“Philadelphia Water Works” by Ross Abraham (Or Time Makes Everything Better)
One of the things that always amazes me about photography is the way different photographers will look upon the same subject. Shown here is the world famous Fairmount Water Works (also known as the Philadelphia Water Works) which is a national landmark and a major tourist attraction in Philadelphia. Just behind is the Philadelphia Museum of Art which was designed to mimic the architecture of the Water Works. I could go on about the subject matter because, as a Philadelphia Native myself, the location is among my favorite locations to shoot. I have dozens of shots of the same subject, even a few from the same spot, but none are as appealing or as interesting as this one, Philadelphia Water Works as seen and captured by photographer Ross Abraham. One aspect that separates Ross’s vision apart from all others is the element of Time.
Ross’s framing of the Water Works isn’t one of the classics. The building is quite large, and it’s situation on the river doesn’t really afford to many vantage points and so it’s very challenging to frame. The photographer really has to decide what he wants to show in the frame. If he wants the city skyline in the shot, which is most common, he would have to go on the upper tier of the pier. Ross has chosen to shoot from the lower plaza of the pier which really pulls you close to the water. The advantage is that you really get a better idea of the size and impact of this facility and you get much better reflections of the buildings. The disadvantage is that you don’t get that skyline shot and the Art Museum really disappears into the background. Needless to say, Ross did not take the easy shot and I admire him for that. But a shot from this vantage point on a crystal clear day is thin on interest. Clouds help, but they aren’t always as appealing. As one who has personally tried this very shot many times, I can say that it’s difficult to introduce interest and really pull off a great shot. But I wasn’t thinking like Ross.
Through his use of the longer exposure, Ross introduces us to the motion blur of the clouds. In doing so, he has rendered a number of subtle lines that all seem to point to the epicenter of the shot: The main concourse. I guess to some extent, this is a little bit of luck as the clouds could have been moving in any given direction. But they were moving either away from or directly towards the camera, and so this all works out in Ross’s favor. But I’m not sure the direction of the clouds really makes that much of a difference. In truth, the movement of the clouds in the sky symbolizes the passage of time. And in a subtle way – intended or not – it almost signifies decades in which this facility has held its shoreline along the Schuylkill River (Pronounced: ”Skool-kel”).
The Water Works were completed in 1872, so it’s been here a long time. But I don’t think any has captured it quite so well or quite so timless as Ross Abraham.
Ross is a talented architectural and street photographer who resides in the greater Philadelphia Area. You can of course find much of his inspiring works in his Flickr Photostream. There you will find a number of moments and curiosities from the streets and fantastic scenes. But Ross’s talents don’t stop there. In case you’re interested, he’s also a graphic designer and has a rather impressive portfolio over at RAwerks Design.