As I've probably mentioned before, during my time in college I shot a number of architectural photographs of Chicago's Near North neighborhood using a large format camera. A majority of these photos were of exteriors taken from street level. I always felt this vantage point expressed my fascination with the city's high rises, as if I were exploring the belly of a canyon and surrounded by towering rock formations.
During this time I became very attentive as to how sunlight moved through the cityscape. I'd capture my ideal shot of a given building, which was often based on the quality of light peering through the neighboring structures off camera. Since the city is constantly changing, with new buildings erected and others torn down each year, some of those shots would be impossible to recreate. All that aside, even if I did feel the inclination to once again shoot architectural photography at my leisure, I’d have neither the time or facilities to do so, but that year shooting cityscapes in Near North is still a nice experience I keep with me.
Anyway, it’s no big secret that the camera obscura was utilized by the old master painters, particularly those who specialized in urban views, as the device allowed for a precise tendering of the scene from any given perspective. That said, while I enjoy the works of Caneletto and Francesco Guardi for their spectacular cityscape paintings, it wasn’t until I happened upon the work of Bernardo Bellotto that found a painter whose use of perspective, approach to lighting, and observation of the urban landscape reflected what which I’d aspired to achieve with my architectural photography
During his career, Bernardo Bellotto lived in Rome, Dresden, Vienna and Warsaw, and provided many of the wonderful views of each city. These works are so detailed and precise that his paintings of Warsaw were used as a reference to help rebuild the city after its destruction in WWII. For today’s artwork I’m sharing his Dominican Church in Vienna, which provides several great examples as to why I admire his work. He often chose a perspective which added a unique depth and dimension to his views, and he seemed largely inspired by the quality of light in a given scene. As overblown as this might sound, when I see his paintings I feel as if I’m looking at a cityscape through the ground glass of my 4x5—upside-down and backwards, of course.