Singularity: Buildings on a Pedestal
Singularity is a series by Florian W. Mueller where he deconstructs buildings into its individual essence and composes them like a sculpture piece on a pedestal. I recently the opportunity to chat with Florian about why he started this series, his advice for starting photographers, and the future of this project moving forward.
What was the inspiration behind Singularity?
“For me, architecture is a kind of sculpture. Like the art of creating a sculpture, architecture is influenced, only bigger. In the 70’s there was this amazing trend of brutalism, buildings, like the churches from architect Gottfried Böhm, made of concrete, the name giver of that movement: French “Concrete Brut”, raw concrete.
Then you have buildings in that wonderful clean, function-oriented Bauhaus style and in the former GDR, East Germany the very reduced “Plattenbauten”.
For me as a photographer, all these buildings are artworks. I try to find the right angle, the right view to combining the form and the essence of a building with my subjective perspective. In the series “Singularity” I reduced the buildings to themselves. Like a sculpture on a pedestal in a clean gallery or museum.”
How do you plan for these shoots, or are they just by chance?
“I come around. I am exhibiting all over the world and I am traveling a lot to be present at the openings and to talk to the visitors of exhibitions, I love that. As a matter of fact, I take a lot of pictures when I am on the road. You can imagine what a guy with a passion for architecture often shoots? Right, buildings.
To be honest, this series started with playing around with a couple of pictures I took in New York last November and I instantly fell in love with that reduced look. Then I crawled through my archive of the last two years and found more candidates for the series from Hong Kong, England, Spain, France, and Germany. Nowadays I make a plan when I am traveling.
Before I go now on the road I make a research of the area if there are any buildings that might fit into “Singularity”. Google Earth, Pinterest, and Instagram are good tools for that. The buildings have to have the little something for me. So that could be something like the facade, forms, charisma, e.t.c.”
Which one of these buildings was the most challenging to take?
“Oh, I think there are many buildings which are challenging to me. Mostly for getting the right angle. And there are always trees in front of the buildings. Oh these trees! Don’t get me wrong, I am a nature lover, but sometimes I wish I had a chainsaw with me, just kidding of course. But it is a challenge. I want to take mostly clean shots, I do not want to spend hours in photoshop to erase trees, other buildings or people.”
Do you have a favorite building?
“That changes nearly every day. But one of my all-time-favorite is Number 1, a building in Hong Kong because I had a great time there. And it represents the start of that series. But there’s another all-time-favorite, number 18, a colorful big building here in Cologne, Germany. The special thing is, that this building will be destroyed, blown up next year. Also, I like the other, smaller, red building sneaking behind the taller one. It gives the buildings a character.
Oh, and let’s not forget the buildings I found in Taipei, like number 46, the one with the eyes or number 40, a very clean and edgy building (the Bank of China). I had a fantastic time there!”
Did you have to do any digital manipulation on these photos?
“These buildings are always in a city, I always have to cut them out, to crop them. That’s the thing, usually, you see the building in a context with other buildings. If you release it, you get a totally different look on it. You can concentrate on one building. Then the sky. I build the sky from the original colors when I took the picture. From the darkest to the lightest blue. But yes, most time I was lucky or I had to wait for the right light and color of the sky. One thing I learned over the years: Patience is not only a virtue, sometimes it’s the most important thing.”
Do you have any advice you’d like to give to other photographers starting out?
“Like said before: Patience is not only a virtue, it is necessary. The amateur sees a building (or a landscape or whatever), and thinks “oh, nice!” and takes a picture. The professional might say “Oh, great!”, but runs around the object to find an exciting perspective or angle. Or comes back the next days to see the object in another light of day or waits for the right weather.
For my series “REM”, levitating tree trunks in a forest, I went nearly 20 times from my hometown the 100 Km to that forest, because I was never satisfied with the light, missed some fog or whatever.”
Random question, but what project are you working on now?
“Funny thing, I am working on a project with people! It’s going to be a series of black & white, portraits, but I do not want to spoil it… Stay tuned!
And of course, I am working on “Singularity”. I want to publish a book with the pictures, make an exhibition and there are a lot more cities and buildings, waiting to be explored!”
It was a pleasure talking to you Florian and I can’t wait to see your upcoming projects and I hope a book does come out for Singularity. You can see a lot more of Florian’s buildings on Behance. Singularity I, Singularity II, Singularity III.