John Yang is a New York-based photographer whose landscape photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian Institution, the Chasanoff Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and many other important public and private collections of photography.
From 1989 through 1993, Yang undertook an intensive photographic study of the ornamental sandstone reliefs on New York City brownstones and tenements of the late 19th century. The result is Over the Door, a meticulously prepared and exquisitely produced volume of urban portraitureYang's photographs capture the various moods of the many sculptured personalities that stand watch over the doorways, spandrels, and arches of Manhattan. The photographs are also a study of the effects of time on these carvings, which, regrettably, are rapidly deteriorating from acid rain as well as the happenstance of real estate developmentdemolition and destruction each take their toll on the carvings. Yang's methodical study of these relief carvingshe covered every block of Manhattan, from the Lower East Side to Harlem, several times in his search for subject has yielded a valuable book for the sake of its subject alone; but like Atget, Walker Evans, and other great "documentary" photographers, Yang chose his specific subjects primarily for their value to him as material for his art.
This dialogue between historical documentation and the artist's personal vision makes Over the Door a landmark book of photography, as well as a photographic book of landmarks. It also brings to the fore the artwork of another erafaces peering down from the many layers of the modern urban streetscape.