Portfolio: The Quiet City

Douglas Ljungkvist is a travel and architectural photographer based in Brooklyn. His latest project, “The Quiet City,” explores the vernacular beauty of New York City’s industrial streetscapes. Here, Ljungkvist shares a slideshow of his work and the inspiration behind the series

I started photographing in Industrial Business Zones (IBZs) after moving to Brooklyn in 2006.  I was intrigued by the transformation, from industrial to residential use, of areas like Williamsburg and DUMBO. Visits to Sunset Park, Gowanus, Greenpoint, Long Island City, and East Williamsburg followed. The industrial pockets of New York City are often unseen by many residents unless they work or live nearby. I began to photograph the IBZs when most industrial businesses were closed, on Sunday afternoons. Most of the work is void of people. There is a surreal and at times eerie quietness that is rare in New York City.

“The Quiet City” is an ongoing personal project and does not purport to reveal absolute truths or confront issues of zoning or gentrification. There are historic aspects to the work but ultimately all of my work ties back to one subject matter: beauty. Beauty the way I see it, often vernacular, utilitarian and graphic. The aesthetics of the scenes are most important to me, relating to formalism and classic landscape painting. I am fueled by an interest in architecture, infrastructure and a love for lines, texture, materials and color.

Chances are, these areas will look very different ten years from now. Many of the IBZs are located on prime waterfront property or adjacent to expanding, already gentrified neighborhoods. My intuitive work process brings me back to these places on a regular basis to see what is new and what I will find. If I am able to secure funding I hope to expand the scope of the project to include all New York City IBZs and ultimately publish the complete body of work as a book.

All photographs courtesy of the author.

Douglas Ljungkvist is a Brooklyn based photographer originally from Sweden. His focus is on travel, architectural photography, and personal projects. His work has been published in Condé Nast Traveler, Tate ETC UK, Focus Magazine, and National Geographic Traveler, among others. He is the recipient of accolades from the IPA, The Color Awards, Px3, and was runner-up in the 2009 Travel Photographer of the Year contest, New Talent category. He has exhibited at the Bridge Art Fair during Art Basel in Miami and at Michael Mazzeo Gallery in Chelsea.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.


Leni Schwendinger July 12, 2010

Thank you for this depiction of a poignant reality that most of us reading this blog do not experience: the workaday industrial environment. There is a kind of melancholy in the emptiness and in your title an echo of the sweat and noise during hours of operation.