As a staff member of Friends of the High Line, I feel like I’m often focused solely on what’s going on in the park: plants, food, visitors, public programs, etc. But the most exciting and interesting feature of the structure itself is arguably its elevated nature. This elevation creates not only an engaging public space that interacts with the city 30 feet above the ground, it also creates street-level interactions with the roadways and businesses along and underneath the former railway. It’s for this reason that I was so thrilled to hear that High Line Photographer Mike Tschappat was undertaking a personal photo project focused on perspectives beneath the High Line.
Mike Tschappat is a prolific photographer who turns his lens to beautiful landscapes across the tri-state area, including natural forests, city skylines, and of course, the High Line. For this project, Mike spent 10 months with his tripod and camera in hand, roaming the neighborhood around the High Line. What I love most about the resulting collection of photos – of which we’re only featuring a small number here – is the sheer variety of perspectives and subjects. Some shots peer up at visitors of the High Line from a distance, their tiny silhouettes acting as a measure against which the scale of the city and the High Line can be better understood. Others put the neighboring buildings, streets, people, and street-level character on center stage, leaving the High Line as a backdrop. In many photos the steely weight and presence of the railway is apparent – a nice contrast to the lighter contemporary feel of the gardens and walkway topside.
Below Mike talks about the project in his own words.
As the High Line marches down Manhattan’s lower West Side, it leaves footprints on the communities, the businesses, and the landscapes that lie beneath. Its girders, packed by rivets, reveal a stalwart geometry to street dwellers who think to look up. Its massive legs protrude into buildings, becoming part of the architecture and the décor. It shelters car parks and a New York City Fire Department Station. Pizzerias and delis have renamed themselves after the High Line.
When I stand below and stare up at the people on the High Line, I feel a little envious. They seem like ethereal beings compared to my earthbound self. They stride on its brawny shoulders while I dodge taxis and distracted pedestrians beneath. But there’s a charm to being under the High Line, a perspective that reveals its sturdiness and the beauty of its construction. These photos attempt to capture some of that beauty and show the way the High Line integrates with the Manhattan that lies below.
Hector’s Café & Diner is another restaurant that lives under the park. “I wonder which came first, the High Line or the building,” Mike says of this little café that is such a natural part of the park. Editor’s note: The High Line actually preceded the café, but not by very long. Hector’s opened in 1949, 15 years after the High Line was built.
Mike often takes his most compelling shots after sunset. “Night can be as beguiling under the High Line as it can on it,” he says.
See more of Mike’s photos in his Flickr Photostream.