This photo depicts one of the Absolute Towers by Beijing’s MAD Architects and was taken in Mississauga, ON, just west of the city of Toronto, in Canada.
When was it taken?
It was taken on June 3, 2013 at 12:54pm. The time is a crucial element in this photograph.
What were the conditions at the site?
The photograph was taken at high noon time on a beautiful, almost cloudless late spring day.
Can you mention any technical aspects about the shooting?
Most people are surprised when we tell them that this photo has seen very little post-processing and is essentially as taken in camera. It is even more astonishing for many, when we explain that it was taken at noon! The key to this photograph was to take advantage of the very strong sun lighting the edge of the tower, thus creating a very large contrast area between that edge and the background. In deliberately underexposing the frame, we purposefully isolated said edge from its surroundings as if it were floating in space.
How did this opportunity appear?
This was a commission for “Canadian Architect” magazine. This particular image later became the cover photograph for the magazine.
Had you been there before?
No. We had been meaning to take a trip out there to photograph the towers for the fun of it, so the assignment was the icing on the cake.
Is there anything peculiar about the moment when you shot the photograph?
In fact this was the very first image of the building we made. We arrived early on site and made this image while waiting for our contact from the developer’s office.
Why did you select this image and is there anything you were trying to communicate through it?
We have always liked the Absolute Towers and had them on our must-shoot list for a while. The towers had been heavily covered in national and international media and had been photographed ad nauseam, so we wanted to do something that like the towers had a special cachet. Something that not only highlighted the towers’ main features – in this case the curvaceous lines and reflective surfaces – but that also underscored their uniqueness in the Mississauga landscape. As photographers, we tend to be mostly drawn to the quality of light at the edges of the day. Sunset, sunrise and twilight will generally make buildings look their best. However, we don’t just apply a standard formula on a shoot; rather, each building is unique and has special characteristics that define it. These characteristics will define how we approach the building from a photographic standpoint. In this case, we basically broke one of the biggest “rules” of photography, which advises against shooting at noon. Given the towers’ reflective surface, anything that is directly struck by sunlight is going to be much, much brighter than the rest. The position of the sun was such that the entire front curve of the tower was lit up, while the rest was several orders of magnitude darker. Therefore, instead of exposing the frame as the camera suggested, we chose to underexpose it drastically. In this way, the curve was perfectly exposed while the rest of the scene was plunged into darkness thus providing an abstract and unique quality to the photo.
This interview is part of the editorial project “1 Photo(grapher)” and originally published for Scopio Network.