How I got started on a long term project

This week marks the end of my two month long show at The Citicorp Center in New York. The image above is one of the many works from the series “Exacting Proportion” that is on display. I’m often asked, “How did you start the series? What made you take pictures of the sky while positioning the rest of the landscape as tiny and off scale compared to the rest of the image?”

It all started on a fateful night on the top of the Empire State Building almost seven years ago! I was on a yearlong project that involved shooting different small assignments scattered throughout New York City. One night, I was assigned to shoot a small photo story about the observatory at the top of the Empire State Building. “The Empire State Building! How do I make a series of images that will be interesting and visually compelling?”, I thought. I looked up from my apartment (that has a view of the Empire State) and I was in luck! It was a dark stormy night with clouds almost obscuring the top of the building. “That’s it!”, I exclaimed. “I bet there will be some very interesting pictures that I can make up there”.

And so I went. All the way up to the observatory. And as I had expected, you couldn’t see much because we were literally in the clouds! Other than me, there were only about 8-10 people who were up there. Can you believe that? In a city of millions, at a world famous tourist destination, just a handful of people. I started taking pictures of the few who were there and perhaps because it was devoid of people and the moody atmosphere, mundane things suddenly started looking very interesting. To top it all, the gigantic light tower at the top of the Empire State had a distinct magenta color that evening that reflected quite dramatically off the clouds in the massive night sky.

I thought I had what I needed but once I pointed my camera looking south, I saw something quite unusual. The “tiny” buildings of Manhattan and that wide open sky. I saw something I had never experienced or had access to while walking the streets of the city. The scale of the city against the large expanse of sky. It put things in a different proportion and made me wonder about the scale of humankind in a large universe and the modification of land into the built environment.

That’s how the “Exacting Proportion” series began. I took that idea to many cities and communities around the world and soon there was a series of landscapes that had a strange similarity about them while highlighting their individual differences at the same time. You can see more of the images on my portfolio site. A few others from that evening are below.