Disassembling the Architectural Photograph

Hazelwood School, Glasgow - Alan Dunlop Architect Limited

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When I was a kid I became interested in architecture primarily by looking at books and magazines, and when I contemplated specializing in architectural photographer poring over shelter publications became part of my educational routine.  Part of every day would be devoted to studying photographs of buildings, sometimes for hours at a time.  This was no onerous chore for me, I loved looking at the buildings inside and out, however, I also made a point of examining how the photographs were made.  What time of day had an image been taken?  How much of the extraneous landscape had been included as either foreground or background?  How did the light hit the building’s façade and from what angle?  How much foreground was included, how much sky?  Were there people or cars included in the frame, and what impact did they have on one’s perception of the structure?  Does it make sense to cut off part of a building with the picture frame, and if so, where?  The list continues.  Without realizing it at first I was learning from the best how to do it, while also figuring out what worked for me and what didn’t.  It was of course more difficult to implement what I was learning, but the more I looked at great work the better my own became.

Looking at printed images and online is still part of my regimen.  I pull pictures apart like the contents of a watch to see how they work.  I’m often struck by how one of my colleagues has chosen to present a building and see opportunities to alter my own way of capturing structures.  One of the sources of architectural imagery that I subscribe to is Architizer, an online presentation of new and innovative architecture from around the world.  Poring over new images each week or so is as exciting to me now as it was when I was twelve.  And my photography continues to improve.

Unfortunately, I don’t know who the photographer of the image above was and I was unaware of the architect until today.

Read more       http://www.architizer.com/en_us/projects/view/hazelwood-school/17316/

One Response to “Disassembling the Architectural Photograph”

  1. Roel Kuiper says:

    Doug, I remember when you told our class about this practice during the UCLA Extension course. Since then I’ve tried to adopt that whenever I have time. There are still many that confound me in terms of how they were shot and lit. I’ve been looking at the work of Simon Upton, William Waldron and others in Elle Decor magazine (a subscription I fell into when Met Home folded), and in many instances I cannot tell whether or not they actually even lit the scene with strobes, it’s so subtle. Usually there’s great window light coming from one side (very large source), and in looking for telltale reflections and shadows around the room, there does sometimes seem to be another small light source somewhere, but it’s tough to be certain that it’s not just another window further off.

    I think also certain publications will trend towards certain styles of architectural documentation that don’t necessarily conform to conventional presentation. And surely a lot of it is dictated by the designs themselves and their environments. Does the shot need a certain mood, darkness, mystery, or does it need clear, open light? Lots to learn, for sure. :-)

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