Photos & Projects

Photographing Buildings and Places in Hannover – by Christian Schroeder

March 17, 2020

Introduction and Background: Wikimedia Commons

Sometime around the year 2012, I started documenting the buildings and places in my home town, Hannover (Germany). This article deals with the way I came from there to here. I am talking about inspiration, motivation, and, last but least, beauty. And you are going to see some of my recent imagery.

During the first years, I exclusively took photographs to upload them to Wikimedia Commons. If you are not familiar with this institution: Wikimedia Commons is the media repository from which Wikipedia and related projects source images and videos. I pretty much liked the idea that volunteers donate their work and thus help spreading free knowledge. Part of the deal: everybody can use your creations and alter them, for example, re-work your post-processing. The content’s perpetual improvement belongs to the self-understanding of all Wikipedia projects.

As long as I shot my images digitally, this was okay for me. When I switched back to film, I not only invested a considerable amount of time into my photographs, but also money. Since then I felt more connected to my work, so I didn’t want anybody else to touch my images. The final result should only arise out of my creative vision. And I wanted to take black-and-white photographs. As an encyclopedia, Wikipedia seeks for neutrality. Accordingly, a color image depicts any given subject more realistically than a monochrome representation. A color image is thus strongly preferred in this context.

You can find all my contributions to Wikimedia here.

three images of different buildings combined

Random selection of (digital) images contributed to Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Inspiration: Sting’s Englishman

The music video of Sting’s Englishman in New York, directed by no other than David Fincher, turned out tremendously inspirational. It’s not that I just love this song. The clip is also an outstanding portrait of the city. New York presents itself as a cold and lonely environment. Shot entirely in black and white, the clip features some fast-paced street scenes. For me, the imagery acts here as perfect match for Sting’s thoughtful lyrics.

One thing I particularly like about Sting’s video is how snow covers the city. If you see snow, you will immediately know the temperatures have fallen into the sub-zero region. Howsoever, photographers can’t create their preferred weather. We have to be patient and wait for it. Since my return to film photography in December of 2016, I can’t remember a winter in Hannover with snow existent for more than a few hours. So I will wait … and wait … and wait …

When photographing Hannover, l I find my subjects normally by just looking around. I keep my eyes open whenever I’m on board a train, tram or bus. If I’m walking through a neighborhood, I’m constantly scanning my surroundings. As I don’t carry the camera with me just in case, I have to collect my ideas for later field trips. Therefore, I add interesting findings to a list. Important is my watch list of buildings that are going to be demolished sooner or later. In addition to that, I also monitor some development areas.

On Motivation for Documenting Hannover

Back then, when I was collecting images for the Wikipedia projects, finding motivation was fairly was easy. I simply looked out for encyclopedia entries on Hannover-related topics. If they lacked an (necessary) image of an architectural structure, my task was set. This also worked the other way around: if I had photographed an interesting building without any entry related to it, I would go to library, research and create the entry.

Wherein lies my motivation today? I don’t have the – surely never reachable – goal to photograph every single building in Hannover. (I generously pass this job to: Google…) The photographer’s task is, so I think, to depict what’s special and what’s exemplary for the ordinary. She or he has to make choices, reduce and distill the infinite number of visual expressions. I consider my efforts as an ongoing project: as long as I am in the mood, I continue shooting houses.

For my part, I choose the subjects that I find appealing. These subjects don’t have to be famous buildings like churches or medieval half-timbered houses – but they can. Sometimes, a perfectly boring house is all I’m looking for. Even the entire lack of specialties can make something special. Hamish already expressed the fascination for “ugly” structures in his article about Unremarkable Architecture. (Check it out, it is very worth reading.) To honor the brutalist architecture, I chose the former Maritim Grand Hotel for the opening picture. Ironically, this concrete monolith from 1965 stands face-to-face with one of Hannover’s most famous sights, the pompous New Town Hall. I can’t imagine a contrast between two buildings to be more pronounced.

Societal Changes and Architecture

One of the strongest motifs in photography has been the desire to preserve a current state by documenting it, I think. Changes happen all around us at any time. Neither can we stop these nor can we delay them. So we need photographs to help us remembering. Remembering the day of our graduation at university, our vacation at that beautiful beach or our kids’ birthdays. We grow older and our life situation changes. Society as a whole changes, too.

