Some months ago I was approached by Phase One in Denmark to see if I could come up with an architectural image that would in some way represent the number “1”. Phase One had already completed two “Number 1” images, both of which were shot in rather controlled circumstances. By seeking an architectural response, I suppose they were hoping to take the idea outside, extend the range a little. I’m guessing they didn’t think I’d be broadening the scale quite to this extent!
When the call came in from Phase, I happened to be on assignment in Beijing. Along with some of the Olympic venues, I’d been photographing construction on the nearby CCTV Headquarters building.
As soon as they posed the question (all the while stressing that they understood how difficult the request was), I knew where the solution lay. It was just a matter of finding exactly the right spot.
The idea I really wanted to get across was the absolute enormity of the scale. This is such a unique project, one that has captured the world’s imagination with its daring. The extraordinary nature of the design (by architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Schleeren), especially in its final stages of construction, carried with it a certain sense of history in the making. This was a heroic undertaking and I definitely wanted to portray it as such.
In contrast to the controlled conditions of a studio, photographing architecture, particularly at this scale, almost always requires a great leap of faith, trusting only one’s ability to respond positively to whatever prevailing conditions happen to unfold. I must say, this is the bit I find most rewarding about photographing architecture. Actually, photographing anything really…
So hanging out a window in Beijing, shooting a huge, iconic building over which we had no control whatsoever and having it perform for us, even for just those few minutes, was just remarkable. There is an undeniable sense of fulfillment when you can bring order to chaos, manipulate chance to your own ends and to my way of thinking at least, become one with the Universe.
There can be only ONE!