A COLLECTION OF PHOTOS FROM SELECTED PHOTOGRAPHERS SHOWCASING THEIR FAVOURITE ARCHITECTURAL IMAGES.
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Looking at a still photograph is proactive. You decide to look and for how long, to linger and explore the image or walk away. All too often even still images are flashed in front of us momentarily reducing our involvement to a passive onlooker. We are in danger of accepting bad and mediocre imagery as normal, we are looking but not seeing.
Photographs of architecture capture more than a building, they create a legacy in time and place.
Founder: The Architectural Photography Awards
Brad Feinkopf has developed a thriving and respected architectural photography practice based in Columbus Ohio USA. Ohio is a state in the east of the US below Lake Erie and between Pennsylvania and Indiana. Since 2010, Columbus has been growing in population and economy. The weather is classed as humid continental and can be subject to severe weather including damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes. https://www.feinknopf.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
In the early days you worked with master photographers Avedon, Mapplethorpe and Horst - all best known for images of people and a million miles from architecture which leads me to two questions:
When I graduated in Design from Cornell, I had been taking photos for a year and a half. Hungry to learn more I moved to New York I was offered a position at the Avedon Studio. The bar was very high at the Avedon Studio. It was a rare and incredible opportunity to work there. It was the best first job out of college and set the stage for everything that has come since. At the Avedon Studio, everything had to be perfect all the time. When I mean everything, I am talking about everything. From making a xerox copy to wrapping a package, it had to be perfect. When a package was wrapped, the folds were all at 45 degrees as measured with a protractor and tape cut to the exact size of the package. The rationale revolved around the Tiffany Box concept, that if the package is perfect, what is within must equally be perfect.
Working with Avedon engrained in me the importance of striving for perfection.
I worked with many Masters and they all worked differently. I learned that there wasn’t a single solution to a problem. It was about developing your own style with the tools that best suited what you were trying to achieve. Working with them gave me a great insight to deal with different light approaches and camera set ups.
I went to NYC young and naïve idolizing the 'Masters' I soon realised they were human with strengths and shortcomings, some warm and giving – others the antithesis. Their characters reflected their approach to their work. Seeing them helped me form who I was and what I wanted to be and how I too would choose to approach my work and those I work with.
I truly enjoyed and learned a great deal from these master photographers, I never saw myself as a fashion photographer. It wasn't me. I never saw myself directing fashion and deep down, it didn’t move me. When I got into photography there wasn’t the internet. In the late 80’s and early 90’s most photographers were generalist because their draw was on the local market and you need every job that came in the door, whether portraiture, lifestyle, food or architecture. I see the internet having enabled photographers to be more specialist because you can reach a wider market. When I was starting my career, I ended up in a partnership which was the first step into specialization. My partner did Fashion, Lifestyle and Product work and I did Corporate, Portraiture, Architecture and Interior work.
Few realise my father and grandfather were architects. From a young age I admired architecture, had been visiting constructions sites and intended following in their footsteps.
The internet expanded my potential photography client base and as it became apparent that I had a propensity for architectural photography, more architectural commissions were forthcoming. Over 35years I've embraced the gradual change from predominantly portraiture to architecture.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Adjaye Associates Architects, Washington, D.C.
Some photographers scout projects, figure it out and have a plan. I'm much more an experiential photographer. I want to see and respond to what I am seeing. The experience is more guttural. What is it that I am responding to? What moves me. Building are not static objects.
They change over the day, over the seasons and with the weather... You need flexible, observant and be responsive to what the day brings.
I work as a collaborator. I really WANT the architect to be there, at least for part of the shoot. I LOVE architecture and the people behind the architecture. I want to understand the design intent of the architect, why certain decisions were made and why things are there way they are. If I can understand this, I can better articulate the story of the building. I think this is something that is lost on many architectural photographers. If your photography is about pictures and compositions then your photography is about you. I don’t want my photography to be about me, I want my photography to tell a story: to explain a project and to tell the architect’s vision. How can you tell the architect’s vision if you don’t know the architect’s story? Yes, ultimately you have pictures and solid composition will make what might be an okay photo a good photo but, if it helps to tell the story of the project, then that good photo goes a bit beyond and truthfully becomes something else, something great.
