New York is so great because it keeps moving, it’s never-ending. It's a metropolis characterized by sharp shapes, vertical diagonals and angular edges.

    • Paul Jung is proof that one can be a New Yorker without having been born anywhere in the city–and that, perhaps, the true New Yorkers never are. The Taiwan-born, Australia-raised photographer - who has worked with an array of high-end fashion editorial clients and global brands - has adopted New York as both hometown and muse, creating images that celebrate the stark beauty of the city–but also hint at its more sinister hidden dimensions.

      “Looking at shapes and structures, it's interesting to observe the difference between the micro and the macro,” he says. “In my work, I look within those two boundaries to confuse the eye; to find a certain emptiness that goes beyond the outlines of a subject.”

      As an artist, the environment you choose defines your output. In The Shape of New York fashion photographer Paul Jung reveals his city through a lens that most often overlook – the micro and the macro in shapes and structures. It’s here where Jung’s unique perspective on photography is defined.

      The result is a body of work that subverts - even redefines - the basic elements of fashion imagery. In Jung’s perfect-imperfect world, feet come in sets of three and bodies fall freeform from unknown heights. The clothes themselves transcend adornment to become structural appendage, bringing stark geometric dimensions to rounded human silhouettes. It’s a style that has proved endlessly intriguing to his loyal army of Instagram followers (some 80k of them), and garnered widespread praise from the creative press.

    • “I like to have two layers: the conscious, surface level, which could be perceived as clean, possibly sterile, empty,” he explains. “But the real point is the unconscious level–the buried part. I like to find something disturbing that the viewer can engage with, consciously or not. It’s the same thing that’s so interesting about New York to me: There’s the surface layer, and then there’s the underworld. I like that it’s not all out in the open.”

      Whether on foot or by car, Jung constantly seeks perspectives of the city in places others might not think to look.

      Describing himself as “the opposite of claustrophobic”, Jung’s aesthetic could be interpreted as a rejection of the open terrain in which he was raised. Growing up in Brisbane (the largest city in the Australian state of Queensland; itself the sixth largest subnational entity in the world) he experienced a sense of discord with his surroundings from a young age.

      “It gets esoteric in that you sense there must be something else out there; something more,” he says of those early, incongruous years. “I think a lot of people who come from places that they don’t associate with just keep moving until they find ‘it’. Or sometimes, they don’t.”

      Thankfully, Jung did. After stints studying and working in Milan ("not big enough”) and Beijing ("not modern enough, ironically") he eventually found his way to New York, a place that loomed large in the artistic imaginings of his youth. “New York is such a well-documented city. First, I had to distinguish what it is that I personally want to express. You can get quite disoriented, because everything’s here... It took some time to discover what is really special about the city for me.”

  2. Paul Jung has adopted New York as hometown and muse, creating images that celebrate its stark beauty and hidden dimensions.

    • He cites Louis Kahn’s Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island as one such place. With its austere symmetry and remote setting, the park fulfills Jung’s endless quest for negative space. “Four Freedoms is almost a temple within the city. It's tucked away on its own island, yet with the background of the Manhattan skyline just across the water. The concrete, the sharp lines, the trees all lined up perfectly... It's quite out of this world.”

      In his three years in New York City, Jung has learnt to find inspiration beyond the narrow dimensions of daily life. There’s no space in New York where he is unable to find an element of intrigue; some small, unnoticeable detail worthy of exploring at closer range: “Architecturally, the whole city interests me” he says, “except perhaps Murray Hill! Even in Midtown, you can find elements of Paris, bits of London…Travel a few blocks and you’re in a totally different world.”

      Equally, Jung says that a drive around the city “...really expands your understanding and vision of its structure; when you’re on the West Side near George Washington Bridge, you’ll notice that they construct buildings right on top of the freeway. It seems like something out of a science fiction movie - almost dystopian. And if you look up, there are these impossible vertical buildings that are designed to give somebody access or a viewpoint. Mostly they’re out of sight; out of reach. But somebody is getting up there…”

      “If you look up, there are these impossible vertical buildings that are designed to give somebody a viewpoint.”

      Paul Jung

      With his endless appreciation for the idiosyncrasies of New York, Jung has been able to retain the sense of wonder that usually marks a first-time visitor to the city. Where others see confusion, he is able to find calm. Where others perceive disorder, he zooms out to find a metropolis characterized by “sharp shapes, vertical diagonals, angular edges.”

      “One of the reasons I love living here” he elaborates, “is that I get a very singular view on the city's shape. I see New York as a honeycomb: It's a city full of details which seem, up close, to form an indescribable shape. But when you take a step back and look at the overall picture, you’ll find a very specific pattern among the chaos.”




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