April 12, 2012
Nave, Sainte-Chappelle, Paris, France, 2006. Photo (c) David Stephenson.
Judging by his website, photographer David Stephenson is interested in two subjects: contemporary cities, and the historical evidence of human ingenuity.
The American artist’s portfolio is awash in glowing mega-blocks and wide-angle cityscapes presented alongside Vaults, a technically dazzling collection of pre-Modern religious architecture. Vaults looks at the ceilings of cathedrals all over Europe, shot directly from below to “flatten” the depth of the spaces. Together with Light Cities, the work offers an interesting definition of the sublime. Stephenson, in his own words, says he’s drawn to “what is both good and bad in our industrialized culture: an extraordinary example of a monumental technological sublime, where awe, beauty, and human aspiration are tinged with the horror of potential environmental catastrophe, our engine of modernity seemingly running on empty.”
Both of Stephenson’s subjects — the complexities of the Megacity and the virtuosic efforts of medieval master builders — depict the same human impulse. To my eyes, they also share a similar visual taxonomy; a pattern language that, oddly enough, is common between the sexpartite rib vaults of a 14th century cathedral and fractal urban clustering of Tokyo seen from above.
Choir, King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England, 2006. Photo (c) David Stephenson.
Choir, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester, England, 2006. Photo (c) David Stephenson.
Photo (c) David Stephenson.