Part of this was addressed in the last question but what I will say is that I walk a project and after the walkthrough, I have already established the images I will create over the next few days in my mind’s eye. I know what I want to do, and the next question is determining the right time if day to do each and every shot. This may ultimately happen over several days and where I am when will be based around weather conditions and sun position. The most important thing is that I have a vision for what I hope to achieve, and the rest is execution.
One can never discount the architecture. As when I worked with Richard Avedon, he was shooting with supermodels like Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Paulina Porizkova so he was starting with fairly good subject matter. That said, it is what you do with that subject matter that is important. I have been very blessed over the year to shoot a great deal of incredible architecture for a slew of amazing architects, both big and small. When it comes to awards, photography is the first thing and probably most impactful thing a jury sees. Simply speaking, the periodicals wouldn’t sell if they were only words. It is the imagery that first captures the reader’s eye and, that is true of awards juries, as well. I will not conclude that my imagery wins awards, but I will say, strong imagery gets the participant past the first review and to a point where the jury decides to look deeper. If you don’t get past the first review you are done before you started. You might have the most incredible project in concept and design, but if your photos don’t draw you in, then the jury may never realize your depth of thought. As a result, your project has already been set aside and thus no further review.
I live vicariously through my clients. If they win awards, get published and, most importantly, win new work then I have served my clients well. Good photography may not do any of the above all by itself but, it is certainly a contributing factor. More than once, parties who have not won an award complain to me that the project that did win, which I shot, looked better than they truly were but, isn’t that my job? I want to show every job in its best possible light and if I have done my job well, then it is what it is.
Yes, for 17 years I shot 4”x5” film and I have now shot digital for almost an equal amount of time. Shooting film was hard. Everything needed lit and you truly needed to understand film types and how to achieve your end results. Fluorescent lights needed to be gelled and the whole process was much lengthier. Images often looked a bit lit and had a certain look and feel to it. Shooting film is very similar to listening to vinyl, there is a warmth that is very inviting that I miss. With digital I have a greater ability to capture what I have in my mind’s eye. Additionally, as son and grandson of architects, I have always believed the architect should think about the lighting of their projects. In the film days you could relight a poorly lit interior and make it look marvellous. You can still do that today, but I would rather be truthful and depict that which is there. If the architect thought about the lighting, it would come across in the photos, the way it should always be.
Yes & No. The equipment is a tool with which you utilize to obtain your vision, but it is very much a tool. Great equipment does not make a great photographer. Understanding your equipment and how to utilize it to its fullest to achieve the desired result is truly what is important. For years I shot 4”x5” and when I switched to digital, I wanted to make a sideways step. At that time, it was to shoot with a Cambo system and a Phase One digital back. This process was at least very similar to 4”x5” and we could produce tack sharp 300 MB files that were gorgeous. The problem was that it was slow and cumbersome, and I was the only one who appreciated their results. No client wanted 300 MB files, and most didn’t know what to do with a file that large. Ultimately, I switched to the Canon 1Dx Mark III because I was more interested in bracketing, shooting fast and the ability to perform under low light and achieve remarkable results. Architectural photography has changed, and though it is still about the design, and it now needs to articulate the human experience and how one interacts with the architecture. Being able to capture that is where I have been driven regarding the tools I choose to utilize. The files I deliver tend to be 50-75 MB files and not 300 MB files, but they are ample size for my clients and publications. BIG is just that, BIG but, big is not necessarily better.
John & Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore, Behnisch Architekten & Ayers/Saint/Gross Baltimore, MD
Here is what I will say, as I have been asked this many times before: Going back to film, the skies you got were the skies you got, and it was what it was. I still operate as if I were a film photographer. Anything that can be done in camera is 1000 times better than anything you can do in post. I want to do as little in post as possible. There is a saying that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. I have never “dropped in” a sky. Every sky you see is the sky that I was given. When I shoot a project, I like to have several days so, in turn will have multiple dawn and dusks. I will return day after day to get the right sky. As a result, over the years I have been very fortunate. I do like to have a few days at a project, so I have ample time to get the shots correct. Yes, we might deepen the sky a tad, maybe impose a bit of blue to a horrendously cloudy day. Intrinsically, I am dealing with the cards I have been dealt. Fortunately, over the years I have been dealt some wonderful cards.
Architectural photographer Dennis Gilbert has died aged 70.
Dennis was the leading exponent of photographing British and Irish Architecture, an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA, and a founder of View Pictures.
