Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Flushing out some "7scapes"

...from a photographer's notebook

Detail from "7scape No.3"    ©2014 Steve Ember   See it full-size here

Rather listen? Here's a podcast I produced this year (2016).

A s I mentioned in another post, when I was a kid, my Dad thought he could get the New York City Subway out of my system by taking me on one of the longest rides possible from midtown Manhattan, the BMT line to Coney Island.

What I said then bears repeating: Nice try, Dad!

By my teen years, I had acquired a fascination with the IRT No.7 train, then called the Flushing/Corona line.

What made this particular line so intriguing? 

One afternoon I had taken the Shuttle train from Times Square to Grand Central. No, this was before “The French Connection,” in case you were thinking of my recent movie homage shooting

After riding the (then) New York Central up to Croton-Harmon (yes, that was a dreamy eyed homage to Hollywood, but, alas, no Eve Kendall look-alike reached across the table to caress my hand and blow out my match in the dining car of the Twentieth Century Limited, to the tender strains of Bernard Herrmann - Heck, it wasn’t even the Twentieth Century, just a regular MU service up the Hudson), it was time to head back to the West Side.

Now, somehow, as a rookie subway rider, I had become vaguely aware of another line that connected the East Side with the West Side under 42nd St. But this one had an element of…intrigue about it. See, the No.7 line is wa-a-ay deeper under Grand Central than any of the other tracks, whether (former) New York Central, the IRT East Side lines, or the aforementioned Shuttle.

To put it in perspective, fellow subterranean crawlers, the Grand Central to Times Square Shuttle runs 20 feet below street level…the IRT East Side (Lexington Avenue) lines are 50 feet below the street. Ah, but that mystique laden Flushing No.7 Line, at least at Grand Central, is all of eighty feet beneath the streets of Manhattan!

I remember the station being a very long escalator ride down and it doesn’t resemble the typical New York Subway station, in that it has a rounded ceiling – more like the London Tubes.

The reason the No.7 tracks are so deep in the bowels of Grand Central is that they are about to plunge under the East River in just a few blocks, via the Steinway tunnels, for the journey into Queens.

So, while the No. 7 line to Times Square is basically parallel to the Shuttle, it’s got that intriguing “deep” thing going for it. It was more a “discovery” as one had to do some work to sniff it out.

And all I knew at the time about what lay beyond that very deep station under Grand Central in the other direction was a mysterious destination called Flushing.


Detail from "7Scape No.1" ©2014 Steve Ember
See full image here
2014 was my year to re-discover the MTA’s IRT No.7 Flushing Line – this time with the cameras.

The idea was, initially, to capture the trains on their elevated structures, with the towers of midtown Manhattan looming beyond in telephoto-compressed perspective. But, it took only one stop, at 33rd Street/Rawson Street in Long Island City to acquaint me with the possibilities of capturing this fascinating high-density railroad, not just with Manhattan as a backdrop but also juxtaposing the ethnically rich workaday Queens neighborhoods providing lots of gritty foreground interest.

Photo Note Card Design "7scape No.2" ©2014 Steve Ember

Indeed, the No.7 is informally known as “The International Express.”

It’s a long trip from Midtown to Flushing – lots of stops, some local, some express – but the plan is, in successive trips to New York, to capture the long trains and rich ambiance of the No.7 Flushing line in a series of photographs called “7Scapes.”

These will be available in archival gallery prints and as custom printed Photo Note Cards. For details, please contact me at the e-mail address in right hand column.

Meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy the first few as they begin to appear. You can keep an eye peeled (and listen for their distinctive rumble!) by visiting my New York City images on Foto-Community.  Please stand back from the doors and move to the center of the car.

©2014 Steve Ember

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Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Steve:
As always, it is lovely to read your stories and watch your photos and while reading your discovery journeys on the IRT No.7 train I feel I have to get someday back to both NY and Chicago... I did not ride on their famous trains, in NY, because I went their in August and the heat was terrible and the subway stations were expelling hot air like a dragon's breath, in Chicago, because I thought I would find time "later on" and decided to discover the city on foot and never made it up to the elevated trains...
Seeing now your photos makes me want to return and discover these ways of transport, so thanks for the inspiration ! ;)
Take care,

July 16, 2014 at 11:36 PM  

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