The Architecture of Cities: the Beauty of Looking Up

42nd Street New York City.

The beauty of looking up:

The earliest examples of some portrait photography were about the essence of gazing into the twilight lives of others:

The most significant recipients of a photographer’s exposure were  beautifully executed studies of a subjects gaze: The freeze, the subjects had to undertake early on was part art, part scientific experiment: if the image moved it would be blurred: so there was this study in an unintentional way of the life in its twilight years:

I understand a bit of portrait photography because I at one time had made thousands:

I always liked the notion of the subjects “gaze”. I do remember fondly Irving Penn’s portrait of Joan Didion: This exuberant silver toned image: beautiful does not appropriately apply: the framed study was beyond: I remember the silver tone, but I also remember the gaze.

Today two hundred years later, the portrait gaze is still significant.

57th Street: The Solow Building, New York City.

Architectural photography is about a different beast: The captured image is about the photographer’s gaze: To examine a moment in time that will be lost forever if not for a reflexive snippety-snap-snap. When the photographer sees the assumed edifice of his intentions he might acknowledge it as an otherkin or mere brick and mortar: he considers the needs necessary to shoot, the needs to be snapped: If the photographer turns his head for a fleas second and returns to make a capture: what was felt in the initial capture may be gone forever: The photographer may say till death: “the one that got away”.

There is rarely chaos in architectural photography: Sometimes there may be a note of pell-mell: an infusion of creative passion: We must all adopt techniques that the science and tools will allow: the tricks are numerous: The art and execution desirable: Where to go next: How to see next: But what is architecture without the photographer’s gaze:

The measured photographer embraces a photograph like a lab technician waiting for atoms to disperse under the microscope: He sizes up the landscape: He acknowledges the footprint: The gaze absorbs ideas: a particular moment is elevated: Imagine sleeping naked with a snow leopard.

Photography’s marriage of archaeology or anthropology might seem a bit convoluted: The photographer may merely espy the reflective qualities and considerations: but there is more:

Every urban or rural development stands in history’s moment: the history of yesterday will reveal something about this now, but what will it feed us about tomorrow?

The light on East 29th Street, NYC.

We are swinging in a continuum of change: the question for this photographer is: how do I reveal it: Digging a massive hole under the Empire State Building? Excavating documents from a decade or a century past: Impossible: The gaze is not a peek: The gaze is about why I am seeing:

I look at architecture: l consider the possibilities:

One day my parachute fluttered above my head: It seemed like a mess/flock of birds

spirited away in slow motion: At first I tired of the look up: Then I caught the sound of wings below: I laughed with laughter: Two black birds sweating like athletes in training hovered an arm or two away: I looked down and across the sky as if I was one or more of the perspiring crows or sparrows: I nodded with a bit of ho-hum:

I realized that the infinite that lives inside my lens while looking up reveals something  more: Maybe this is where astronomy lives in my mind: somewhere up: Maybe it is through astronomy where I learned  how architecture could be captured: Looking up is about more than architecture it is quietly about our universe above: Possibly my lens possesses a communing of the stars and dreams in one frame.

Maybe in some eyes I sound like William Wharton’s Birdy: Something compels me to fly while merely addressing the values of seeing through my lens: to put your mind at ease there is nothing psychotic, just a dream in my reality.

All of the materials, all of the surfaces  on this globe and beyond are my canvases: My eyes stand before me: Everything looks so inviting: What might I do: For the moment, I will take a picture of what I imagine is there: From there I will see what else may be captured:

“And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

(Robert Frost)

The Sherry Netherland Hotel meets Apple Store on Fifth Ave.

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.