In a way, architecture reflects societal changes. Around the turn of the century, people were seeking for pompous, ornamental houses. Buildings had to reveal the pride of their owners. In later times, especially after World War II, this style was considered as lavishness and thus frowned upon. The post-war era entailed a lot of architecture that I would label as modest and functional at best. Often times, crappy and cheap seem to be the right terms. This also lead to the brutalist architecture mentioned above.

Though I would describe my work as unpolitical, I feel the increasing urge to drive it forward. With the fascists re-emerging to a threatening extent, Germany faces an uncertain future.

Black-and-white photograph of a Gründerzeit house located in Linden quarter of Hannover, Germany.

Residential house from the 1890s (Linden-Nord) – fairly graceful.

Post-war residential house in central Hannover, Germany.

Post-war counterpart, probably from the 1960s – plain (ugly?).

Style: No Style

Once I read an interview with the Bechers, the artist couple who photographed myriads of industrial structures throughout the 20th century. They stated to always strive for a “no-style style”. The Bechers intention was to avoid any personal traits in their photography – meaning the artist shouldn’t leave any kind of signature in her/his work. To achieve this, they exclusively shot on black-and-white film and depicted their subjects in the most “sober” manner possible. Thus, they didn’t use any dramatic angles or perspectives, strictly avoided converging lines and preferably took the images under a dull, overcast sky. Of course, the Bechers’ body of work became so unique that their “no-style style” is now characteristic for them.

Well, I find the Bechers’ approach very impressive – and to some extent directional for my own photography. But I see a problem there: if you stick to a set of strict rules, many subjects won’t work. Example? Imagine a tall building in a densely populated area, without the possibility to step back. So you have to make concessions in terms perspective – or you have to just omit this photo. In such a scenario, I would tend to rather take image than not. Even if that happens at the expense of the consistency in my work.

What’s the fun in photographing architecture? For me, I suppose, it’s to play with the lines. To align edges, to create parallels, to work with symmetry. If I succeed in that, I will be rewarded with an interesting representation of a building.

Technicalities: Film and Format Choices

To document Hannover, I shot the photographs with my Canon gear on either Fuji Acros or Kodak Tmax 100 film. With their high sharpness and resolving power, these films predestine themselves for detailed subjects. The monochrome nature gives the images a classic, timeless feel more than color film would do. Furthermore, there are hardly colors to miss. The prevailing materials in architecture are either bricks (dark-red / reddish brown), concrete (dark to middle grey) or plaster (light grey to white).

If you want to know more about the camera, please switch over to my peace about night photography. In the section “My trusty Canon SLR”, I have written more in detail about it. Though I really lust for large format, I will probably stick with 35mm. The small format just offers to many advantages: it is cheap (36 exposures cost me round about 30 Euros for film, development and scanning), and it is flexible. Given the right conditions, I can finish one roll in roughly one to two hours. Now that’s a throughput! Camera and lenses don’t weigh so much that I won’t carry them all day around. (Of course, my gear doesn’t play in the same league as Point & Shoot cameras in this regard.)

December Opportunities

“It’s the most wonderful time in the year”. What Andy Williams sang about Christmas is true for architectural photography, too. During December, I encounter favorable weather conditions more often than during other months. For me, ideal weather is a homogeneously overcast sky and low temperatures (but not freezing cold). The trees have lost their leaves entirely and thus don’t obscure the buildings anymore. As another plus of December, Christmas vacation means lots of spare time.

Normally, Sunday mornings deliver the most prolific circumstances as the people are still at home and only a few cars drive around, even on the main roads. Winter also means that cafes and restaurants have abandoned their outdoor seats. The number of drunken – and thus rather annoying – people has fallen to almost zero. (Quote: “Hey-ya, uu! Duude, whazz up, what r uuu doin’ there?! Take-a pic-tcha of uzz! Comm-on, duuude!”)

