Church of the Redeemer - A Decommissioned Sanctuary

posted on: July 29, 2015

When I received an inquiry about tracking down and photographing a few works of stained glass art that remained in a Brooklyn church, my heart skipped a beat.  A project I'd always been passionate about - preserving architectural artistry and history- coming to my inbox through a client commission.  Little did I know what work was ahead, or even if the stained glass art still existed.

I've always loved churches with big sanctuaries.  The atrium-like spaciousness of the high ceiling, the echo of the chamber that allows songs and chords to last a little longer, and the peaceful quality that people bring as they enter in humility, grace, gratitude, and gathering.  The sanctuary often built in stone as a symbol of safety and stability, but with delicate stained glass to bring in ethereal light.

In recent years, it seems like there's an increased frequency of these vast sanctuaries going into disrepair, many without enough congregational tithes to keep them maintained or even occupied. So many beautifully crafted buildings, adorned with donated artifacts and artistry, but difficult to maintain on volunteer efforts.  What will become of them all?

In the case of Church of the Redeemer, it will be torn down to become a mixed use building set on prime retail and residential real estate with the subway below, the neighborhood behind, and more shopping across the street.  But what will happen to the artifacts?  The Midmer/Gunzelman pipe organ, the stained glass windows, the wooden doors and pews?

For one stained glass artist, Jessie Van Brunt, who signed her own work before donating to the church, there is still hope that her works will be recovered and preserved.  Though Jessie died in 1947, one of her surviving relatives, Karen, has been on a mission to recover as many of her art works as possible and got in touch with me to help.  This hunt has led Karen to inquire about churches in places like Alaska and London, only to find that the churches have already been destroyed by fire or war, leaving little hope that Jessie's work would remain in a decommissioned church.

Even though the historic building was sold in 2012, I found it still standing on the corner of Pacific Ave & 4th Ave, giving direct reference to the subway tiles immediately below when I first arrived in April 2015.  Hardly any scaffolding had been put up yet and it seemed as though many of the original windows were still in tact.  It amazed me that this church hadn't been landmarked with such an iconic presence and location, but for whatever reason, this 1866 bluestone building never made it through the process.


I compared historic Smithsonian Archive photographs to see if I could first identify if the windows were still there.  While the windows were mostly covered from the outside, a few of the window shapes appeared to be similar enough, so I grabbed whatever reference photos I could get on my first visit in order to zoom in later and get a closer view for comparison.

Many of the windows on the building had similar shapes and similar visual themes, so it was only through getting as much detail as possible from all of the photographic records I could obtain on site and comparing them to the Smithsonian archives that allowed me to determine that yes, Jessie Van Brunt's stained glass windows were still in the church and still in an acceptable condition to photograph and to potentially remove for preservation.  However, gaining access to the interior proved to be an entirely different challenge that would take months to unfold, as the developer wasn't interested in providing access to the building.

A tip from the Brooklyn Historical Society helped me learn that The Demolition Depot was able to make arrangements with the developer to remove many of the artifacts that the community was concerned would be destroyed in the processing of tearing the building down.  Several of the items that I had been sent to photograph had already been removed from the building, but the windows that I could identify from the exterior of the building remained.  The challenge was then to create as much of a detailed archival record of the stained glass window as possible, so that if it suffered any damage during removal, it could be pieced together exactly as it has been created.  Unfortunately, one window was now completely obscured by construction scaffolding on the front of the building, which did not exist when I first requested access back in April.  Instead of focusing on obtaining the best color from the light no longer available through the covered window, I turned my focused to the texture and construction of the stained glass.  I also chose to provide enough context around the window in order to demonstrate its architectural placement and the space that had been carved for it in the building, which would be lost once the building was gone.

This church sat empty for 3 years before an architectural salvager was allowed access to remove the artifacts for preservation.  If access had been granted sooner, less damage would have been done and more materials could have been recycled or preserved before they were rusted, warped, or broken.  Some other decommissioned churches I've seen have been in much worse condition than this after just one year.  The damage is almost always a result of a leaking roof or broken windows that could easily be repaired with small fixes accomplished during regular observation.  The neglect and failure to act on minor problems until they become large problems are what create the most damage.

