IT was dusk, the poet's time of day, when the remarkable colors in this photo were splashed neatly on industrial buildings by a blazing sun. Monitor photographer Neal Menschel was standing on the Tobin Bridge in Boston and turned around momentarily to see what was behind him.
What he saw, down and away, was a red building made blood-red, a soft, lilac hue coated on an angled conveyer chute, and plenty of murky shadows here and there, all played out in a grid of patterns and pavement enhanced by the bird's-eye view.
The essential loneliness of this urban scene is softened somewhat by the palate of colors and dusk. No humans are in sight. None of the cars are fully seen. There is a riderless motorcycle parked in the center of the photo near the open garage door. It is as if humans and cars are intentionally hiding. Lights are on, but everyone has ducked behind a building or a corner; only the hardness of brick, mortar, and steel remain.
The patterns in the photo are reminiscent of the black and white photos of Charles Sheeler from the 1920s. Emphasis in his photos was on the industrial grandeur of automobile plants; enormous pipes, catwalks, huge compressors, and blast furnaces dominated. The men who worked so tediously in the plants were seldom seen.
Menschel's photo works much the same way, but one difference is deep color, along with almost a century's worth of understanding that cities, like industrial plants, often obliterate people. In this regard, photos help to disarm and expose cities. They compel a deeper look, a lingering over a scene to see in detail what might not be seen if passing by in a car or on foot.
And mystery, too, exists in this photo, the inexplicable impression it creates on first glance. There is enough dissimiliarity to "real life" to make us look and mentally squint. Is the color real? Where is it? What is it?
The answer to all questions is, look again.