Berenice Abbott was interested in capturing how the modern metropolis was changing, and she found a perfect example of this dramatic transformation at Rockefeller Center—a twelve-acre Art Deco skyscraper complex in midtown Manhattan. Although she took numerous photographs of the project after its completion, Abbott was lucky enough to gain access to the site during construction.
In this image Abbott doesn’t focus on the center’s architecture, but on its roots in the island’s soil. Although the geological striations recall an archeological dig exposing the city’s past (including what was lost to demolition), the small ladder and almost indiscernible worker in the lower left corner suggest the project’s hope for the future—a paean to capitalism during the Great Depression.
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes this complete unpublished portfolio (Eskenazi Museum of Art 76.128.5A–.5T).
Rockefeller Center from Abbott, an unpublished portfolio
ca. 1932 (printed mid-1950s)
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet 9 3/8 x 7 1/2 in. (23.8 x 19.0 cm); mount: 13 x 10 in. (33.0 x 25.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 76.128.5F
Large image not available.