“Room Service”, Carlyle Hotel, N.Y.C. 1978”

“Room Service”, Carlyle Hotel, N.Y.C. 1978”

In the early 1970’s while studying with Ansel Adams I learned his technique called pre-visualization. A process of making sketches of images that had come to mind on a sketchpad and then going into the field to make them become a reality.  The interesting thing is, when I would go into the field to make the photograph, the resulting image always turned out better than I ever even dreamed of in the sketch. There was always a feeling of it being a mystical experience.

In 1978 while still using the pre-visualization technique a vision of “Room Service” came into mind. Immediately the idea was sketched out. It was so vivid, a beautiful setting of room service overlooking New York City. I said to my wife Susan we’re going to New York because I’ve got to take a photograph and it’s called “Room Service”.  My friend who was the director of Aberbach Fine Art on Madison Avenue helped me secure a room at the Carlyle Hotel which happened to be just across the street from the gallery. We arrived at the stately lobby and checked in with our luggage. To make the photograph I had traveled with my Deardorff 4 x 5, my favorite tripod, along with a lot of hope for what was about to happen.

They showed us to our room and when the door opened, and we walked in to look out the window the view was a brick wall. I sat on the bed for a few minutes knowing this was not my vision, how I can ever make this photograph happen? There was only one answer go down and explain the situation. How many people go to the front desk in a hotel and ask for a room with a view. Ha Ha! Now at the front desk I told the manager, you must understand I need a room with a view because I’ve come to New York City to take a photograph and it’s called “Room Service”, he looked at me like I was a crazy man. I went on to explain that I take photographs, and this is an image that I had a premonition of, and his help would be most appreciated.  He took a moment and said let me see what I can do. We were assigned a new room that had a small corner balcony with a railing all around and a lovely view of the city. That railing was not in my sketch and there was no going back down to ask again. Somehow the magic occurred, and it all worked out.

That was back in 1978 when we took that trip. Now years later, “Room Service” has been celebrated and enjoyed by many. It resides in museums and collections around the world. A surprise came when I received an email titled “Hello from the Carlyle.” Upon opening the email, it said that they were so pleased to see my photograph of “Room Service “, they had no idea that it existed and wondered how in the world they never knew about it.  I went on to tell them the story written here. We had a nice chat ending with a beautiful large print of “Room Service” being made and shipped to the Carlyle Hotel where it now has returned home to the place it was created. I am very grateful to the Carlyle for finding me and for the miracle that occurred that day in 1978.

Elliott McDowell