• 4.21.14

    Stephen Wilkes Photographs the New Manhattan Skyline for Vanity Fair

    Stephen Wilkes documented the dramatically changing Midtown skyline for Vanity Fair's May article "Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Tall?"

    "When I work for a magazine, I first read the story and gain insight from the writer in order to understand what lies at the core of the article," the photographer said of his process. "I study the text and ask myself on shoot days, 'Is this going to be an opening picture or is this going to be a closer?' and then I determine how the remaining shots fit in. I think when a writer tackles a topic and a photographer visualizes the words, it's a very, very powerful combination."

    For Paul Goldberger's piece, which "looks at the construction, architecture, and marketing of ... super-luxury aeries, gauging their effect on the city's future," Wilkes rented a helicopter to capture the epic vantage points of these new skyscrapers. "I intentionally went up while there was snow on the ground for the aerial view of One57, because I wanted the contrast of the silvery buildings set against the white in Central Park," he explained.

    To portray the impact at the street level, Wilkes shot the construction site of the forthcoming Extell tower, on 57th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, which will be cantilevered over the Art Students League next door. "I rented a scissor lift so I could look into the site, and the resulting picture was striking because it provides a context for how these buildings emerge, how it all begins," he remarked. Without a doubt, he achieved his goal of making a picture (or several) that shows the shifting cityscape and how it, in turn, shifts New Yorkers' perceptions of the city.

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