In his new book, Daniel Stier invites the viewer to take a second glance at the city
The photographer, based between London and Germany, has launched a compelling series that emphasises the destruction and chaos found in London.
- Ayla Angelos
- 25 February 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Like most of us, Daniel Stier found himself walking more than ever during the first wave of lockdowns. Daily steps would increase, as we’d all, including Daniel, galavant around our local dwellings, making sure to avoid any close contact and in turn noticing things that we might not have tuned into before. This might have been nature, architecture or the movements of people walking past; the smaller occurrences that might go miss in the busier times before.
A photographer based between London and Germany, Daniel has always had a knack for noticing that which surrounds him – so his talents were in some ways intensified as a result of the pandemic, even though many of his jobs and exhibitions were sadly cancelled. Before this, Daniel worked in abundance for various magazines and advertising campaigns, which followed suit shortly after is degree in Photography. He’s since been working on a campaign for Nike, and has previously worked with Sony, Volkswagen, Virgin and Barclays, with many of his celebrity portraits held at the National Portrait Gallery, and works shown at countless exhibitions. Not to mention the launch of his new book, entitled a tale of one city.
This publication is his most recent accomplishment, and one that came into fruition after one of his daily walks during the beginning of the pandemic. “It was while shooting an ad campaign where I had to find a very specific piece of architecture, shot from a precise angle,” he tells It’s Nice That of this previous moment. “I couldn’t really explain what I was looking for to a location scout.” Suddenly, on these walks, he’d noticed that the city of London appeared to him like “one gigantic building site,” where chaos, mess, destruction and renewal hit the skyline in a flash. “I was always fascinating by the visual chaos of big cities, but all of a sudden it felt like something more sinister; everything I was seeing was just about buying and selling. I felt like I needed to portray the city different, as an accumulation of stuff driven by economic forces.”
The idea then turned his fascination and a subsequent book came naturally, for Daniel has vast experience of snapping, curating and formulating his ideas into a coherent series of works. He’s published many books to this date, including ways of knowing – a visual study into scientific research institutions across Europe and North America – and in my country, a contemporary portrait of London as told through its diverse population. For his latest book, then, he’s started to turn back to his documentary photography roots, a medium that he’s trained in and has experience of doing in the past. “At the same time, I think I also see the city with a ‘commercial’ eye, as this is what I do for a living,” he adds, citing a double entendre that places emphases on both the real and the staged. Then, once the idea had been formed to create this book, he set out to walk the streets of the city to collect his imagery.
In signature flashy style, Daniel’s a tale of one city features heavily contrasted opposites: depictions of wealth and poverty, high-end apartments next to homelessness. These polarisations are rife in larger metropolises like London, and those who live in a city are sure to have witnessed the types of contrasts that Daniel is highlighting in his work. “We’re surrounded by stuff that is accumulating just for people to survive in the city; buying and selling everywhere. I was fascinated but this accumulation of goods – luxury designer wear next to cheap plastic consumer goods. Everything started to resemble each other. It’s also a constant wave of construction and destruction; overwhelming excess right next to deprivation.”
Having gathered all his imagery, that’s when the process of selection, editing and sequencing begins. It was a long process to say the least, only heightened by his desire to add “another layer” to the project and work with two “brilliant minds in the photography world”, David Campany and Marvin Heiferman. The two took Daniel’s work and wrote up two essays in response, providing wider context and interpretation to an already conceptually rich series of imagery. The last remaining part of the process was the work with the designers at Doublestandards, who deciphered the right tone of voice when it came to visualising the design and presentation of Daniel’s series.
Just like the daily lockdown walks, Daniel’s book has the means of opening up the viewer’s mind a little; it invites the audience to take a second glance at their surroundings. This is especially relevant if you, like Daniel, live in a city. “Hopefully they might see their environment in a different perspective,” he concludes of how he hopes the audience will interpret his works. “We have created the economic system which has shaped the cities as they are. It’s making our life more and more precarious. The infrastructure of the city gets stretches physically and socially, and there is a lot of room for change. I guess the opposites we were talking about are in reality the injustices we live with.”
GalleryDaniel Stier: A tale of one city (Copyright © Daniel Stier, 2021)
Daniel Stier: A tale of one city (Copyright © Daniel Stier, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.