Tuesday 30 December 2008

Postcard of the Day No. 22, Williamsburg Bridge

Today’s offering comes from the city of New York and features the Williamsburg Bridge that has carried 2 subway tracks and 8 lanes of traffic across the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn since it opened in 1903. It’s a robust and uncompromising structure that makes no concessions to beauty and its character is faithfully reflected by the acute camera angle employed on this postcard. The transfixing element on this card is the tragedy that is taking place out in the river where a twin funnel pleasure cruiser is ablaze from head to stern. Jets of water from a fire fighting vessel appear to be making little impact and the position of the burning ship suggests that the bridge might be next to go up in flames, compounding the disaster. Curiously, the card bears no reference to this catastrophe as though this was a routine occurrence and undeserving of any special mention. The enlarged detail confirms that the unfolding tragedy is a distinctly clumsy and unconvincing, hand-drawn addition. Vintage postcards often display instances of the art of photo-retouching and even where the level of competence is no more than mediocre it often, as here, adds to the mystery of what we are seeing. The art of incompetent retouching has not been lost in the digital age. To see some wonderful examples of stunning lack of basic skills on the part of overpaid professionals, a visit to Photoshop Disasters is most rewarding.

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