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César Pelli Wearing the Carnegie Tower

Josef Astor is a transitional figure in this exhibition. He started his photographic career before Photoshop was even a glimmer in Russell Brown’s eye, so he became fluent at manipulating images using analog techniques. Sometimes, Astor hung objects by invisible strings in the studio. Other times, he painted trompe l’oeil backdrops. Still other times, he altered the photograph in the film-processing stage, using a technique called cross-processing, which is a way of processing film in a chemical solution intended for a different type of film.

When Photoshop became a powerful program in the late 1990s, Astor took classes and became skillful at digital manipulation. However, he had mixed feelings about digital manipulation, feeling that the old techniques had a kind of inventiveness that he liked. That’s why he has a fondness for images, such as this one, that he created before he learned digital techniques.

This photograph arose out of an assignment for Vanity Fair, which was running an article about the world’s greatest architects. The subject of this photograph, César Pelli, is one of the most influential architects in the world, having designed the 88-floor Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia and the World Financial Center in Manhattan, and listed by the American Institute of Architects as one of the ten most influential living architects.

The building that Pelli is wearing isn’t normally curved, of course. The model builder curved it so that it could be worn, and also, because it gave the photograph a whimsical, even surrealistic feel.