Further Images

Residential Houses

Most of the buildings in town serve as people’s homes. My collection of images reflects that, residential houses contribute the greater part to it. For this article, I made a selection. I tried to find examples from different time periods and style. The houses also vary in size: some accommodate only a few families, others provide room for hundreds.

Black-and-white photograph of a prestigious mansion located at Zoo quarter in Hannover, Germany.

Prestigious mansion at the Zoo quarter. Note the large winter garden.

Residential building from the 19th century located at Hannover.

Brick building from the end of the 19th century.

Photograph of a Gründerzeit house located Linden quarter in Hannover, Germany.

Linden is well-known for its lovely Gründerzeit houses. Rents continue to rise in this popular quarter.

Another Gründerzeit house in Linden. This one faces Limmerstrasse, an infamous party mile.

Apartment building from the 1960s in Hannover.

During World War II, roughly 50% of the residential houses in Hannover were destroyed by aerial bombardements. Thus, you find many unpretentious buildings from the 1960s – like this one.

Apartment towers at Hainholz.

Apartment towers located in Hainholz quarter.

Photograph of apartment block located in Sahlkamp quarter of Hannover, Germany.

Apartment block in Sahlkamp quarter. While I was photographing there, security personnel approached me. What I was doing here, the foreman asked. Their employer, the Deutsche Wohnen real estate company, would not allow anybody to take pictures. Accordingly, the guy told me, I should leave. As long as I’m standing on public ground, I replied, taking pictures is perfectly fine. Surprisingly, this alone convinced the six men. So not me but they left instead.

Black-and-white image of modern townhouses located at the Zoo quarter in Hannover, Germany.

Modern townhouses built in the 2010s. Minimalism predominates.

Industrial Buildings

The fascination for industrial buildings lead me to architectural photography in the first place. In earlier days, a lot of heavy industries existed in Hannover. These included machine factories, vehicle and battery production plants, weaving mills and cement processing companies. During the decades after World War II, a structural transformation took place and most of the factories vanished. Call it bad luck, I was simply born too late to witness them.

Black-and-white photograph of an abandoned cement works located at Misburg in Hannover (Germany).

Abandoned cement works. (In contrast to all the other images here, I shot this one at night. If you look closely, you might discover some faint star trails at the upper right corner. Kudos to Fuji for Acroses low reciprocity failure!)

Factory building of Continental (ContiTech) located at Vahrenwald quarter in Hannover, Germany.

Plant of ContiTech, a subsidiary of tire manufacturer Continental.

Stage set workshop of the municipal theaters. The architectural style is called “brick expressionism” and dates back to the 1920s. Wikipedia puts it into a nutshell: “A striking feature of Brick Expressionism is the liveliness of its facades, achieved purely through the deliberate setting of bricks in patterns. This helped to enliven large, otherwise monotonous, walls.”
Unfortunately, the administration of the Hannover region plans to the demolish the workshop. An office building will soon replace it. At least, the workshop’s facade is protected by preservation order. Therefore, the outer walls should be integrated into the new building.

To be honest, this image depicts just the rear side of a supermarket. But the massiv air exhaust looks pretty industrial to me.

Office Buildings

Office buildings – I would describe them as functional boxes. If not a prestigious company owns them, these buildings were built cost-effectively and thus look un-exciting. With my images, I don’t want to glamorize them. (Think of the companies’ glossy brochures and annual reports with images of impressive headquarters glowing in the golden hour.) However, I do want my photographs to give these buildings a certain pride.

Image of the Franzius institute, part of the Leibniz University Hannover.

The Ludwig-Franzius-Institute for coastal engineering belongs to the university.

This used to be the office building of an insurance company and became later home of the savings bank. As a typical skeleton construction of the 1950s, this house is protected by preservation order today.

Signal Iduna office building, located at Vahrenwalder Strasse in Hannover, Germany.

Office building of Signal Iduna, a company that deals with insurances and financial services. Hannover is considered as Germany’s capital of insurance companies.

Modern office buildings located at Bult quater in Hannover, Germany.

Modern but unimaginative: trade association for wood and metal.

Sacral Buildings

I consider most of the older churches as demanding subjects. Why? Churches show a “problematic” layout, as a large main body is combined with a high steeple. The sheer size forces me to take my image from the distance. As churches have acted as the center of the community, they always stand amidst a densely populated area. So I can guarantee that something will block my view. 

