City, Thy Name Be Blessed

City, Thy Name Be Blessed

Usage conditions apply
From Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful in Photography
"Coming home from Nova Scotia, I found this unusual opportunity for a truly symbolical portrayal. There were many nuns aboard ship, returning to a convent in New Jersey. I knew we would pass the majestic skyline of New York at about half past seven in the evening and visualized my picture completely beforehand. The nuns were reticent about posing, but when I explained that the rules of their order would not be violated since I did not intend to photograph their faces, they graciously consented to take the position by the rail of the boat.
Thus I was able to portray the materialistic creation of man in stone and steel dwarfed by the heavenly grandeur overhead. The heads of the nuns, bowed as in prayer, seem to be blessed by the great slanting beams of sunlight.
Pyramid and radiation. The motif is spiritual which is carried through the entire composition. The pose of the nuns conveys a sense of reverence. The detail in the buildings is almost obscured which gives a feeling of mystery. Clouds and rays which connect the city with the sky above prevent separation of the motive. Although vivid light rays stream downward, the heaven above is shrouded in mystery by dark tones… this holds the eyes within the picture and makes them follow other rays down to the motive again.
Technical Problems:
The nuns, at first reluctant, consented to pose at the last minute. The sun rays were present, but not in the picture field and had to be re-introduced via ground glass work. On account of the wind, the nuns were holding their veils which made their white hands very conspicuous, and they had to be removed by etching and retouching. Quick action was necessary because the boat was moving fast and the exposure had to take place at the moment the nuns were in proper relation to the buildings in the background, which happened in a fraction of second. Mystery was added by printing in an irregular grain.
Camera: 2 ¼ x 3 ¼ Makina
Lens: Plaubel Anticomar
Stop: f.6.3
Film: Eastman Verichrome
Exposure: 1/25 in hand
Transparency: 8x10 Eastman Commercial
Negative: 8x10 Eastman Commercial
Print: Tuma Gas 14x17"
by Adolf Fassbender, 1937
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
before 1937
Fassbender, Adolf
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
image: 11 in x 8 in; 27.94 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Photographic History
Adolf Fassbender, Pictorial Artistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object