My anticipation of the visual pleasure to be found in visiting the Philharmonie de Paris was not disappointed, when I arrived there recently in ideal lighting conditions near to sunset. Earlier this year, I had come away dejected from photographing the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which seems awkwardly sited in terms of allowing it to be seen, at least from the outside, to best effect. I will return there and try and capture it in a better light, so to speak, from the Jardin d’Acclimatation.
Despite varied critical opinions, I personally have no such thoughts about the Philharmonie, which is a strange mixture of neo brutal angularity and serpentine menace that suggests it is a sleeping monster about to pounce on an unsuspecting city. The more I gazed at it, the more I became aware of a huge snake coiled around the building in which it seems to have nested. Its coils are represented by curved steel panels and its nest is a cave in the cliff created by angular, grey, flat surfaces.
Because of delays arising from its complexity and budget overruns, the building’s sponsors and the architect unfortunately had a disagreement concerning the need to complete its complex decorative external surfaces prior to opening, so he did not attend that event in January this year. I hope that all concerned find a way to complete according to his design so that he and they can enjoy the praise due for creating such an addition to Paris’ incredible list of great architecture. I also look forward to the opportunity of enjoying its primary purpose by hearing a concert in its beautiful interior, which appears from the images which I have seen to be a Lexus version of a Klingon battleship’s bridge.
I take this opportunity to express my amazement at a recent “concept camera” design called 'Camera Restricta', which would use GPS and geotags to determine whether the site that you intend to capture has already been photographed “too often”, such as la Philharmonie de Paris. Following this determination, the camera would then prevent a photograph being taken. It boggles my mind to consider that even though any given viewpoint could have been captured well, or badly, by a multitude of previous photographers, that this would justify preventing even more visitors to express their individual artistic vision of the scene. The article added that the technology could be used to enforce copyright law by impeding illegal photography, ignoring that image capture can be followed by seeking usage permission, something I do regularly. I hope the inventor finds a better way to make a fortune.
Finding the most exciting composition, light effects and inspiration for photographing a building with such complex surfaces made me bow and scrape and weave and wring my hands, such that I felt I was Uriah Heep in the wonderful 1935 film of David Copperfield, starring W.C. Fields. He is one of my heroes in life. If you have never read “Fields For President”, get a copy.
A building like this clearly requires regular visits, given its seeming capacity to morph into different visual expressions, according to light, angle, distance and composition. In this case I cropped close, seeking to capture something of its animalistic soul, rather than show its function in a wider, situational image.
As I worked, I kept making mental notes about other inspiring aspects of the building and where and when to return and photograph them. In fact, I generally take notes when I am out and about about particular angles and views of new and well-trodden paths, to which I should return.
The settings here are completely standard apart from the heavy exposure compensation required by the reflective surfaces. Also, a better final quality would clearly have been possible had I been equipped with a tripod.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: 24-70mm f2.8G Zoom
Focal Length: 70 mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/400s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 800
Mounted on a Monopod
Other images of this spectacular building will appear later on my website.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015