The ruins of St. Nicolas’ Chapel date back to 1250, making them Hannover’s oldest preserved structures.

Black-and-white photograph of Lutherkirche church located at Nordstadt quarter in Hannover, Germany.

The evangelic Lutherkirche opened in 1898. It looks old and it is old. But it is way younger than St. Nicholas.

St. Adalbert church located in Leinhausen quarter of Hannover, Germany.

Made out of concrete: St. Adalbert was consecrated in 1958.

Catholic St. Michael’s church. It was also built in the 1950s.

Other Buildings

There are some more buildings in my collection I wanted to present. As these structures do not fit into the categories I’ve used above, I’m listing them here. But you shouldn’t expect anything too special. We don’t have a Colosseum, Eiffel Tower or Tower Bridge.

Photograph of the canteen of the Leibniz University Hannover in Germany.

University canteen from the early 1980s. I never felt this building to be inviting.

Image of the International Neuroscience Institute located at Hannover, Germany.

International Neuroscience Institute (INI), a hospital specialized in brain diseases. Do you see the building resembling the human brain?

Black-and-white image of an air-raid shelter from world war ii, located in Hannover (Germany).

One of the many air-raid shelters back from World War II. This one is rather special insofar as bricks hide its massive concrete walls.

Black-and-white photograph of the Sprengel Museum for modern art at Hannover.

The most recent part of the Sprengel Museum for modern art. It became subject of a heated debate during its construction in 2014. Critics compared its appearance to the sarcophagus that covered the Tschernobyl nuclear plant.

Outlook: Printing and Zine Project

Recently, I started to print a few of my Hannover images on large sheets of baryta paper. Oh boy, they look fabulous! Baryta paper provides a very appealing texture and brings out the different shades of grey nicely. Thick as cardboard, the paper doesn’t bend if you hold it in your hands – even in large formats. Of course, this comes at a price: I paid 12 Euro for a single print (30cm x 45cm).

While looking at the baryta prints, the idea of creating my own zine formed inside my head. Maybe, I should even venture to publish a book? That’s not a new plan for me, I think about it every now and then. However, I’ve been too lazy (too worried) to execute the zine project. Sure, I had my excuses: “I really have to collect material first.” or “It’s an ongoing project. I can’t start printing as long as I’m not done with it.”. As I’m writing this paragraph, the January still hasn’t ended yet. With the new year being this young, it’s not too late to set myself a creative goal for it. (Okay, okay. There should never be a wrong point in time for setting a creative goal.)

Epilogue: On Beauty

After I had written most lines of this article, I visited the Museum for Art and Design in Hamburg. I saw there an exhibition titled “Beauty”. Its creators, Sagmeister & Walsh, stated that during the 20th century, most of the beauty in art, design and architecture got lost. Artists who had faced the atrocities of the World War I could never return to anything “beautiful”. That’s because beauty had been considered as moral value. Looking back to this human catastrophe, beauty just seemed inappropriate.

Now, most of us would live in monotonous boxes. Boring, uniform cities would affect our health – in a negative way. That exhibition made me think. Hannover is ugly in many ways, and I often feel drawn to its ugly sides. Do I glorify ugliness? Do I avoid beauty? Or do I try to find beauty within the ugliness? Does this matter at all? I don’t know.

My favorite quotes from the exhibition:

“The most important features for visual attraction are symmetry, simplicity, balance, clarity, contrast and proportion.”

“The whole 19th century was obsessed by beauty. Artists like Anselm Feuerbach dedicated all their creativity to it.”

“Non-places are urban spaces that were never designed or even recognized. Created by development or construction activities without an architect’s participation, they are multiplying themselves uninhibitedly in and around our villages and towns.”

I can highly recommend the Beauty exhibition. So if you have the opportunity, go there! (It is open until April 26.) For those who don’t, watch this video made by the creators: BEAUTY – in a nutshell

I hope you’ve enjoyed this portrait of my home town’s architecture. Thanks for reading!

