You could wait weeks for a clear sky in London. Even longer, says the photographer Peter Newman, is the wait for a London crane to disappear from your view. Newman learned the hard way, revisiting his St Mary Axe scene for months until the last tower topped out, the sky cleared and 'the trees lost their leaves to reveal the buildings in their entirety.'
He snapped 'London, St Mary Axe' on 30 October, two weeks before the launch of 'Circulation', his show of urban panoramas at Shoreditch gallery PayneShurvell. The vista, mounted on an LED panel, is the centrepiece of his 11 works and integrates 500 years of architecture, from the St Andrew Undershaft church through the 1960s modernist St Helen's tower and the eighties Lloyds Building.
His tidy presentation of such a broad scope of iconic London is made possible with a vintage Nikon fish-eye lens, an astronomers' relic that takes in a 180-degree view. The lens is adapted to his digital SLR, which does the rest of the work, capturing his scenes within a single exposure and alleviating the need for post-production work.
Newman's enthusiasm for 20th-century modernism is plain in his circular series. Eight years in the making, it sprang from an earlier project Newman undertook, capturing the trails airplanes made in the sky. As he snapped overhead, the buildings that entered the frame began to steal his attention away from the task. 'San Francisco Embarcadero', featuring the brutalist complex by John Portman, was his first effort. 'With all the windows tinted black and that integrated sculptural piece,' says Newman, 'it was a single vision of architecture.'
But the jagged patches of sky between those structures took on a life of their own - particularly in studies of London and Tokyo, where the idea of open sky is increasingly elusive. Newman has portrayed those blocks of negative space in his accompanying 'Channel' series, aluminium abstracts that share qualities of sculpture painting and photography. He completes the exhibition with a single time-lapse video, 'A New York Minute', a 220-degree view of street life captured at the base of the Seagram building on Park Avenue.