Shooting Models at Bestor Architecture

A couple of weeks ago the master class was fortunate enough to be granted access to Bestor Architecture, the studio of Barbara Bestor in Silver Lake. Formerly a hair salon, the triangular building’s exterior features an ever-changing array of colorful super graphics, but the interior is mostly devoted to the artifacts of architectural creation: computers; plans; product samples and scale models. There’s also a terrific view of Fountain Avenue and the Franklin Hills across the street.

We had very kindly been given free reign to photograph any of the models in the studio, which ranged from tiny topos to medium-size renderings in balsa wood, cardboard and Foamcore. Students chose models they wanted to work with and we turned the office into a makeshift photo studio, something I have done a lot of over the years.  For the background, we rolled out a medium gray seamless onto a conference table and placed the models on it. The only lighting was a pair of strobes, one mounted with a 10° grid for our sun and the other with a 2’x3′ soft box to fill in shadows.

photo: Erika Bierman

photo: Erika Bierman

The ratio between these two was constantly altered depending on the desired effects, as were the lights’ angles.  An intense sun with low fill would give the image drama, while balancing the two would show more detail.

Although one has the freedom to shoot from angles never, or rarely seen in real space, the big advantage in working with scale models is the opportunity to preview what the finished building will look like to people on the ground.

photo: Sara Jane Boyers

Therefore, the camera was generally kept low, emulating human eye level. As sometimes happens, a few of the resulting images rose above the level of scale model documentation and approached that of art. In each case a collaborative effort between architects and photographers.

photo: Erika Bierman