From my regular column in AnOther magazine.
New York photographer Josef Birdman Astor is known among his peers as a “photographer’s photographer”. His work is revered for its technical mastery, ultimately made invisible by a beautiful use of light, shape, and concept. With the premiere last week of his first film – a documentary titled Lost Bohemia – he is now, too, an artist’s artist. For years, Astor was a resident of the Carnegie Hall Artist Studios, inhabiting one of only a handful of skylight residences atop the legendary music hall (160 studios were commissioned by Andrew Carnegie shortly after the hall was built to help foster the arts in America and New York City). For over 100 years, they have given innumerable artists and students an opportunity live, explore, study, and create – and they added immeasurably to the cultural heritage of the city in which they existed. Throughout the 20th century, some of America’s most important artists either lived, worked, or studied in the studios: Mark Twain, Marlon Brando, Isadora Duncan, Grace Kelly, Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, George Balanchine, James Dean, and from the 80s onward a number of well-known contemporary actors studied there including Michael Douglas, Denzel Washington, Mira Sorvino, and John Turturro. Now the two towers are being gutted and many 19th century staircases, skylights, and other architectural jewels will be destroyed to make way for new corporate offices, music classrooms, and a private rooftop terrace for trustees and donors of the Carnegie Hall Corporation.