Destined to land close to each other in a library collection, these two books are so different they might be describing two worlds, not one city. Rajs shoots his New York as if he were on an assignment for National Geographic. His city is rich in polychrome power. It is so lovingly composed that to a native New Yorker, it looks like somewhere else. The dazzle that Rajs captures is not in daily routine but in the wonder of photography that builds glory through mastery of the medium by aiming at places, moments, and urban majesty. Hamill provides a fine opening essay that is long on history, careful about nostalgia, and realistic about the ups and downs of New York City. No glistening monument to human industry, Hart Island in New York Harbor has supported a cemetery, a charity hospital for women, an insane asylum, a jail, and now a cemetery again. Artists Hund and Sternfeld show it to be a secret place?a small island full of common graves, long trenches filled with pine boxes of forgotten dead?and in the process throw a meteor at people who think they know New York. Their photographs are generally brown and gray, visions of a lonely place in a lonely winter. The labor pool for the death detail is a cadre of prisoners from the city's jail at Riker's Island. These tough urban men seem softened by their work, by the finalization their digging brings to lives that never really got started. No single part of this book seems masterly?not Hunt's introductory essay, not the straightforward photographs under heavy clouds, not the images of crudely marked coffins large and small. But as a carefully collected volume, it is a moving and memorable portrayal of a secret place crammed with anonymous New Yorkers. Both books are recommended.?David Bryant, New Canaan P.L., CT
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Jake Rajs has traveled across America and throughout the world, capturing the image and spirit of place. His work is widely published and his books include the highly acclaimed America, The Hudson River, and Between Sea and Sky: Landscapes of Long Island's North Fork.
Pete Hamill is a novelist, journalist, editor, and screenwriter. He has served as editor-in-chief of both the New York Post and the New York Daily News. He has published eight novels, including the best-selling Snow in August, as well as the memoir A Drinking Life. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.