Port­fo­lio re­view

Gior­gio Or­landi uses his trusty 35mm lens to cap­ture beau­ti­ful images of a once thriv­ing city

NPhoto - - Over To You -

Be in­spired by a col­lec­tion of poignant images of Detroit that doc­u­ment the sad de­cline of this once vi­brant and thriv­ing city

Detroit, Michi­gan, is one of the largest cities to ever file for bank­ruptcy. This hap­pened in 2013, when I first moved here. It was hard to imag­ine that this di­lap­i­dated city, which was lit­tered with de­cay­ing fac­to­ries, of­fice spa­ces and the­atres, was the home of the US auto in­dus­try for al­most a cen­tury.

I took the wet floor shot [1] in an old aban­doned fac­tory, just out­side down­town Detroit. I was drawn by the ap­par­ent sym­me­try, with the lead­ing lines in the ceil­ing re­flected in the pud­dles of wa­ter on the floor. Ityp­i­cally shoot in Aper­ture Pri­or­ity mode, and to cap­ture the rip­ples and freeze the wall fan that was spin­ning in the gusty wind, my shut­ter speed needed to be quite quick, so I had to in­crease the ISO.

I use a fixed 35mm lens be­cause I once read that it is a great way to force one­self into think­ing about each shot, and this was cer­tainly true for the shot with the planks by the win­dow [2]. I was drawn by the messy stack of wooden planks, but I didn’t im­me­di­ately see a com­po­si­tion that worked. I snapped a few photos with the win­dow on the left, but I just felt it didn’t quite work. I then no­ticed the green tank through the other

I use a fixed 35mm lens be­cause I once read that it is a great way to force one­self into think­ing about each shot, and this was cer­tainly true for me

win­dow. I thought Icould try fram­ing it while us­ing the planks as my an­chor, and to do so I had to move around quite a bit, and to shoot from dif­fer­ent heights for dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

The fi­nal photo [3] was taken at the Fisher 21 Plant, an aban­doned in­dus­trial paint shop. I shot it with a shal­low depth of field be­cause I wanted the viewer to fo­cus on the blue pieces of glass that had fallen from the sur­round­ing win­dows, but I also wanted to give a sense of the vast­ness of the plant by play­ing with an out of fo­cus back­ground. I feel that the win­dows in the back give it the sense of depth I was look­ing for.

N-Photo says

Th­ese images are fan­tas­tic, Gior­gio. They are tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient, plus they cap­ture a fas­ci­nat­ing, som­bre part of his­tory. Your cen­tral fram­ing in the fac­tory floor shot is spot-on. The lead­ing lines on the ceil­ing and in the wa­ter be­low draw the eye in to the cen­tre of the frame, as you say. The graphic shape and deep con­trast of the fan blades in the dis­tance hold our gaze as the main fea­ture within the photo, un­der­lined by the stripes of light pour­ing in through the win­dows and onto the floor. And the piles of rub­bish on the right and graf­fiti on pil­lars on the left add weight to the edges of the frame, hold­ing the eye in­side the photo.

Tak­ing the time to re­po­si­tion, re­com­pose and study a scene is the hall­mark of a skilled pho­tog­ra­pher, and the time you spent set­ting up the planks and win­dow scene has paid off. A ran­dom jum­ble of tim­ber placed against a wall is a chaotic night­mare for com­po­si­tion, but you’ve man­aged to cre­ate struc­ture in your shot of it (see page 76 for more on this). You’re right to place the win­dow to the right, and to frame the wa­ter tower in­side the win­dow. It would have been easy for a less ex­pe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­pher to crop that out, miss it en­tirely or

You’ve man­aged to turn bro­ken glass and con­crete into some­thing that’s re­ally rather beau­ti­ful

sim­ply cut the end of the win­dow frame out. By run­ning an imag­i­nary di­ag­o­nal line from top-left to bot­tom­right, you can see there’s in­ter­est but sim­plic­ity in each half of the frame.

Your close-up of bro­ken glass com­pletes your trio of images bril­liantly. Get­ting in close like this re­ally fo­cuses the viewer’s at­ten­tion on the grit, grime and glass of a city that’s quite lit­er­ally bro­ken, and the re­sult is both an in­ti­mate por­trait, and a re­flec­tion on what’s been lost. You’ve man­aged to turn bro­ken glass and con­crete into some­thing that’s re­ally rather beau­ti­ful. We es­pe­cially like the place­ment of the shards at the bot­tom right, and how they bal­ance and echo the shapes and colours of the open­ings at the top left; and the way the hard shad­ows lead the eye from one to the other.

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