I’ve never really considered myself a photographer until recently. I have always been interested in making videos. Photography came afterwards, mostly as a tool for making videos. I fell in love with the combination of photography and videography because of the amount of control it allows. When shooting image sequences I am able to precisely map out my movement and take my time to line up each individual frame.
Why did you shoot only at night?
The sequences at night possess aesthetic qualities that present the architecture from a more surreal and unfamiliar perspective. The long exposure images help to transform the buildings, making them appear differently than they may in real life. In addition, at night there is greater contrast between the sky and the structure, allowing the viewer to focus on the brilliance of the architecture more so than the passage of time. Furthermore, shooting these image sequences during the day would be far more difficult as there would be many more people around to interrupt.
What were some of the difficulties you ran into while shooting?
The biggest obstacle was the weather. The video was shot over winter so weather wasn’t ideal. Rain and snow kept us from shooting many nights and set us back often. When I wanted to capture a building and the weather was poor, we either had to stay in the city another night or two, leave and come back later, or skip it altogether. Also, some nights it was absolutely freezing out and when shooting an image sequence there is no real opportunity to move and get the blood flowing. Sequences could take several hours to shoot so we had difficulty with numb fingers and toes. I couldn’t wear thick gloves or I’d have trouble manipulating the camera.
One of the most frustrating difficulties we encountered was interruption. Whether it was sudden precipitation, police informing us we couldn’t use a tripod at the location, the lights turning off on a building, or even a group of tourists that wanted to jump in front of the camera to get their picture taken. When interrupted we had to start all over, often, we had already been an hour or two into the shoot.
What locations caused you the most trouble?
Of the locations represented in the film, the Arc de Triomphe was the most difficult to capture. To achieve this shot we had to cross a few streets and finish halfway across the Champs-Élysées. We waited until 2 a.m. when there seemed to be the least traffic. We slowly crossed each street taking a picture every few inches. Whenever cars were coming, we used chalk to mark our location and ran out of the way. The shoot became more complicated when the military guards patrolling around the monument saw us shooting in the middle of the street. They yelled to let us know this was not allowed, but we were already a couple hours into the shoot and I did not want to give up. We continued, but now we had to wait until the guards were on the opposite side of the Arc de Triomphe and no cars were coming. Each time the guards made their way back around we would stand off to the side and pretend to do something else. This shot took over five hours and we finished just as dawn broke.
What were the highlights of the project?
Creating this project was one of my most amazing and rewarding experiences. Witnessing Europe at the pace we did there was never a dull moment. Our surroundings were constantly changing: different cities, languages, food and culture. We lived on trains and in hostels, carried around several articles of clothing with the equipment and managed a budget of about 35 euros per day for food, shelter and any additional costs. We were nomads. It was intense but awesome.