Support 35mmc

For as little as $1 a month, you can help support the upkeep of 35mmc and get access to exclusive content over on Patreon. Alternatively, please feel free to chuck a few pennies in the tip jar via Ko-fi:

Become a Patron!

Learn about where your money goes here.
Would like to write for 35mmc? Find out how here.

28 Comments

  • Reply
    Duncan G
    March 17, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Fabulous work Christian; and a photographer after my own heart – I’ve not been at it long but a great many of my photographs try to capture the architecture of Sheffield, and to a lesser extent, Newcastle. The thing that is most noticeable about your work is how you’ve managed to take them without the appearance of parked cars – how do you manage it?! I find it almost impossible to achieve! All the best…

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 17, 2020 at 10:52 am

      Thanks a lot, Duncan!

      In our cities, parked cars are ubiquitous. Most of time, I more or less ignore them. If cars stand in front of a taller building, their impact is negligible – so they don’t bother me when in the frame. Whereas with smaller buildings as single-family houses, I do care. Some strategies include: try a different angle / camera position, come back later, include the car as a feature of the image – or simply don’t take a photograph of this very house at all. Maybe I subconsciously chose images for this article that don’t “suffer” from cars that much. But my entire collection does contain many car-y images.

      All the best for you, too. I hope you can resume your Sheffield / Newcastle project anytime soon…

  • Reply
    Rock
    March 17, 2020 at 10:57 am

    I agree with Duncan, fab work. Also highlights the fact that you don’t always need fancy or specialist gear to capture architecture and buildings.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 17, 2020 at 11:15 am

      Hi Rock, thank you for your comment!
      Concerning the gear: I used two different tilt/shift lenses, which I would consider rather unusual. This, of course, strongly depends on what means usual for you. 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris Pattison
    March 17, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    What a delightful and interesting read Christian. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 17, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      I’m glad you liked it.

  • Reply
    John Grzinich
    March 17, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Fantastic project and excellent photos all around. Architectural photography is seemingly one of those thematic subjects that people might think is easy but I feel that few get it right, especially the historical more ‘everyday’ buildings that make up most of our cityscapes. Needless to say you’ve done a great job and have an eye for it (coming from a rather cynical ex-architect).

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 18, 2020 at 7:23 am

      Thank you, John! I’m looking forward to a date in 10 or even 20 years – how will the city look like at this time? Which of the buildings have been demolished in the meantime? Will there be places that have changed beyond recognition?

  • Reply
    James Evidon
    March 17, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    It is a beautiful essay in imagery of architecture old and new, imaginative and empty of thought, inspiring and dead, creative and boring. The camera work with just the right contrast, full range of grayscale, pinpoint sharpness and great composition. Thank you Christian Schroeder for an enjoyable tour of your city.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 18, 2020 at 7:24 am

      Thanks a lot for your nice comment, James!

  • Reply
    Charles Morgan
    March 17, 2020 at 9:46 pm

    Gorgeous images – just exceptional documentation of some interesting, mundane and industrial architecture. Did you use a shift lens?

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 18, 2020 at 7:26 am

      Hi Charles, thank you. Your assumption is right, I’m using two Canon tilt/shift lenses, a 17mm and a 24mm (though the majority of my work is made with the 24mm).

  • Reply
    Sergio Palazzi
    March 17, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    Really a nice work. Deserves to be seen in a wider form. In these recent days it’s not so easy to go around taking photos (you’d rather become the subject of some of them…), but sitting here in front of a screen helps you to rethink what you’ve being doing with a camera. And your gray&cold perspective in finding the soul of the spaces deserves some attention. Not only because of niedersachsische weather, but also for the deliberately abnormal sign of vertical lines and the apparently casual absence of humans. I’m not an architect at all, so I have a rather naive point about some details, but I’m linking this page to some colleagues teaching arts, maybe they can be interested too.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 18, 2020 at 7:28 am

      Hi Sergio. I’m also spending my days at home, primarily sitting in front of a screen (when not sleeping). You are spot on: besides work I use this time to sort my images, develop new ideas, write drafts for future blog posts… Furthermore, my architecture season is already over as the spring arrives. Hopefully, I will stroll around next winter again, and the film-based companies are still alive.

