo of the Week: A Look Back

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Author: 
Christian Barclay
Photo by Joel Sternfeld Joel Sternfeld, Fallen Billboard, November 2000. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York.

"As soon as Joel saw it, he took me aside and said, 'I want to do this. Don’t let anyone else up here for a year. I will give you beautiful photos.'" – High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond, High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky

Joel Sternfeld’s photographs have come to define the High Line in a way that no one foresaw. In a series of shots taken throughout the seasons, Sternfeld was able to capture both the essence of the space and the possibilities of what it could become. The photographs became an invaluable tool in the struggle to preserve the tracks. They conveyed what architectural renderings could not – a captivatingly lush landscape, an impermeable historic footprint, a public space for wonder and reflection.

The photographs were featured in The New Yorker in 2001 in an article that called Sternfeld “the poet-keeper” of the High Line. Author Adam Gopnik praised his ability to see romance where others saw weeds. The article was a catalyst for Friends of the High Line, ushering in waves of public recognition and support – including one very important call from early supporter Edward Norton.

Later that year, facing the possible demolition of the tracks, Sternfeld sought every way possible to showcase his photographs in support of the High Line. He coordinated a show at the Pace/McGill gallery and worked with a German art publisher to publish his photographs in a book called Walking the High Line. Nearly 15 years later, his passionate support and artistic talent have helped turn a disused rail track into a beloved New York landmark.