For much of his professional life architectural photographer Daniel Ciesielski has dedicated his days and nights to recording the changes to Warsaw’s urban landscape…
What skills are essential when photographing architecture?
First of all, you’ve got to be physically fit! More seriously, I think that, like all visual arts, you have to really be able to feel the harmony and balance of the composition.
Do you have any background in architecture, and is having a background in architecture of importance when photographing buildings?
Yes, I’m an Architecture & Urban Planning graduate. Photographing architecture came about partly through my education and partly through my long-standing fascination with landscape photography. My perception of architecture, and in fact the whole city, changed a lot on the completion of my studies, and this new outlook has definitely had a great impact on my photography. However, I don’t think that having expertise in this field is crucial when photographing architecture. Photography is more about form, light, and composition: it’s often abstract and not all that related to the structure of a building.
From an architectural perspective, what are your thoughts on Warsaw?
Each city is a living organism that changes with its inhabitants – that process of change is best reflected by a city’s architecture. Right now we have a situation where the city is evolving in front of our eyes, and at such a rapid pace that – in my opinion – things don’t always go to plan. Of course, there is no such thing as the perfect city because there’s no such thing as perfect people: city’s are always going to be inherently imperfect, though it’s these defects that fascinate and inspire me.
Do you have any favorite styles that you enjoy photographing?
I like glass facades or buildings that feature lots of glass detail. Fortunately, Warsaw has many such buildings and more are on the way. From a photographic point of view, glass is extremely photogenic and opens up a whole range of creative possibilities.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment?
My tripod. I often photograph for periods of long exposure so a tripod is vital. I enjoy this style: I like my photographs to feature sharp, stationary objects juxtaposed against a busy, urban backdrop.
When photographing buildings, what’s ‘the perfect moment’?
I love taking pictures at dawn and dusk. I think most photographers appreciate the warm colors of the so-called ‘golden hour’. In addition, I like taking photos during the rush hour – aside from the warm light you get at that time of day, I love the contrast you get between the rush of the city and the steadiness and peace that’s offered by a building.
What do you look for when trying to capture a building?
You have to think about its context and how it fits into the landscape. For me, it’s important that people looking at my images feel the building’s wider connection to the city. Sometimes a structure’s connection to the urban tissue of the city is harmonious and perfectly balanced. Other times there are either deliberate or accidental contrasts. As a photographer, it then becomes my decision whether to highlight or hide such characteristics.
What are you working on right now?
The photographic documentation of the reconstruction and extension of the CEDET Department Store (formerly SMYK). As an icon of post-war, modernist Warsaw, it’s an interesting object from both a historical and architectural perspective. Shooting it I’ve tried to catch not just the changes that have occurred to the urban tissue, but also the complex process of the work itself.
How would you define your work?
Frank Lloyd Wright once said that ‘space is the breath of art’. I use that as my professional motto: my dream is for people to notice the element of art in the urban spaces that I present.