A little more than a year ago after completing a photo-shoot with her at 30th Street Station, Sara Lonngren said she would love to do a shoot at the SS United States. I took that as a challenge and set course for it. A few months later we were invited to do a tour of the ship to discuss possible opportunities were our dance photography project could contribute to the conservation efforts and scout the location. Sara and I were very excited to say the least.
Sara smiles for my camera during our initial tour of the SS United States overlooking the Philadelphia skyline.
So what is so special about this old boat ?
SS United States is a luxury passenger liner built in 1952 for United States Lines designed to capture the trans-Atlantic speed record.
Built at a cost of $78 million, the ship is the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the US, the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic in either direction, and even in her retirement retains the Blue Riband given to the Passenger Liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the record highest speed.
Her construction was partially subsidized by the US government, since she was designed to allow conversion to a troop carrier should the need arise.United States operated uninterrupted in transatlantic passenger service until 1969. Since 1996 she has been docked at Pier 82 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia.
Designed by renowned American naval architect and marine engineer William Francis Gibbs, the liner’s construction was a joint effort between the United States Navy and United States Lines.
The construction of the ship’s superstructure involved the greatest use of aluminum in any construction project to that time. United States had the most powerful steam turbines of any merchant marine vessel, with a total power of 240,000 SHP (shaft horsepower) delivered to four 18-foot (5.5 m) diameter manganese-bronze propellers. This gave her the greatest power-to-weight ratio ever achieved in a commercial passenger liner, before or since.
By the late 1960s, the market for Transatlantic travel by ship had dwindled. In 1969 the ship went dormant and passed from owner to owner with increased loss of its former glory with each change of ownership. In 1999, the SS United States Foundation and the SS United States Conservancy (then known as the SS United States Preservation Society, Inc.) succeeded in having the ship placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The SS United States Conservancy assumed ownership of United States on 1 February 2011. Many plans and bidders for its acquisition and re-development as either commercial space, a casino, office space and other proposals have been floated. With an additional US$5.8 million donation from H.F. Lenfest, the conservancy had about 18 months from March 2011 to make the ship a public attraction. On 5 August 2011 the SS United States Conservancy announced that after conducting two studies focused on placing the ship in Philadelphia it was “not likely to work there for a variety of reasons.” However, discussions to place the ship in her original home port of New York as a stationary attraction are ongoing. The Conservancy’s grant specifies that the refit and restoration must be done in the Philadelphia Navy Yard for the benefit of the Philadelphia economy, regardless of her eventual mooring site; the Conservancy continues to negotiate with possible stakeholders in the New York area.
Access to the ship is highly regulated due to logistical and regulatory constraints. We had the privilege to do a photo shoot on this majestic piece of maritime history, the dancers were inspired by that history and it’s era. Our intention was to get some shots with dancers acting as if they were in the heyday of the ship. We hope to use these photos to help promote the conservancy cause.
Our deepest gratitude goes to the SS United States Conservancy and it’s leadership headed by Susan Gibbs, grand daughter of the ship’s designer.
Dancing aboard the SS United States were Sara Lonngren and Elizabeth (Liz) Greene both of them beautiful and talented dancers which whom I have collaborated before.
I hope you enjoy these shots.
About the SS United States Conservancy
As owners of “America’s Flagship,” the SS United States Conservancy leads the global effort to ensure that this enduring expression of American pride and innovation educates and inspires for generations to come.
The Conservancy began as an initiative of the SS United States Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1992. The Society helped secure Congressional support for the SS United States through the SS United States Preservation Act of 1992, legislation designed to protect the ship from destruction. The Society also helped secure the ship’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The ship was added to the Register even though she was less than fifty years of age because of her “compelling national significance,” a status earned by less than one percent of the Register’s 78,000 historic sites.
Incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization in Washington, DC in 2009, the Conservancy formed a prominent board of directors and advisory council, recruited a talented team of staff and consultants, and opened offices in Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia. This progress attracted transformative gifts totaling $5.8 million from prominent philanthropist and businessman H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest that enabled the Conservancy to purchase the SS United States outright in February, 2011.
The Conservancy’s work to save one of the nation’s great post-war treasures has included developing a unique technological platform – savetheunitedstates.org – that combines historic preservation, social networking, and an informative museum display, producing an award-winning documentary film for American Public Television, building a major collection of art, archives and artifacts from SSUnited States, installing a major exhibition at New York’s Forbes Galleries, developing plans for the future SS United States Center for Design and Discovery, earning extensive national and international press coverage, mounting educational and communications programs, creating the SS United States Redevelopment Project to support the vessel’s conversion into a mixed-used development in an urban waterfront setting, and organizing a grassroots All Hands on Deck Campaign that has enabled supporters from across the nation and around the world to help “Save Our Ship.”
With your help, the SS United States Conservancy will ensure that “America’s Flagship inspires and endures for generations to come.
More info at http://www.ssusc.org/
above the Philadelphia skyline is reflected on one of the ship’s portholes,
my wife Maria Ross captured this shot which embodies the nostalgic feeling experienced by all who participated in this project.