Behind the lens: Shooting an aerial, blacked-out NYC, against all odds
On Oct. 29, renowned architecture photographer Iwan Baan found himself in New York to shoot the opening of the new Parrish Art Museum for the architects Herzog & de Meuron in Long Island. Only problem? A storm was coming.
Baan, who is based in Amsterdam and spends most of his time on the road, heard the weather reports ahead of Hurricane Sandy, and, as any good world-traveler would, he knew that his well-laid plans were likely going to change.
No stranger to natural disasters, he knew that he would need to prepare for the worst.
“Last year, I was in Tokyo when the earthquake and tsunami happened,” Baan said, “and I realized that you’re totally trapped in a big city. That idea did not appeal to me.”
So, he pulled as much cash as he could from whatever ATMs he could find, and then, he did what hundreds – if not thousands – of other people with the same idea were doing: He attempted to rent a car.
There were none.
Baan was stuck.
Then, Wednesday, after the storm had wreaked havoc on everything in its path, his luck changed. He got a call that there was, in fact, one rental car available, but he’d have to trek out to JFK to claim it. Four-hour trip? No problem. By cab, he made it.
“Finally, I get to JFK and I think, ‘ok what’s next,’” he said. And then, his phone rang.
He couldn’t really understand much of what the voice at the other end was saying because the connection was so bad. But he could discern it was New York magazine. They wanted to know if he could hop on a helicopter and take some photos of the city from above.
Baan is very well acquainted with aerial photography; he’s in the sky, shooting at least once a week. But his list of usual pilots wasn’t much help in this situation – they were either stuck themselves, on rescue missions or just plain out of gas.
Then, he got an idea. Three weeks prior to his trip here, he had researched helicopter pilots in Long Island, hoping he could arrange for some aerial shots of the museum opening. Were they far enough outside the city to be in better shape? Bingo.
Baan found a pilot that could fly him from Long Island over Manhattan – and, thankfully, had the cash to pay for the ride, as many credit processing systems were affected by the storm. The rest, as they say, is history.
Baan’s image of a blacked out lower Manhattan ran on one of New York magazine’s most iconic covers, was passed around like crazy on social media and likely will be talked about for years.
“It sort of all worked out,” Baan said – the helicopter, the rental car, the cash, even the fact that he had just purchased his Canon 1D X with a 24-70 mm lens not long before coming to New York. Even the air traffic – or lack thereof – worked out in favor of capturing such a profound image.
Reflecting on his time in New York recently from our Getty Images office there, Baan chuckled at the thought of how the stars aligned to make this image (and the others he shot) possible.
“I was completely prepared,” he said. “But I didn’t know at the time for what.”
Editor’s note: Maria Dias is the Managing Editor of the Getty Images blog. To see more of Iwan’s images from 5,000 feet above Manhattan, click here. Or, to see New York magazine’s iconic cover and read their Editor’s Letter for that issue, click here.