      I’m very happy you want to share this piece with your colleagues – thank you!

  • Reply
    Chris Rampitsch
    March 17, 2020 at 11:11 pm

    Awesome! I once paged through a book called “Langweilige Postkarten” from the DDR, but didn’t find it boring at all, and this reminds me of that. I like your ability (and detemination) to see and photograph what is ‘normal’ today, and likely will be ‘interesting’ in the future.

    Have you ever considered a Rolleiflex SL66, which has tilt… expensive though. Considering your throughput (and lens investment) I suspect you’re in the right place with 35 mm.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 18, 2020 at 7:29 am

      Hi Chris, langweilige Postkarten sounds interesting! I often find things inspirational that ‘normal’ people would consider boring. (And vice versa.)

      I once considered the Hasselblad solution (ArcBody, veeeery expensive) and the Pentax 67 with a 75mm shift lens (field of view too narrow, also not exactly a bargain) – but I haven’t thought of the SL66 yet. Mhmm. I recently added a Mamiya 645 camera to my fleet, maybe I should have a closer look at Mamiya’s shift option? They made a 50mm lens, which is not too expensive.

  • Reply
    Clive W
    March 18, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Fantastisch, Christian!

    There’s so much here — history, philosophy, politics (because politics is life, even where we think we can avoid it) as well as art and architecture — that it’s too much to take in at one sitting. I’m going to take the liberty of printing it and reading it like a magazine article. Might need to make a big pot of coffee first.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 19, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Danke, Clive!

      Very cool that you want to print the article. So you are faster than me in making a zine. 🙂

  • Reply
    Andrew Craig
    March 18, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    Christian,
    Your work, and your description of Sunday mornings, reminds me of the year I spent in Stuttgart, in 2001-2! I remember Sundays, especially in Baden-Wuerttemburg: If one hadn’t already a plan for the day before one awoke, the day would drift by. It certain didn’t seem the thing to casually call up someone unannounced. It was remeniscent of my childhood in England, when shops and businesses were closed for Sunday and the day could have a dreamy feel spoilt by the knowledge that one would be at school the following day (Later, in the ’80s, in pursuit of mamon, ‘Sunday opening’ was allowed and Sunday became like every other day of the week.). I took the habit of planning ahead, a city to visit in a borrowed test car – Konstanz, Tuebingen, the Atonkeller in Haigerloch, or pre-arranged day with a friend.
    The buildings are familiar too; my company had an appartment block in the suburb of Weilimdorf where us visting foreign Mitarbeiters were placed, with the result that the default language there was English and still today my German is bad. The slightly drab 20th century domestic architecture contrasted with that typical of Britain, so often a pastische comprising cardboard elements from styles of the past in combinations never seen it times past – regency columns supporting tacked on tudor beams… I wasn’t sure was worse until I wrote that!
    At its best, Germany manages to artfully mix the contemporary with the historic in a way that does not happen in Britain, though pictures of such tend to be not so atmosphere.
    Thank you for your work, both the photrographs I would never imagine to take and the accompanying write-ups. I always enjoy and admire how you make the mundane interesting.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 19, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Hi Andrew, thank you for sharing your story!

      I visited my best friend at roughly the same time in Baden-Württemberg (I guess that was back in 2003). My friend began his studies of business administration at the university of Mannheim, while I had to fulfill civilian service. I traveled down there for an extended weekend: we bought day passes for the train and drove around. Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Strasbourg… At the Saarland, we spend two hours at the Völklingen ironworks. Oh boy, what a fantastic industrial behemoth! I wish I would have had a camera with me back then.

  • Reply
    Tom
    March 19, 2020 at 9:46 pm

    Excellent post and so enjoyable and informative…thank you.

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 23, 2020 at 7:11 am

      Thanks, Tom!

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    March 23, 2020 at 4:01 am

    Christian, what an amazing variety of architecture in your town. The Neuroscience building is especially odd. You did really well recording them, and I appreciate seeing architecture photography where vertical lines are parallel. I am working on a similar project to record houses and industrial sites in Mississippi. All the best!

