The Fire Escape: A Visual Survey. Second Edition
by Peter J. Lagomarsino
LitFire Publishing

"Be good to your fire escape today, give her a wink as you walk by, she'll be there when you need her for sure."

You see them every day, and they are ingrained in city life, yet chances are you don't even notice them. They are the humble fire escapes that adorn our buildings. These stalwart guardians of urban life favor function over form, and beauty isn't a word you'd normally associate with them. Lagomarsino sets out to change this perception with this book, which features photographs of fire escapes from 25 cities across the US. The author approaches the subject through the eyes of an architect and designer, seeing beauty in the functionality of an arguably mundane object. By infusing the subject with art, history, and a touch of nostalgia, he manages to make fire escapes, well, downright beautiful.

The images included in this photo book depict the fire escape as comprised of lines, shadows, angles, and intriguing forms in a way you've probably never seen them before. The photos play with color and shape. Some images use the hue contrast between the fire escapes and buildings, windows, and the sky they're set against, while others drain the image of color entirely to emphasize the lines. Even more interesting is the chance to see the ubiquitous fire escape as it appears in different urban centers. Lagomarsino shares some interesting facts about each city's population and rate of growth, as well as what effect this had on the area's fire escapes. It's surprisingly interesting to see how fire escapes across the country vary depending on their location and the history surrounding them, from their sparsity in Orlando, Florida, to their almost balcony-like, towering presence in Atlanta, Georgia. This photo book would make an intriguing coffee-table read and a great talking point for guests. And the next time you're outside in a city, look up; there's beauty to be found in even the most mundane forms.

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