One of my hopes is that by sharing this story and these images, any future churches seeking to be decommissioned or sold will give time for family members, their congregation, and any historic groups an opportunity to find ways of preserving what is meaningful.  Quite a bit of the labor and artistry put into churches was done on a volunteer basis, or as a gift of gratitude.  It seems the least we can do is to give the craftsmanship of these artisans some consideration and opportunity to be saved, even if the structure itself cannot remain.

I'm grateful that I was given the chance to preserve what is left in imagery.  Even if further damage is done or if the artifacts end up in a private collection, what has been preserved in images now can be remembered and shared in clarity and colorful detail.  To see more images from my documentation of the Church of the Redeemer, visit:
Church of the Redeemer - Brooklyn, NY - 2015

POSITION CLOSED: NYC Architectural Photography Apprenticeship Available

posted on: July 13, 2015


Position Open as of June 25, 2015
Applications Accepted before July 25, 2015
Interviews Begin August 3, 2015

Who I Am:
An Architecture & Interior Design photographer based in Manhattan, New York City, NY, USA with 11 years of experience as a professional photographer in Michigan, Indiana, Massachusetts, Queensland, and New York.  I have an active travel and client schedule, and I'm looking to expand my team of help in order to better serve my existing clients as well as future clients while my client list continues to grow.

Manhattan Interior Design  Photographer

Who My Clients Are:
My clients are everything from solo interior designers with boutique businesses, to high end real estate agents featuring multi-million dollar properties, to architectural furniture and utility suppliers, to large architectural firms with multiple projects.  Clients come in large and small accounts, and are all equally important to serve with the best quality and care.

The Ideal Apprentice:
  • Has a passion for Architectural Photography and working with Architects and Designers.  
  • Has familiarity with using Lightroom and Photoshop to edit and retouch images, and is willing to learn more on their own time in order to create better results for clients.  
  • Strives toward a clean and natural color profile in their work and sees the difference between egg-shell white and coconut white while color-correcting a room with mixed lighting sources.  (If you aren't sure about your own ColorIQ, try this excellent visual color test:  
  • Is dedicated to constantly improving their personal skills along with their photography craft.  
  • Is flexible and can handle stressful situations or people with ease and calm.
  • Is willing to commit to a 12 month paid apprenticeship for a minimum 1 day per week in Manhattan, with additional opportunities to take on more independent projects as skills grow.
  • Already has DSLR camera experience, knowledge, and equipment.
  • Already owns their own computer and Lightroom and/or Photoshop software.
Apprenticeship Experiences May Include:
  • Post-production tasks such as selecting ideal images for editing, color-correction, lighting manipulation, retouching, and exporting for client usage.
  • On-site assisting during shoots that includes manipulating lighting set-ups, staging furnishings and accessories, operating lighting and camera remotes, equipment set-up and proper storage.
  • Submitting pricing proposals and creating warm-lead marketing proposals.
  • Client care and follow-up on projects and proposals.
  • Using various online services for billing, proofing, and asset delivery.
  • Organizing digital assets and maintaining back-ups of assets.
Additional Apprenticeship Benefits:
  • Access and use of professional camera and lighting equipment when needed for Anne Ruthmann Photography clients, and/or apprenticing projects.
  • Sales and marketing training 
  • Client management training
  • Freelance lifestyle mentoring
To Apply:
Please include the following in an email to: info (at) before July 25, 2015.
  1. Email Subject: Application for Architectural Photography Apprenticeship 
  2. Email Message: Introduce yourself and write about why you would like to apprentice as an architectural photographer.  Include what you're looking forward to learning as well as what experiences and skills you already have that you will immediately be able to use.
  3. Include: Resumé of previous working experiences, education, and any volunteer experiences you've had as well as your contact information with mailing address and phone number
  4. Include: Portfolio link or PDF that shows 10 Before & After photo examples that demonstrate your photography style straight from the camera as well as your post-production editing style.  Bonus points if they are interiors and architecture.  If you don't already have some, this is a great opportunity to go out and create some!

