The Architecture of Cities: the World

Shenzhen Airport detail : Architect Fuksas.

Truth in fiction:

Every day I have a recurring dream: Sounds vanish: There is an image hiding in plain sight. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is there.

I was standing somewhere: I needed to cross a meadow: Ice appeared at first glance: My eyes embraced what felt like the entire Arctic Tundra. Maybe five hundred yards of six-foot-high fresh snow actually spanned before me: I needed to arrive at the other end:

I began my march. It didn’t feel like a death march: It felt like an adventure: Once I cross this natural obstacle, I will be able to make the image.

It is the manner in which I make all of my photographs that need to be made: There is a single moment that needs to be captured. I must get to where I need to be: But at what cost? All cost.

I was armed with a camera in each hand. My body moved through what I heard was slush: But felt more like a field of diamonds made of ice.

London: British Library.

My pace in my heart quickened, but my legs began to struggle: The cameras: (Pentax 6×7 and Nikon) were held high in each hand: It could be misconstrued that I was surrendering: But in fact, I was on the attack.

The high altitude began to take its toll. I was slowing in each step until the freeze gripped me like an Anaconda: The squeeze was a grip: I heard the death knell: I could no longer move: All of the vocals you hear yourself seemingly make while you are begging for help: All of the sounds you do not hear and not a single ear is within range: All of the colors that are frozen in view: You cannot move and you may die: The irony is that, I have always dreamed about dying alone and yet alone: I stood sculpted within natures’ finest moment: I know I will die! I merely needed a fraction of a second. If could get where I needed to be…

Tokyo: Phillipe Starck.

I recalled my photography sessions in the Nature Conservancy’s Reptile Pavillon: I made daily visits to stroke the neck of the largest Reticulated Python in captivity. The director showed me a picture of himself: His entire body was adorned with an Anaconda’s ribbons of green scales. Nearly five hundred pounds gripped the man to near death. Houdini 101: When the Anaconda squeezes you until you are almost asphyxiated, you flex your muscles and the snake will no longer have the power to squeeze: It will have exhausted its entire girth. You will have created a space to “slither” out and escape.

So I began to flex within the ice: I began to create small steps: I screamed for help: But even in the face of certain death there is humor: I felt like an Orangutan without teeth begging for “Sole Meunière”.

I could still feel the aches of nature’s iceman grip me like the Anaconda with certain death ahead. I imagined my doppelgänger’s smile (the toothless Orangutan) in view. I was nearing where I needed to be: I recall like a cartoon’s animated bubble:: “stories hold the attention of the reader when the larger story is about the inevitably of death: “Tolkien”.

The ears have it: When I began to photograph architecture I had already had more than one thousand hours of indirect/direct mentoring from dozens of architectural giants: Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Gehry, Richard Rogers, Hans Hollein, Zaha Hadid, Isozaki, Kengo Kuma and more shared  with me their influences:

Interior Delhi, India.

Mentoring is a profound word: When the influencers share not only their dreams and pasts, but also their tears of failures and successes. I feel a better way of walking toward the photographs I need to make: I can feel my strides: I can dance: not a dance about success but conviction.

I chose my own path.  What remains, what lives in every image is an assemblage of dreams and aspirations:

I have grown to realize that through the canvases of cities and landscapes, I have never been alone: I have had every architect’s conversation taped across my eyes.

How else could I thrive in a world amongst millions who were recording architecture if I couldn’t see the way the significant figures and their ghosts from architecture’s  twentieth century past revealed in the world we live in.

Now I stand alone. I am still listening for what the shot may be. I hear the brilliance of The Rolling Stones: Merry Clayton’s careening deep feverish voice sings ( I know out of context) “It is just a shot away”.

I have made it: I snap

Bangladesh: Martyr’s Memorial.

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.