Dennis discovered his love and talent for photography after training as an engineer and leaving his native South Africa. In the 1970's he studied photography at California Institute of the Arts and later moved to London.
Respected by clients and photographers alike Dennis's eye for clarity and form has helped shape the understanding of contemporary architecture.
Edmund Sumner, friend and fellow photographer shares with us a selection of his favourite images from Dennis's impressive portfolio. Please click on each image to see the full sized version.
Dennis Gilbert's images can be licenced from View Pictures.co.uk
Hedrich Blessing Photographers
Hedrich Blessing Photographers was established in Chicago in 1929 by Ken Hedrich and Henry Blessing. The practice has worked for over seventy years with up to twenty photographers creating an archive of American architectural photography, the bulk of which covers 1933 -1969.
Chicago claims to be the birthplace of some of the most iconic and groundbreaking buildings in America and the Hedrich Blessing Studio was there to work with it.
Chicago was building big
Chicago had Frank Lloyd Wright . Think of the classic image of F.L.Wrights Fallingwater, the shot everyone tries to take – the original was taken in 1937 by Ken Hedrich
Building was benefiting from President Roosevelts 'New Deal' to bring the country away from the ravages of the Great Depression. In 1933 Chicago hosted the World's Fair – a Century of Progress and Chrysler Motors was one of many to create a stunning exhibition space
(At the same World Fair Herman Miller launched its modern line of furniture and Hedrich Blessing was the studio to photograph the new Chicago showroom and the new furniture lines for many years)
In 1938 Mies van der Rohe arrived and Hedrich Blessing Studio made the pictures that introduced his work to the world. Chicago has more Mies buildings than any other city.
Beyond signature projects Hedrich Blessing recorded many of the heavy industrial buildings that gave the mid west its wealth.
and in contrast, also in 1943, we see some colour photography in the the fashionable household environments that were displayed in THE Chicago department store; Marshall Field. Here's one of many
The Hedrich Blessing archive is housed with the Chicago History Museum, images can be licenced from arcaidimages.com part of Capture Ltd
Nigel Young belongs to an exclusive group of architectural photographers.
Nigel is employed and works exclusively for one architectural practice: Foster + Partners.
Nigel has photographed and filmed the design, construction and completion of projects at Foster + Partners for over 25 years. During this period he has visited virtually all the practice's projects including revisits to earlier buildings. The resulting photographs and films contribute to a comprehensive visual archive of the practice. The work has been widely published and exhibited.
Within this article we will show eight highlights from his vast collection.
I urge you to look at images on a large screen.
Imagine if the Militia Company didn't see the Night Watch in its original format and first saw it on a vertical surface and only 5cm wide. The Company may never have appreciated its intricacies and subtleties of light and Rembrandt may never have been acknowledged or paid.
I trained as an architect rather than photographer so my path to photography was a little different. Visiting and photographing buildings during my studies helped me learn about both disciplines simultaneously and photography became a tremendously useful communication skill for me. One of my earliest jobs was with architect Terry Farrell, who employed photography extensively for presentations and publicity. This presented me with the opportunity to shoot the practice’s architectural models and buildings in parallel to my own design work. After ten years working with Farrells, it felt a very natural progression to join the Foster + Partners studio to specialise in photography.
Moving Norman Foster on Art, © Nigel Young / Foster + Partners, Norman Foster curating the 'Moving - Norman Foster on Art' exhibition at the Carré d'Art, Nîmes
In my current role I get the best of both worlds; I have always searched out creative collaboration so working in a larger team is what I enjoy the most. It can also be refreshing to step outside the team from time to time and work solo and with the huge range of interesting individuals I meet when on location. I really value the time I have spent working with artists, manufacturers, clients and even in parallel with other photographers and media crews.
The reality is that in a large studio like Foster + Partners there are many clients. Sometimes there I am required to work alongside the project and support teams, shooting models, construction progress and finished projects, while on other occasions I might engage in direct collaborations with Lord Foster or others on a whole range of challenging shoots. I lead a small team of three photographers in the studio and between us we fulfil the majority of the studio’s photography requirements. All our internal ‘clients’ have their own particular briefs and requirements, so life is never dull.
The design and realisation stages of a project are as fascinating as the finished work; telling that story is very important to the studio and photography is a very powerful tool to describe the creative process. My team work alongside the designers at all stages and provide continuity of photography. We develop a better in-depth understanding of what the projects are about than would be possible with freelancers that come in for single shoots. We are the ’flies on the wall’ who see everything and capture the visual material that helps the studio to communicate to the outside world.
