The Citic Tower Beijing, China Architect: KPF photo © Paul Dingman 2019
“I design architectural photographs for architects.” My mission statement raises a few eyebrows. After all, I am not an architect. But by definition, the word “design” implys a deliberate, intentional, purposeful plan to create something that achieves a calculated result. That’s what I do in my photography. That’s what architects do in their design work.
Here is a case study of my process using New Citic Tower in Beijing, China designed by KPF Architects. I was working in Beijing, and I decided I wanted to try to photograph the tower while I was there. I wanted a camera angle that would isolate the building giving it maximum impact with the least amount of visual noise from the surrounding urban environment . The first thing I did was explore various camera angles on Google photos and maps. Based on the time of year and the track of the sun in through the southern sky, I determined that the best views were from the south, and the best time to shoot was between 1 and 2pm.
So I got on a subway and journeyed down to the city center. I got out of the station and walked to the south. What made this area promising was a freeway that separated the tower from the targeted shooting area – there was a good possibility of an unobstructed street level view.
Well 10 minutes later I found a side street and excitedly realized that Eureka! I was on to something. I looked at various angles and choose this one because I liked the way the nondescript peripheral buildings framed the subject. The composition gives the tower greater impact and focuses your eye on it’s innovative thin-waisted design. The foreground buildings offer a point of reference to evaluate the scale of this supertall 527.7 meter building.
I believe the design of this photograph is very successful. It makes the tower stand out dramatically. I like the way the powder-blue glass on the facade compliments and contrasts with the deep blue Beijing sky. Remarkably, the photography took 10 minutes, and the entire process took less than 2 hours. I went off to Q Mex in Santilun to celebrate with fajitas.
My photograph of the Citic Tower is the predetermined result of my design process for architectural photography.
Paul Dingman designs photographs for architects. He has been living and working in China and Asia since 2009.