Each city in the world has its own image and style defined by its people and landmarks. Each city has specific icons, which help define it to the rest of the world. As photographers, we sometimes concentrate so much on capturing something so different that we forget to capture the defining beauty of our city.
In this project I am aiming at capturing what tourists know but locals forget is sometimes there. This will be an ongoing project for me, I suspect years in the making, but in the end, it will encompass all of the well-known Icons of Sydney, but will also include some lesser known ones which normally only a person coming to Sydney for some extended time may only go and view. That will include some further outreaching areas.
This project can also be viewed as a purely photographic portfolio at my new personal photo site theo.photos.
Why and How?
Interestingly, it took a visiting colleague to trigger this project. They asked what was good to see in Sydney on the weekend while they were here on business. The answer was quite easy on a few landmarks, but I then realised that while I knew all these, I had not really taken time to visit them for their own sake. This is not surprising as city icons usually fade into the background of any city for the locals.
So it kicked off the idea that I should take some time and photograph some of them, create a collection of key icons of the city I have come to live in, but not the usual boring type tourist brochure pictures. It took a few attempts, but a lot of the initial results were best described as postcards. Not quite what I wanted.
To give the project its own style, I had to make a few key decisions. First of all, colour or black and white? This was easy, it has to be monochrome, to ensure the resulting picture would have the icon as the focus without any other distractions.
The next question was whether the I would shoot on film or digital. Those of you who follow me on social media, will know that I have a very strong bias to using film. For this project though, I have decided use digital and it is for purely practical reasons. I know the kind of photographs that I want entail some fairly lengthy exposure times, which film can still be used, but the calculation gets complicated due to reciprocity failure. For those that do not know what this is, it basically means that as light becomes more scarce, the photons will be hitting the silver halide grains residing on the film considerably less uniformly. This will cause the film to require more exposure to capture the scene, and can extend a 30 second exposure to well over 10 minutes in some cases. Add also that I would have likely used a bellows camera, the calculation, while doable, is quite complex. So digital it is, and to ensure I have the best possible quality, I used the monster Nikon D800 with the 36-megapixel sensor.
The final question I need to answer was what format. It would have been easy to just stick to the usual 35mm type format on this camera, but then the question arises, portrait or landscape for each of these icons. I decided I wanted to keep this pure with a clean form of expression, so I decided that I was going to crop to a square format, thus why the 36-megapixels came in so handy. For those that know me, you will also know that I have a bit of an obsession with the square format cameras, so this worked well for me.
So with all this decided, let’s have a look at the icons! I will be adding new ones to both the photo website and this article as I shoot them.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Harbour Bridge
St. Mary’s Cathedral
ANZAC Memorial at Hyde Park Sydney
Centre Point Tower
SS Ayrfield Shipwreck
Blood Moon Rising – Not really a landmark, but definitely iconic view through the city