I have always been more concerned with telling the story of the projects, from design to implementation, and consider my work closer to photojournalism than art. Experience taught me that returning from a shoot with ‘stylish’ images of empty spaces, for example, would quickly result in being sent back by Norman, with the instruction to try harder to illustrate what the buildings were really like when full of life. If there is one theme that I can identify as running through my work, it is a desire to capture the human element of the projects; if I have a style it is unconscious and perhaps better left for others to put their finger on.
I select my own equipment and software and I have developed my kit by trial and error over the years. I started out using a whole range of formats for different situations, shooting people and events on 35mm black and white print film, construction in medium format, and then shooting final images on large format colour transparencies with a 5x4 plate camera. I gradually phased in digital photography and processing and started with Nikon cameras for studio work. I finally went fully digital in 2007, when I replaced my Sinar 5x4 camera with a Phase One medium format digital camera.
I shoot with Nikon cameras, which are extremely versatile for all types of photography. I can shoot an opening event free-hand, then switch to more composed tripod based architectural photography of the finished project without changing cameras. The potential to shoot moving stills is an added bonus and making short films is something I have been working on for several years now. I travel a lot so keep my kit as concise as possible, and being able to fit everything into one hand luggage sized bag, is great. Plus, it avoids that long, anxious wait at the baggage reclaim.
Can I say both? Digital technology can make a photographer’s life much easier; I can now shoot in difficult lighting conditions that were impossible in the past with film, for example. That said, the most creative results often come from situations with greater constraints; there was always a certain skill in understanding the qualities of film and light, and that made achieving the most successful shots extremely gratifying. Combining the right film and filters on site to match the light was somehow more rewarding than arriving back home with a digital file and having to recall what you had seen earlier and replicate in post-production.
The past pandemic year has been a little different for everyone, including me, and I have hardly been travelling at all. In more normal times, I would expect to be away at least once every month, frequently more often. Like all photographers, my schedule is defined by the demands of my many internal clients, so my team and I need to be very reactive to what is happening so as not to miss any of the decisive moments.
I have completed a few fascinating projects over the years, such as a collaboration with Norman for the book Havana: Autos and Architecture (Ivorypress,2014). My spare time is very limited between the demands of work and family, but I find Instagram a fun outlet to encourage me to take a few extra shots outside my ‘real’ work. I called my account @NYlooking_the_other_way, and I aim for a slightly different and more spontaneous view on life. I don’t really worry about how many followers I have, it’s just a bit of fun to keep me challenged.
Welcome to number two in our series showcasing photographers of architecture. Here I am in conversation with Aurélien Chen. Aurélien is a hybrid, working as both an architect and a photographer and he bridges the two very different cultures of France and China. www.aurelienchen.com
I'm an architect and I've lived in Beijing since 2004.
I started to take pictures to enhance and record my experience of this fascinating and fast changing city.
This was a period of extreme destruction, resulting in unusual urban scenery. The contrast of old and new was everywhere, traditional and contemporary daily life was going on within an ever-changing urban background.
The years preceding the 2008 Olympic Games I witnessed and documented the birth of the city’s first iconic buildings (CCTV tower by OMA, National Center for Performing Arts by Paul Andreu); the city was an endless source of inspiration. Photography was a tool to better understand the country and the city where I was living.
It helped me to appreciate the people and their society as well as initiate me into the City's new urban planning.
It happened gradually, my photography while exploring Beijing, led me to participate in exhibitions. Later I started photographing my own architectural projects.
Then, fellow architects asked me to photograph their projects.
I had become a professional photographer of architecture.
Photography started naturally as a passion and as a practice it inspires and enhances my work as an architect.
Like many architects I have been inspired by the Bauhaus, its rationalism, the proportion and compositions, the multi-disciplinary approach. The movement included photography, which brings us to the work of László Moholy-Nagy, a professor at the Bauhaus, and he created the “Light-space modulator”, a machine that was investigating the relationship and interlace between light, space and movement. Here is a link to illustrate;
Yes, I definitely do. I believe that being an architect helps me as a photographer to better understand the overall architectural intention.
I can more easily relate to the architect’s choices of materials, the interaction with natural light and context.
I am sure this is why many architectural photographers are also trained architects.
