Behind the Scenes

Experiencing historic spaces, and sometimes just gaining access to them, can be a journey itself.

Since we posted the December 2010 issue last month, our cover story on New York City’s landmarked interiors hit the charts (Most Shared Stories in web language) consistently. And no wonder. These memorable spaces add the kind of rich experience to being in New York that the iconic buildings crowding our skyline can only promise.

These rooms deliver an aesthetic trip back in time, a trip that makes a visit here a truly memorable time. Though these theatres, lobbies, restaurants, and stores are public spaces where you can marvel at the detailing—its richness, its restraint, its exquisite sense of proportion, its materials—photographers have a hard time setting up their tripods in them. Access is grudgingly granted or often denied.  Obstacles can be daunting.

This is the story of one such adventure. Documenting this crop of landmarked interiors (including the Cunard Building, Film Center, Brooklyn Historical Society, Time & Life Building, Charles Scribner’s Sons Building) fell to photographer Sean Hemmerle. The tight deadline added to the degree of difficulty. As he tells it, it takes a village (in our case our editorial and art staff) to pull off such an assignment. So I asked Sean to find a comfy chair in his downtown studio, and talk into my Flip camera about photographing the Beacon Theatre, which ended up on our cover.

He’s currently updating his website http://seanhemmerle.com/  where you’ll find full documentation of the shoot as well as his other shoots from the world over.  But for now, take a look at the image he took inside the Beacon, lit by only one light bulb, then compare this to what his camera captured when the lights were—seemingly miraculously—turned on.

 Beacon Theater, October, 2010                                          

The Beacon Theatre, lit by one lone bulb.

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