The Architecture of Cities: Entire Cities

The Pope visited New York City 1979 on Fifth Avenue.

Aristotle seemingly whispered: “lift your eyes:

The past is behind you the present is almost the past the future is near:

Lift your eyes and show me what you see”:

Looking up is the end of the moment, but how you get there is what the photograph may be about:

Not a single picture begins until you lift your eyes: then you elevate your gaze:

Sometimes my eyes consume entire streets, boulevards and avenues: The history is self evident: the process takes moments I have not been able to count yet. But I might estimate hundreds of thousands of snaps make for a career’s mosaic.

Imagine my ears like a caffeine infused amused lynx’s twirling to the fabled told tales by Mark Twain: Imagine my world following the closing pages of Will Durant’s “Civilization”:

From the moment I arrived in New York, my camera has seen thousands of days of daylight and evenings.

The Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue.

The New York I know has throngs of people passing by every street corner: Taxis, buses and subways maintain a tremble throughout the day.

Richard Strauss’s  Sprach Zarathustra fills the air: Stanley Kubrick, the fledgling photographer genius filmmaker quietly addressing the photographer’s speak: Lift your eyes.

The camera pans Fifth Avenue: The Guggenheim is a distance: Tiffany’s is near: Bonwit Teller was razed: St Patricks’ Cathedral is a few arms stretched: Atlas, sculptural reliefs and Rockefeller Center hover: What else is amiss?

I never saw the Pope.

The land spreads beyond wide angle proportions like the desert crossing in John Ford’s The Searchers: The eyes have it: It is amazing when the unexpected becomes the purpose: The sounds that turn the head: The required gait like a jacanas toeing atop the lily’s: The fixed lens seeing when to snippety-snap-snap.

Every day in some fashion I continue the cinematic gaze, the pan east, south and like an owl’s whirling neck back to the west and around.

I have with excruciating pleasure begun to realize the captures that are necessary: They are moments in time that I may never see again.

I have kept an old-fashioned card catalog of dreams: Those dreams on occasion become reality: At some point, those dreams will have an expiration date: My archives are alive in both my dreams and in my reality:

Fifth Avenue detail.

It was never a process: It was about steps.

I was making a book about architecture: I had a list of buildings I was to include: The list was pieced together by the publisher and advisors: I had to choreograph my days not just in New York City: I managed to travel to dozens of cities: Each city had an invisible clock: Fifth Avenue in New York subconsciously was my visual template for seeing not so simply a building but the light and spirit of a city: When I arrived in the mornings, or the evenings I couldn’t merely approach my destination and shoot: I had to capture entire cities in one hour: I had to understand the rigor that each city had to offer: The directions the stars pointed?

Every city is never the same as the previous: But all cities beckon: Copenhagen, Berlin, Stuttgart, Barcelona, Tokyo, Moscow, Paris, Rotterdam and more: 2001: A Space Odyssey’s “Strauss” could be heard across continents:: Aristotle whispers: The clock ticks.

I often stare across cityscapes and landscapes when my agendas are completed: My mind rhapsodizes about my captures: It is like a drug-induced psychosis: I am remembering the most recent photographs: The photographs from decades: the train windows reflecting images: the locomotives’ interior spaces: The “…scapes” that I pass by: One image in my mind frames a lifetime: a million miles of traveling for photography: Millions of miles for more.

Architect Fumihiko Maki WTC 4 in New York. No longer in view from this Fifth Avenue angle.

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