A Rollicking Celebration

HOW do you spell supercharged energy?

N-E-W Y-O-R-K.

The Big Apple is hot-wired day and night. Palpably electric all the time. The ultimate anti-quiet city. The bedrock of roar.

H. L. Mencken said it was the place where "the aspirations of the Western World meet to form one vast master aspiration as powerful as the action of a steam dredge."

The architect Le Corbusier, like so many others, was drawn to the city and repulsed by it: "A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe and 50 times: It is a beautiful catastrophe," he said.

When photographer R. Norman Matheny stood on a rocking barge just a little to the left of the Brooklyn Bridge and looked across the East River to New York at night, he knew the radiant dazzle was his for the taking.

He steadied his camera on a piling while passing vessels made the barge heave underfoot. The result, because of a time exposure and a wide-angle lens, is an enhanced New York, a sort of supercharged city, as if the wattage jumped two-fold just for the camera. The old pilings to the left take on a reddish hue by reflecting nearby light. And the time exposure thickens the red.

There is also a slight distortion to the horizon, a bowed effect. The New York artist Red Grooms loves to see New York even more distorted, with bulbous, rollicking figures and buildings all jammed together and charged with energy.

But in Matheny's photo, the 1,368-foot tall World Trade Center and all the other skyscrapers are reduced, almost miniaturized, to play their role in the familiar larger skyline.

Distorted or not, the photo is a celebration, is New York, is electric energy.

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