On the other hand, being a photographer allows me to completely involve myself in the buildings I photograph, it gives me an opportunity of deep, full-immersion study of the building and it becomes a source of inspiration for my work as an architect.
I like to mix the 'rules' around architectural photography with my own artistic approach.I like to play with reflections and light.
Reflections give the opportunity to show many elements of a project in a single frame, in a sensitive way and without the distortion of a wide-angle shot.
I want the most suitable atmosphere to convey the attributes of any project.
For example my photographs of Huangshan village by MAD ARCHITECTS.
Usually photographed with a clear blue sky and with details clearly defined.
I chose to wait for the rain and the heat to create a fog. I wanted the building in the mist to be an homage to traditional Chinese painting where the building, mountains, water and the people are in harmony and slightly disappear in the mist. They become one unique emptiness, the "tao". For met these photographs illustrate the traditional Chinese art and philosophy of "shan shui" (water and mountain), that led the architectural design.
Yes, it is very important that the client explains the project before the shoot. I want to hear the explanation of the design process, any unusual design aspect and favourite details. This information contributes enormously to the understanding of the building and to the success of the photo shoot.
Usually, clients have a very precise idea of what they want from a photographer, and how they want their building portrayed and with very specific viewpoints.
When I first embark upon a project I usually start with a personal and spontaneous approach. Only afterwards do I focus on the elements that the architect expects to get.
The first shots are usually the best.
I am convinced of the importance of taking my own and different approach to the architects expectations, as an architect I know how architects can be absorbed by a project!
The architectural photographer is a conduit to interpret the project to be better understood by a wider audience.
As I mentioned before, introducing the project and clarifying his/her expectations towards the photographer’s work is a good start.
For any expectations to be realised practical issues must be realised.
Make sure everyone knows the photographer is coming.
Make sure the place is ready to be photographed; clean floors, clean windows, no garbage, delivery trucks or building site signage and also help with the lighting for blue hours shooting.
One of the main differences is that in France, there is no need to check for AQI, that's a pollution, forecast!
Waiting for the best weather anywhere is always stressful.
In China when the level of AQI is of medium/high level, it is almost impossible to shoot 'clean' photographs.
Scale and building type is another big difference.
In China buildings of often huge and stunning – in France smaller and modest.
I sometimes feel that the smaller a project is, the harder it is to photograph.
I use a Canon EOS 5D mark III camera and for the lenses, I try to use the Canon TS-E 24mm f3.5L whenever possible.
I especially love this lens. The tilt & shift lens allows to focus the post-production work on the image quality rather than on correcting perspective. There is also no loss of pixels.
This lens is so sharp that it provides an amazing image quality.
I prefer using a 24mm and getting more distance between me and the building, rather than using a wide-angle lens that gives a less natural and distorted image.
The vastness of change possible with digital post -production – a blessing or a curse?
In very difficult shooting conditions it is helpful to amalgamate multiple shots.
I do this to recreate the reality and not to distort it.
Previously I mentioned the importance of the site being clear and ready for photography.
That is not always possible. There may still be construction site debris present and it is sometimes necessary to remove it in post-production otherwise it will distract from the building and composition.
When shooting with a high level of air pollution, post-production is definitely a blessing!
I miss traveling to take photographs and I hope I will be able to travel again soon.
During this pandemic I am developing my architectural photography practice in Europe.
In parallel I am working remotely as an architect with my partners from Zhijian Workshop in China.
Welcome to the first in the series showcasing photographers of architecture. Since it's inception in 2012, the Architectural Photography Awards has promoted the importance of professional photography to interpret and share architecture worldwide. WAF has always understood the importance of photography in conveying the essence of architecture and, over time, providing a permanent legacy for architects and society. WAF has given The Architectural Photography Awards a platform and been an avid supporter. To quote Paul Finch, Programme Director of WAF: 'Architecture at its best embraces memory, feeling, time and imagination. So does architectural photography, despite the assumed cryogenic condition of its subject.'
For our first showcase we'll look at legacy and creating an enduring memory.
Here we have a classic image by the late Richard Einzig 1932 -1980 as with many photographers successful in this specialist field Einzig was an architect before taking the leap into professional photography.
Einzig photographed the formative work of many architects who went on to be globally acclaimed. The Pompidou Centre in Paris was the springboard for Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, encapsulated here in Richard Einzig's 1977 image.
Lynne Bryant, Founder, The Architectural Photography Awards