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      March 23, 2020 at 7:11 am

      Hi Andrew. Thank you for your kind words. Once you have started to straighten your verticals, you can’t go without it anymore. It’s like an addiction…
      I’m looking forward to your Mississippi portrayal! All the best for you, too.

      • Reply
        Andrew Craig
        March 23, 2020 at 10:37 am

        I am not enough of a specialist to own a PC lens so instead, I try to use a wide enough lens and stand back far enough to hold the focal plane vertical and either crop the forground, or use it (using the foreground produces a more natural look, probably for the same reasons as I try to explain here…).
        It is clear that the shift lens is a trick that can produce slightly unnatural results: if the verticals are straightened absolutely, an illusion occurs where the top of a building appears wider than the bottom – partly because the the eye is accustomed to seeing some perspective, and partly because excessive shift creates some unnatural angles at the roof.
        I read a suggestion to use the shift judiciously – though I can’t remember where to give credit.
        Let me know what you think.

        • Reply
          Christian Schroeder
          March 24, 2020 at 6:33 pm

          You are right: especially with tall buildings (skyscrapers, towers), excessive shift and a short focal length, this optical illusion often occurs. I guess this illusion is further enhanced when the object is located in the middle of your image with rather large distances to the borders of the frame. In the case, the eye can’t use the borders as reference anymore. (Your brain is aware that the frame borders of any given image are perfectly parallel.)

          I read once an advice in Zeiss brochure (Zeiss sold very expensive tilt-shift lenses, “PC-TS Super Angulon”): you should exactly align the camera and shift your lens – and then tilt the camera slightly upwards to receive natural looking results. I think this is a good strategy for isolated and tall objects.

          My regular subjects aren’t that tall (in most cases, they fit well into the landscape format) – and my subjects are typically surrounded by other buildings. So the frame borders cut through these adjacent buildings – if I titled the camera even slightly upwards, they would reveal it (for example, the window grid would be slightly angled in relation to the frame border). Thus, the image would leave the impression I had worked a little bit carelessly.

          More often than not, overlapping optical effects occur with different impact on the image. Then I have to make a decision, which effect to suppress and which one to accept.

          I hope I could help you a bit. 🙂

  • Reply
    CheyenneMorrison
    July 23, 2020 at 4:09 am

    Great article, and I have a project planned like this for Melbourne in Australia. I’d advise you to read about Eugene Atget, and Berenice Abbott. Probably the best in this them are Josef Sudelka’s photos of Prague, Andreas Feininger’s shots of New York in the 1940s, and in your neck of the woods was the Cologne-based photographer Chargesheimer. Hereleased the photobook „Köln 5 Uhr 30“ in 1970 showing empty public spaces at 5:30 am @vladikscholz went out in the morning as well to get some tricks at normally crowded spots. He shot the entire work using the Brooks-Plaubel Veriwide 100 camera that I own. It is the smallest wide-angle medium format camera with a stunning 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon lens.

    “Köln 5Uhr30” (“Cologne at five thirty”) project by Chargesheimer
    https://www.albedomedia.com/clasico/coleccionismo/refotografiar-dos-proyectos-notables/

    A Review of Chargesheimer, Im Ruhrgebiet
    http://www.robertjonesphoto.com/chargesheimer.html

    https://galeriejuliansander.de/chargesheimer-the-boundaries-of-his-work/
    https://www.albedomedia.com/clasico/coleccionismo/refotografiar-dos-proyectos-notables/

    • Reply
      Christian Schroeder
      July 23, 2020 at 8:42 am

      Hi Cheyenne,
      thanks a lot for providing so much further information!

      Chargesheimer was indeed a fascinating personality. I once watched a TV documentary about him: He always approached the working class in a very respectful and open-minded manner. On the other hand, Chargesheimer was almost hated by local politicians for his unadorned portrayal of the Ruhr region.

      I learnt that Chargesheimer even published a book about my hometown: “Hannover” was released in the same year as “Cologne 5:30”, less than two years before Chargesheimer’s mysterious death in 1971/1972. Unfortunately, his books have become very pricey today (in case of Cologne 5:30 I wood say it is unaffordable).

      Cheers,
      Christian

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.