6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Jasper Leonard renders NYC in miniature in “New York Resized.” Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Other than its apartments, New York City is not typically associated with the word “miniature,” especially when it comes to the skyline. But Belgium-based photographer Jasper Leonard, who says he “feels the need to reshape the way reality is exposed,” decided to turn this norm on its head with his photo series and newly released book “New York Resized.” Employing a unique tilt-shift technique and climbing up to rooftops, bridges, observatories, and helicopters to take a total of 23,000 photos, Leonard created a birds-eye perspective of NYC in which cars become tiny blips among the streets and people fade away in places like Grand Central and Central Park.
Your previous “Resized” books focus on Antwerp and Belgium. What made you decide to switch to NYC?
The better known a certain context (of a place), the better it works in the “tilt-shift” miniature feeling. So with that in the back of my mind, New York was on the top of my list of my favorite subjects.
How did the experience in New York differ from your time shooting in Europe?
Thanks to all the high-rise buildings and bridges it is a lot easier to get a nice perspective in New York than in Europe. In Europe however, it was easier to get rooftop access in certain buildings; in New York, you need quite a lot of insurances for this.
Can you explain tilt-shift? How specifically did you achieve this technique for “New York Resized?”
The tilt-shift technique mimics the type of sharpness you can see in macro photography. This is why our mind says, “wait a minute, this must be something really tiny.” I really love the fact that you can fool your mind pretty easily.
For New York Resized, I made use of some classic tilt-shift lenses, as well as a homemade tilt-shift adaptor, which made it possible to use a very large range of camera angles. After finishing the New York book, I even realized that my home-made adaptor works better than the actual lenses.
In total, you took 23,000 photos. How did you narrow it down to the selection in the book?
The selection process took almost as much time as I spent in New York. I had the aid of an intern, as well as of my graphic designer Jelle Maréchal, who helped a lot in the page selections and finals calls. To fill a photo book, you have to have enough variety of subjects and you have to be able to keep the book interesting.
You spent a lot of time atop bridges and in observatories. Which did you find the best and which were the most challenging?
I must say, I was blown away when I saw the sunset at One World Observatory. When the lights of the city come up, the scenery just totally changes. The height of that building is actually higher than the height small planes or helicopters fly in Belgium.
The most challenging thing was actually walking around the city and the bridges with too much weight in my camera bags.
Was there one space you wish you could’ve accessed that you weren’t able to?
There where a lot of buildings I would have loved to have had access to, the Woolworth building, for example (so I could have a shot of City Hall).Ii would also have loved taking shots of Wall Street or the bull statue, but you have to make sacrifices and be realistic. If you consider I shot the project in 20 days, I feel pretty satisfied with the results.
Any future projects you can fill us in on?
If I see the enthusiasm and feedback I get from these series, I’m pretty sure that more books will follow. The next one will probably be a European city… time will tell!
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- The Urban Lens: Peter Massini tours NYC’s public parks and sports fields from above
- The Urban Lens: Fly over NYC during ‘golden hour’
- Check Out George Steinmetz’s Stunning Aerial Photos of ‘New’ New York
All photographs © Jasper Leonard
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