The Architecture of Cities: New York V 

When Old Marries New.

It is about aged beauty and the ghosts that stood where I stand.

There will always be a beginning: But my question has always been: What was before the beginning.

From the first day I realized I was not becoming, but had become a photographer, I imagined I was the Bowman/Star Child journeying through all of the known galaxies: I was not sure what I was looking for: But I knew I could not stop until I saw what I needed to see.

Maybe I was searching for my first Dominican Blue Amber. Maybe inside that particular amber a glossed in resin Praying Mantis resided: Imagine a mantis who might have resembled me: That frozen expression I wore when the camera discovered and I declared “That’s it”: snippety snap-snap!

My camera’s first diary began when I landed in New York City.

My camera has seen hundreds of cities. All cities are like a million tesserae mosaic on canvas. I see all the pieces of a building that I need to capture but where do I start from? How does one narrate the puzzle of a photograph that has not yet been made?

My work became symbiosis with my pleasures: Yes of course the reverse makes sense as well: The pleasures of the working eyes.

I stood at the southeast corner of 51st street and Lexington Avenue. The Morris Lapidus designed Summit Hotel was summoning my eyes. How could I make any other photographs in that moment?

Morris Lapiduc Architect; Hotel on 51st and Lexington.

I am a sand-sifter. I could never merely say, “shoot”. For God’s sake I am the “Star Child” I have seen the entirety of the known galaxies. How could I merely make a snap. A sand-sifter is looking for a discovery: But not a soul knows what that is until…

I stood breathless: Not because of this moment alone: But my mind’s eyes had vaulted from New York to Miami. I was no longer merely making one photograph in front of the Summit: But my mind was dreaming of a second image: standing aside James Bond on the diving board stood framed over Morris Lapidus’s Hotel Fountainbleu’s cool pool blue. I was looking beyond just Morris Lapidus, but the architect’s body of architecture: My body had not budged: Was I alone in the streets of New York City, or was I breathing the warm Atlantic in a scene from Goldfinger. My eyes felt dilated as if on steroids. The mind’s eyes work that way with my heart.

Many years ago I brought my portfolio to the Hearst Corporation: It was something photographer’s religiously did in a long ago millennium.

I cannot remember anything about the people I met or was supposed to meet. I just remember that the patterns of design from interior ceiling to the lobby were of an elegance I had not met before.

Many years after that afternoon, I had the opportunity to shoot the portrait of the new Hearst Tower  architect Sir Norman Foster. For some reason I think he remembers me fondly. I remember two dueling knights. In my perspective, it is such a brilliant marriage for the photographer: to have the knowledge of the architect and his words about his designs as you enter an organic library of information directing your eyes to what may become!

My camera is in love, I dance. My moves are a bit frightening to see.

I have been photographing the relationship between architecture’s old and new for decades.

Visiting Foster’s Hearst Tower, is like seeing an old friend: so much to see and catch up on. My eyes revisit the many possibilities. My personal narrative: Light, shape, history, footprint, and the discipline that is photography take over. I look up. I look around. I sneak a glimpse at the light in the sky. My mind does the jig: But I waltz across the avenue. My mind’s sundial calculates the time to click. I sand-sift. “There it is” I holler between my ears.

Foster’s Hearst is one of a few buildings that I remind my eyes to “sneak another peek”. I could possibly explain my reasoning in ten thousand words: It is about aged beauty and the ghosts that stood where I stand.

Neil Young whispers, “Old Man, look at my life”. I run, I dance, I wait. I wait to place another piece of the city’s tesserae mosaics in place. The mind’s honesty may sometimes be exhilarating. I dance some more.

I wonder what the lit up minds of  Ken Kesey, Aldous Huxley and Owsley Stanley would make of how my mind’s eyes see the architecture of cities?

Kengo Kuma wrote to me that he  “believes that to build architecture is to design light”.

Light designs my pictures.

All photographs 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.