The Architecture of Cities: Past and Futures

Brooklyn Bridge/

True story: The second time I thought about my life dancing at sea with whales, occurred after my experience with CERN. My head felt like it was in an intergalactic vise made from an accelerating collider. I stood a few feet into the Atlantic Ocean; I faced  a whale a few hundred yards as the “crow swims”, head on.

The solos of Miles Davis rarely heard played to  my heart the way a whale might send songs across the many seas. To anyone who might listen, it was not the heart that heard the soaring melody’s but my eyes.

There is nothing literal in my photography.  Images are shaped by the possibilities: The sounds of whales in my present future is seemingly possible.

Corbin Building, NYC.

I have posed my camera in front of many fabulous architects: Niemeyer, Piano, Hadid, Kuma, Mayne, Ando, Gehry, Foster, Ito, Prix, Johnson, Ban, Venturi, Nouvel and hundreds more. The notions of how they, I, see our built environments present and past have been absorbed into my cameras like a family of ghosts sharing generational ideas through the centuries. There are many rewards gleaned in these experiences: My dreams will one day pass on or die:  I need to work harder is apparent, not in life but in the moment of the capture: My dreams may make my pictures: My eyes and body must continue to work overtime.

I have been thinking a lot about the cost of photography: Not the bank($) but the time to make a picture: today, most photographers spend hours in front of a screen or with the hours attributed to a specialty lab making the photographs successful: “ya gotta do what ya gotta do”.

Flatiron, NYC.

I have always known at first glance which picture might work best for me: There are two agendas:  The one that makes my heart flutter: my eye lashes shiver: The breezes that bring my body upright. The Great grey owls’ eyes become mine: My eyes lean into the moment: the moments that need to be captured: My dreams have been actualized: the eyes say aye. A funny thing about metaphors.

The second course of action: agenda: where there was none: If I am willing to sacrifice my life there is a reason to make a capture: Yes of course there is no reason to leave a life behind: But just maybe   the exception to the rule is a capture versus a future: not for any legacy nonsense: But to learn how to breathe new life into todays’ moment and possibly tomorrow’s:

I needed to make a picture of a building: Yes I could have used a drone: Yes I would have spent hours in front of a screen determining the values of an image:

I received permission to stand outside of a window on 57th street and Madison Avenue: Yes! To a bit of the crazies: The picture was for a book on the Pritzker Prize: I felt I needed to make a picture that could not have been made unless I extended the frame of my body a few feet off the ledge: Eyes bent like an animated “Road Runner”: Tarzan nor all forms of simian cousins could challenge my shrill as a couple of toes mimicked a scene from The Crawling Eye.

Bear Stearns NYC

Was the experience worth it? Oh, absolutely! Was the photograph successful? Oh, absolutely, maybe.

What is it about the eyes of a singular voice that make architectural images pronounced: Just maybe the voices of others that fuel the visual discourse. The privileges I have experienced by spending camera time with a percentage of the best architectural minds of the twentieth/twenty-first century? Or has it been the flourishing joys from the likes of Henry Miller, Goya, Bill Brandt or ten-thousand other cultural savants.

What is it about the spectacular future?  What is it about the spectacular past? It doesn’t matter: I have spent a lifetime fusing into a single entity the spectacular of the new/future and the pasts’ beauty of the present future into designs of architecture that reign supreme in my consciousness.

If there is such a thing as “most important”, I have noticed that the spectacular of the new: newest material or shapes of design reigns supreme. My attention has been fused into a single entity: The significance of the past and the beauty of the present/future grips my passions.

My Great grey owl espies its prey. My whale winks with a nod for a future encounter.


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