Caution: Drone Wedding Photos

posted on: July 6, 2015

After my Architecture Drone Photography experiment, I started seeing some photographers doing drone photography at weddings and I have to say it made me VERY uneasy.  Even if someone has registered their craft and received FAA authorization to fly a drone commercially, has special drone hazard insurance, and hundreds of hours of drone operation training, there are still several things which would make me extremely leery of having drone photography at a wedding:

1. WiFi, Radio, GPS Interference = Control Hazards

One of the greatest benefits of drone photography is also one of the biggest limitations of drone photography.  The wireless control systems used for drones can be easily interrupted by other WiFi networks or radio transmissions in a given area.  You've probably already experienced this when your phone's GPS puts you two blocks away from your actual location due to a signal reflection, or when your car radio suddenly switches over to another station and then back again as you're traveling, or when your WiFi keeps defaulting to a network you haven't selected- these same signal interruptions can happen with distances between drones and their controllers.

If you're in an open field in the country, you will have less interruptions than if you're in a densely populated area, but a wedding generally has a higher percentage of people with their cell phones emitting or collecting a WiFi  and GPS signal, along with wireless microphone and or lighting systems which can interrupt radio frequencies causing inconsistent drone operator's control of their device.

When the drone loses signal, they can act erratically, which could potentially cause a crash on a wedding cake or on grandma.  Even though they are fairly light aircrafts, when a forced landing occurs from a certain elevation, the blades become spinning weapons that can slice whatever they come into contact with.  Unfortunately Enrique Iglesias learned about drone blades in a very public and painful way.  Of course that's a fairly dramatic example, but it's better to know the potential dangers than to ignore them, especially when you have invited guests who haven't signed liability waivers to attend your event.

2.  Aerial Object Interference = Crash Hazards

Drones are not really created with "extra" propellors that will kick in when one fails.  In order to achieve the stability needed, they need all blades to be fully operational at all times.  If any single blade is interrupted by whatever random item a child can throw, tree can drop, or bird can carry, the  drone can crash instantly without any ability to control the landing speed, location, or direction in which the blades hit the object below.

The absolute worst example I've seen of this was someone trying to operate a drone over a dance floor where people had foam fingers they were putting in the air as the DJ was pressing the music to get everyone to jump higher and higher.  No way would I ever do that.  Perhaps you heard about the incident with a woman getting knocked out by a drone flying during a parade?  Not only is it just begging for a liability issue and endangering the guests below the drone, but the photo and video coverage won't be any different than what you can achieve by just sticking a GoPro camera on a mono pod!

Some drone uses are just excessive and irresponsible for the actual footage that is even possible in a given environment.  It really needs to be considered if there are safer ways to get desired shots in environments that involve crowds of people.  It's been done safely for years with cranes, lifts, and stands that can balance and control cameras which produce much higher quality images than the ones flying on most drones.  Just because someone has drone availability, doesn't mean it's the most appropriate tool for the job.

3. Usage Limitations = Is It Really Worth It?

Most people who have never flown a drone fail to understand how limited the flight time is and what areas are actually legal to operate a drone in.  Currently, one of the best photo drones on the market can only fly for about 20 minutes while capturing continuous footage.  This makes it an interesting use for random bits of unique footage, which can only be captured by drone, but it's not realistic to think that a drone is going to be capable of capturing an entire wedding ceremony, or an entire wedding day without interruption or increased hazards and complications.

If the additional cost of a drone only ends up adding 2 minutes of final edited video to your final wedding coverage or only 2 special images to your wedding album, is it worth it?  Is the final result worth the hazards, the insurance, the potential FAA violations?  I'm just not convinced it's worth it, even if the coverage is free experimental coverage by a friend.

For a special portrait session, in which the only hazard is the drone falling into the ocean and being irreversibly damaged or recovered in order to achieve an impossible shot by all other measures?  Maybe it's truly worth it in a spectacular location.  But if that drone is potentially flying over people you love and care about?  Not worth it in my opinion.  Whatever you end up deciding for your wedding, make sure you've consulted the FAA Authorization Site for Unmanned Aircraft Systems to confirm you're hiring an authorized commercial drone operator in order to ensure the highest quality experience and safety measures are being considered.

Now that I've given you a disclaimer, here's a sample of what most people's first few drone flights end up looking like before they have sufficient experience controlling a drone... some wins and a lot of fails until people figure out how to watch the drone location and the image capture simultaneously.  Remember that people have paid hundreds for these drones, and they aren't intentionally choosing these results...

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