It is easy to make a picture of a building that describes its appearance. Yet editorial photographs of buildings must go well beyond just showing what a building looks like. Photojournalists making pictures of buildings should have a message in mind and then do whatever they can to capture that meaning in a photograph, instead of merely recording appearance. In the following three examples, I do just that—simply by adjusting my exposure and changing my vantage point. By photographing New York City’s Empire State Building from three different places at different times of day, I go beyond description to tell three different stories.
Using a wide-angle lens, I bring together the art deco Empire State Building and the art nouveau canopy over the 34th Street entrance to what once was the B. Altman department store. I juxtapose these architectural styles, placing them only inches apart within my frame. In doing so, I contrast the eras during which the two buildings were constructed. Altman’s, the first department store on Fifth Avenue, was built in 1906, while the 102-story Empire State Building was finished in 1931.
The iconic Empire State Building was the world’s tallest skyscraper for half of its 84-year existence. It is one of the world’s most photographed buildings. In this example, I abstract the scene by shooting into a setting sun, using the sunburst itself to draw the eye to the silhouette of the Empire State Building. I backlight the famous building, making the colorful clouds overhead my subject, while the silhouetted structure itself becomes context for a scene of nature at work. I hold just enough detail in the shadows to reveal a smattering of lights along the building’s façade. Once again, I frame the structure with tilting buildings on either side,...
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