Real State

A Longtime Artist Reimagines City Landmarks

In her Newburgh studio, she made 40 by 60 inch test prints of her favorite images on her 44-inch printer and taped them to her wall, standing back seven feet to mimic the effect of stepping off the elevator. There were shots of the reservoir, gardens, the Loeb Boathouse, Belvedere Castle, and the Metropolitan Museum.

“We didn’t want clichéd images,” Mr. Stockwell said. “The Dakota, the Guggenheim. They’re beautiful but everyone’s seen them a million times. We wanted something different.” Ms. Karalla does not work in clichés. For this series, she took recognizable sights and landmarks and turned them into impressionistic landscapes and geometric abstracts using an otherworldly palette.

She also kept constantly texting and calling her clients as she was shooting. “Saturday mornings, Sunday nights,” laughed Mr. Zeckendorf. Mr. Stockwell said she worked harder than any other person on the condo project. “Cynthia is in a league of her own,” he said.

For her boathouse shot, Ms. Karalla balanced on a rock over the water and nearly fell in. For a picture of the Guggenheim, she climbed into the bushes across the street and was pierced by brambles. “I bled for that one,” she said, smiling. “My DNA is in those shots.” Ms. Karalla made the Guggenheim look like an alien spacecraft, with the offending plant life framing her shot. “It’s as if nature is taking over,” she said.

But then Ms. Karalla suffered a setback. On July 4, she came down with a high fever, chills and a throat so sore she could barely swallow. She had Covid-19. After six days in quarantine, she got back to work, and shot what became Mr. Stockwell’s favorite image — a large field of daisies, which she colored fluorescent magenta in postproduction. For a shot of the Bethesda fountain, Mr. Zeckendorf asked her to remove several people from the scene, including a man in a loud Hawaiian shirt. Ms. Karalla obliged.

“It took me a whole week to pull that image together,” she said. But Ms. Karalla, a perfectionist, shot much more than she needed — or than Zeckendorf expected. “I would push it and do something else,” she said. “I drove them a little crazy. But the result was so much better.”

Mr. Stockwell said Ms. Karalla had a true vision. “It’s not like she was just doing what we asked,” he said. “She pushes back when she thinks it’s artistically wrong.”

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