Jan. 7, 2016, fine art photographer Edi Chen committed herself to a 366 project: photographing the symmetry of New York edifices. Having recently moved to Brooklyn from Beijing, Chen was fascinated by the architecture of the city and wanted an ongoing project that would honor the beauty around her.
“When I look back, I feel like it’s a diary of New York City because it records every day of life for me,” she says of the series, “Balance.” Lots of photographers commit to daily photo journal projects, but sticking with them can be easier said than done. “I think it was the biggest challenge I have ever met in my career,” Chen admits. At first she used the internet to track down buildings that might fit her symmetry slant, then planned out what time of day and what type of weather would offer the best light for each subject. But three months in, she found her method “was more walking and less planning,” she says.
Counting on the weather proved impossible—she might leave Brooklyn in sunshine and arrive in New York City to rain. She even had to brave a blizzard one week to capture her daily photos. In addition, long days doing commercial photography gigs—sometimes from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.—made it tough to fit in her personal project commitment. At month eight, she considered ending it.
But she didn’t. “I made it,” she says. What inspired her to persevere was thinking about her home city, Beijing, where she lived for 30 years, and the many buildings that were razed in the 1990s. “I always ask myself, Why didn’t I shoot them before they were destroyed? That is the city where I was born and that is the city I love but I do nothing for it.” She won’t make that same mistake twice.
“Any city, anywhere we are living, we never know when that day will come when it will disappear in front of us,” she says. She hopes her series creates a lasting memory of New York’s everyday architectural elegance.