Aside from showcasing growth and grandeur, part of photographing the world’s major metropolises is creating a sense of place and character. It’s what I find inspiring in projects like “Vertical City” by Alexander Kaunas. In this project, the photographer and film director placed the spotlight on Shanghai, showcasing it as a futuristic city where, as one suggests, one is compelled to look up or down. Well, mostly.
Part architectural photography and part portrait of China’s biggest city, this series explores the inevitable vertical future of metropolises. If you’ve been in the mood to photograph sprawling cities within your reach, this could well be one of your inspirations.
Scaling the hypnotic heights of Shanghai
“Shanghai is a vertical city, where future already arrived,” Kaunas described the city which he has called home, apart from Moscow. “Shanghai is my habitat for seven years already. And I’m glad to be part of this place where future already is a present.”
For those of us who have never been to Shanghai but have heard about its grandeur, he takes us on a tour through the city’s various vantage points. He makes us look up or down, or bear witness to the people who do. By scaling the heights of the city this way, we get a good feel or idea about what it’s like to gaze at the future of urban landscapes.
I see this series as a good example of why having access to different vantage points is an integral part of photographing cities at night. Getting those wide shots is always a good way to strike a balance and create a sense of scale.
Channeling a vivid cyberpunk vibe
Everything Kaunas captured for this series encapsulates what makes cityscapes such captivating subjects at night. Shanghai in particular, has been a favorite of many night photographers for its hypnotic cyberpunk vibe. It’s not at all surprising once you get familiarized with the sci-fi genre and the cityscapes that have inspired it.
I like how “Vertical City” clearly channels that cyberpunk vibe even without the ethereal neon glow. It somehow makes me feel that I’m looking at big cities at the cusp of that plausible future. There are already many projects that look that far ahead. But, I think the perspective of a city that have started to make this version of the future its present is just as interesting.
All photos by Alexander Kaunas. Used with Creative Commons permission.