The Architecture of Cities: London

My camera enters every new city accompanied by an apocalyptic scream. I have this idea that there are a thousand ways to make a single photograph. But only one idea can successfully embrace ever-growing exponential components of what should live in a single frame.

I have referenced all twenty volumes of the the original OED’s (Oxford English Dictionary) to hopefully discover an explanation on how to encompass an entire city in a single film frame. Failing miserably makes me take a bigger bite of my Rice Krispies.

I am well aware that my ideas may sound delusional. I engage my dreamscapes almost like a metaphorical cane, “a lean on”.  This honesty stuff is for the birds: but I imagine it is better to share the odd truths than not. I see the world in three-dimensional perspectives accompanied by an optical freeze-frame. How else could I measure what I need to photograph. How else could I interpret space and light without help from forces that I embrace daily.

I imagine every photograph I consider is linked to Isaac Newton’s “Nature of White Light”. How else can I see what to do if I am not feeling the spectral of the “White Light’s” seven colors  while my camera swings deliriously around my imaginary maypole.


Where am I to stand if I cannot imagine the first brick brought to rebuild Dresden from the WW11 allied firestorm. I repeat this mantra often: one must start from the nakedness of ruins.

Rem Koolhaas.

Where am I going to allow my mind to drift if I am not sometimes accompanied by the literary visuals from the sci-fi likes of Ray Bradbury and others.

What would I understand about cities if the writers Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne  had not mentored my mind: They drove to the far corners of Los Angeles almost weekly, just to see and know what they needed to know.

Where would I be: My Grandfather stood alongside gangster Bugsy Siegel. The two men stared out over the “Vegas” landscape. The two saw moon craters as far as the eye would allow: They were dreaming about what might be: Bugsy made my Grandfather an offer to build the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel. My Grandfather could have been killed for turning the gangster down: My grandfather could have been killed if the slightest error in construction occurred. My Grandfather’s favorite word thereafter was “Phew”.

Damian Hirst.

I entered London on an assignment to photograph the new architecture. There were certainly pretenders and what ifs: The Wild West with no zoning sheriff’s would be the best way to look at the new London in the rear view mirror.

I knew about Shakespeare‘s wisdom and Thomas De Quincey’s madness. I was in good hands as they hovered and guided me throughout the intricacies that are London.

Kings Cross by John Mcaslan.

The same way that every person who might adore Paris, might find Marcel Proust to guide and fill their celluloid dreams.

I decided that if Sir Isaac Newton had met Joan Didion I might have finally discovered how my cities should be photographed: Isaac, Joan and I discovered a way to look that for the first time supported my personal theory: A photographer’s needs are to see a singular object as part of the camera’s capabilities to zoom in and zoom out: All of the spectral that can be seen in London, and all of the architectural landscape that is London, waited for me.

London became my playground for discovery: All the information that a a person can consume lives inside a camera housing. (I certainly am not smoking the hard stuff with the likes of Einstein and Oppenheimer).

Then you add Newton’s “White Light. Then you speak to all of Bradbury’s contemporaries past and present. You begin to feel the horrors and fallout of Dresden. You begin to realize that all photographs have a starting point: You start the way my grandfather may have: “I have a desert, what shall I make of it”. London was my desert, and then I had to see it.

I photographed more than one-hundred buildings: Koolhaas, Hadid, Grimshaw, Moussavi, Levete, Toomey, Alsop, Foster, Rogers, 6a, Wilkenson Eyre, Adjaye,Heatherwick, Chipperfield, Caruso St John, McAslan, Van Berkel, Nouvel and Libeskind to name a few.

I brought all of my cameras and tools of the trade I crisscrossed the city.

I must have introduced myself to 50 security guards as they questioned my intentions: you know cameras are scary.

I processed bags of Fuji film. But most importantly I saw an entire city by foot,train, bus and subway.

One of my great professional rewards.

Norman Foster and Richard Rogers.

All photos by Richard Schulman.

Richard Schulman is a photographer and writer. His books include Portraits of the New Architecture and Oxymoron & Pleonasmus. He lives in New York City.