Just some random thoughts from walking around Roosevelt Island. The south end of the island anchors one end of the bridge that carries Route 50 over the Potomac River. Looking through the arches of the bridge, you can see the Lincoln Memorial. Without a twin-lens reflex camera like my Rollei, I wouldn’t have been able to take this photo – to get the Lincoln to show more than a hint of a roofline, I had to hold the camera above my head, upside down, my arms outstretched. Doing this, I can use the waist-level finder to my advantage and gain an extra two feet of height. I’m sure it must look as utterly awkward to a third party observer as it feels when you’re doing it, but sometimes there’s no better way to see over a crowd (or a wall, in this case).
Turing around 180 degrees from where I was pointing the camera for the under-bridge shot, you can look up the estuarine inlet on the island, and feel like you’re a hundred miles from civilization. If you look very carefully you can see a snowy egret crossing the stream in the center background.
And then there’s the Roosevelt Monument in the middle of the island. It feels a bit like a Soviet Realist architect was designing a set for 2001: A Space Odyssey. White marble monoliths ring the perimeter with quotes from Roosevelt chiseled into them. Looking at them I half-expected to hear the strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra come wafting out of the woods if I stood there long enough.
And thinking of Ubermenschen, the statue of Roosevelt really feels like you could swap out his head for Lenin’s and nobody would even notice. This monument would be equally at home in Moscow. Of course, the placement within the natural environment and the environment’s intrusion into the monument belie its non-Soviet origins. When was the last time you saw something like this with so many trees and shrubbery dedicated to a Communist icon?
The bowl of this fountain is monumental in itself. It kind of reminds me in a weird way of Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides. Fortunately nobody is buried in the fountain. But it is big enough to be a bathtub for William Howard Taft.
I saw this man sitting, reading his book, attended by his thermos. I think it’s a fitting image to close with as it re-humanizes the monument and makes a statement about how public places can have meaning and emotional resonance for the people who use them.