A series of abstract architecture photos. Each photo is accompanied by a quote meant to connect ideas of abstract art, architecture, and humanism.
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90 Hudson Street
“No buildings were taller than ten stories before the late nineteenth century.” – Architecture exhibit at the Liberty Science Center.
I moved to New Jersey in January of 2015. I went from living in a town with a population of 478 to one with a population of 65,028. This move allowed me to observe New York City (Population: 8.406 million). I spent some time commuting into the city for work everyday. I got to experience these dramatically different environments in a short amount of time.
When you’re in the city the buildings tower above you. Ten stories is a small building these days. With a viewpoint from the street, you become removed from the complex structures above.
When shooting these images I wanted to isolate parts of the buildings. In general I would look for things that had bold patterns or interesting designs that made me stop and think.
100 11th Avenue & 555 West 18th Street
“The two elements the traveler first captures in the big city are extra human architecture and furious rhythm. Geometry and anguish.” – Federico García Lorca
NYC has a lot to take in. There is so much packed into every corner, every crack. The buildings fill your view in every direction.
I could sit and examine everything that goes on endlessly. That’s hard to do though when you’re surrounded by motion. The rate at which everything happens is quick. People shuffle quickly, cars move quickly, and the marquees move at a variety of nauseating speeds.
You can see the effects of this constant motion on people’s faces. Exhausted, people make their painful commutes in and out of the spaces between the buildings.
830 8th Avenue
“There is always a reproduction of known pattern. You cannot start from scratch; you cannot lead ahead because the base process is reproduction. Architecture is just tracing and finding social patterns, and it kind of shapes around that.” Architecture exhibit at the Liberty Science Center, Patrick Schumacher.
One thing humans do that sets us apart from most other animals is our pattern recognition. From a very early age, we’re able to understand basic logic and simple patterns. We’re always making observations and attempting to guess and anticipate the future. This allows us to plan ahead, set goals, and complete complex tasks.
Whether it’s making a building, taking a photo, making music, or planning a war, we focus on patterns. Others internalize those patterns, process them, and deliver them back to the world as something else. An estimated guess about the future.
95 Christopher Columbus Drive
“Abstract art is an effort to close the void that modern man feels.” What abstract art means to me, by Robert Motherwell.
We will all die. And I believe this is one of the greatest motivators to live. I believe we inject our own meaning into life. I think a fear of death strikes everyone to the core at one point or another. People turn to religion, drugs, video games, or anything else to occupy their time.
Art, or any form of creation, is one of the best remedies for the void. Not because it is necessarily meaningful, but because it forces you to stop, think, and invest your mind into something, and contribute.
Ultimately, this photo is as meaningful as the Mona Lisa and as meaningless as a fart. It’s this contradiction that makes creating so fun. I can very easily write off abstract art, my own included, as hollow nonsense.
But if you ask enough questions, you can come to feel that way about anything. It’s in spite of the void that I create. I know I can’t fill it. But the void also can’t take away the fact that things have existed. Once I make an image, the image will exist. Even after the world is destroyed, that image will have existed. For me, that’s enough.
10-63 Jackson Avenue
“What distinguishes, among other things, man from the beasts is this capacity for abstraction. All forms of communication are abstractions from the whole context of reality. ” – On the humanism of abstraction: The Artist Speaks, by Robert Motherwell. Page 250.
I’ve never been incredibly interested in creating abstract art. To me, it seemed pretentious. I understood abstraction as a way of obfuscating a message. What I have come to understand, however, is abstraction seeks to do the opposite. Despite its foreign feeling, abstraction really seeks to strip away the excess and condense a meaning into a simpler form.
As the above quote quote points out, anytime we try to convey a thought to another person we cut stuff out. Each thought is based on an unknown number of assumptions, linked to subconscious desires, and attached to a host of murky feelings. It wouldn’t be effective to try and convey all of that every time you want to communicate an idea to someone.
447 West 18th Street
People who have an aversion to abstract art say, “‘I don’t like that it’s too abstract. I like something concrete, something you can touch.'” – On the humanism of abstraction: The Artist Speaks, by Robert Motherwell. Page 251.
The more you look at some of these images the more you will see everyday objects. They are there to ground the abstract patterns back into reality. They are a way to help the viewer connect to the otherwise foreign shapes and complexities.
I wanted to create a set of images that you could look at more than once and each time see something a little different. I wanted to create an entirely new image while keeping in elements that remind you that this is constructed from an image of the very real world around you.
100 11th Ave
“A picture is a deliberate choice of a certain degree of abstraction.” On the humanism of abstraction: The Artist Speaks, by Robert Motherwell. Page 251.
Pictures are great because they record information that would otherwise be lost. You always miss something though. There is always something just out of frame. Before a photo is taken there are seemingly infinite possibilities for how you will record the subject.
You choose the angle, and the shutter speed, and the focus, and with each decision, you limit what you are capturing. You are narrowing down your possibilities. So you’re always capturing an imperfect, incomplete record.
270 West 43rd Street & 329 West 42nd
Complexity Science – “The study of the phenomena which emerge from a collection of interacting objects.” Simply Complexity, by Nevil Johnson. Page 6.
A lot goes into designing and creating a building. It’s a complex production with a lot of moving parts. The result are the structures we live and work in. The spaces we find ourselves in emerge from the complexity of architecture.
When you get really invested in something you start to see patterns. For me, photography can be a complex production if I choose to add layers of decision making to the production of the photo. At each stage there are decisions I can make that impact what in the image is highlighted or subdued. Based off of those decisions, a new image emerges.
“Nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity. The number of distinct scales of lengths of natural patterns is for all practical purposes infinite.” The Fractal Geometry of Nature, by Benoit Mandelbrot. Page 13.
Science has given us the ability to take materials around us and craft some amazing structures. Today’s understanding of physics coupled with help from computers means our imagination is the biggest limiting factor when it comes to architecture.
These photos highlight the fractal like patterns we find in architecture. These patterns emerge because architecture is rooted in nature, it is informed and inspired by the natural world around us and the patterns that we find in it.
10-50 Jackson Avenue
“With cities all over the world growing rapidly, there is the excitement of possibility, but also the danger that you lose with the humanistic part of architecture. After all, architecture is not just about technology and possibilities of building. It is about the arts – the poetic arts of human beings. It’s about dreams; it’s about time’ and unless those things are the primary considerations then cities will just turn out to be disposable objects.” Architecture Exhibit at the Liberty Science Center, Daniel Libeskind.
Human’s have this distinct ability to anticipate the future to some degree. It’s easy to look ahead and see the negative (we do all die, after all). “the poetic arts of human beings” gives us an alternative. We should try to pass some of that along every time we create.
Everyone sees death. It’s purpose and meaning that’s hard to come by. When we choose to focus on our dreams we choose to inject meaning into our lives.
63 5th Ave
“It’s about fractalization. Can we open up the surface of the building so that it has more contact with the exterior.” – TED Talk: How to reinvent the apartment building, Moshe Safdie.
The most interesting thing about a pattern is when it is broken. You understand something so much more when it is in relation to something else. Something that breaks the norm and catches our attention.
These images are full of repetition and patterns. Yet, the closer you look the more variations in patterns you see. Things aren’t what they seem. They are imperfect. The pattern is broken.
625 West 57th Street
“There is an order beneath the seeming chaos.” PBS Documentary, Fractals – hunting the hidden dimension
What’s a FRACTAL?
Where do these images come from? To see the original photos fade into these finalized images click the button below!