LOOK FOR LONGER
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.
#Lookforlonger #look4longer is what we want everyone to do.
In a world of scrolling though images on screen we miss small details that are important but not obvious, yet crucial in portraying a building to a client.
Three photographers who were shortlisted in the Architectural Photography Awards 2021 share images they want you to "look for longer".
1. Prof Alex de Rijke both an architect , Director of dRMM and the photographer of this project.
3.Brad Feinknopf shot for MM Architect
Photographer Martine Hamilton Knight Edited from a feature in the World Architecture Festival newsletter June 2022
Architectural photography is not a male preserve. Previous APA new letters may have given that impression. Internationally there are plenty of accomplished women. Let me introduce you to Martine Hamilton Knight, an architectural photographer since 1990. From the beginning she vowed to have a career in the profession she loved and have a good family life. Martine chose to work close to home with the intention of rarely being away from her native Nottingham in the UK, overnight. Although that didn't stop her accepting the occasional overseas assignment from local clients, sometimes as far afield as China. Martine's knowledge and familiarity with the East Midlands and its architecture has made her a perfect judge for several RIBA regional awards committees. While she is better known for working with contemporary architects Martine was commissioned by Yale to photographically update the Nottinghamshire edition in the esteemed Pevsner series Buildings of England. This Pevsner was first published over seventy years ago in black and white. Here are three from that huge body of work followed by #photojustonething
Walk the course. Always - if you arrive on site for a shoot, leave the camera in the bag until you’ve thoroughly explored. It might be the most important point in the day. You will make key judgements at this point about lighting, timing, the organisation of spaces, people - in short, everything you need to move forwards productively on a shoot. The worst thing is NOT knowing what’s around the next corner. You might be spending far too much time on what’s in front of you and completely miss the opportunity to capture what you really needed to be doing at that point in the day.
A case in point? Nearly every shot I’ve ever taken! Here’s one where me looking over the edge of this bridge rather than simply walking across it, informed me that if I returned to that spot late afternoon, the light would be penetrating the atrium and if I placed people there too, it would create a rich shot. Architects: Broadway Malyan - National Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine
What is architectural photography?
There is a distinction between architectural photography and photographing architecture.
Niepce's and his ‘view from a window’ is clearly an image of architecture and a seminal image in the history of photography.
It pioneered a technical breakthrough.
Today Andreas Gursky is listed as a photographer of architecture and he certainly brings his own interpretation and technical wizardry to his architectural subjects. There are beautiful photographs of walls by a photographer that associates himself with architectural photography. There are myriad photographers on Instagram adding architecture and architectural to their profiles. Many creating one off stunning images and gaining large followings.
But would you commission them ?
The distinction being these are photographers using architecture as a vehicle and not photographing architecture to tell the specific architectures story. The architectural photographer must engage the viewer, to take them through the building, with minimal distortion or exaggeration. Sense of place, that is the building in context, understanding and showing the building in use (if allowed ) and importantly they must explain spacial relationships.
Over time a building may be come known via a single ' hero' image, but a single image alone will not persuade a judge or client.
Immersive CGI's can be used to get a project 'off the ground' but to be honest about the success of a finished building, still images remain the universal vocabulary.
What is Architectural Photography ?
Katy Harris has been with Foster + Partners for over 30 years, she is a Senior Partner, Head of Communications BA (Hons) Communication Design.
From the early days of commissioning photography to overseeing an in house team of photographers and videographers visually communicating the work of the practice has been essential. In Katy's words :
'Architectural photography is a means to capture the personality of a building or a space and to elicit emotions in the viewer. Using light, whether natural or artificial, can completely change the character of a building. It is also a vital medium for architects to promote their work and communicate how buildings work for their occupants and how they respond to their context and communities.'
Katy has been a long time supporter of the Architectural Photography Awards and an Anchor Judge for 6 years.
Foster + Partners has a huge photo collection. Needless to say they have many I could have chosen, here I've selected just five images taken for the practice that make me want to #look4longer which means, for me, they initially have 'kerb appeal' they do their job of attracting me. Then I want to go deeper, I want to know what is going on, I want to know more. Surely the purpose of any images submitted for awards.
Monica Pidgeon 1913 -2009: Editor, catalyst and photographer.
Monica Pidgeon 1913 - 2009, was a redoubtable figure, a woman in a predominantly mans world, writes Lynne Bryant.
She studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London and went on to be a revered editor of Architectural Design magazine. A position she shared with another woman, Barbara Randall, between 1946 and 1975. This was a highly unusual arrangement at the time.
When Monica Pidgeon was organiser of the International Union of Architects' (UIA) conference in London she met Richard Buckminster Fuller where they discussed his ideas for The World Design Science Decade. This was a series of documents that suggest, in great detail, ways in which world architectural schools, and specifically their students, should initiate, and take ownership of the documents’ contents. The total series includes many of Fuller’s most prescient ideas and emphasised the catastrophic depletion of world resources and their responsibility to address it.
Monica Pidgeon in Architectural Design magazine embraced his theme and published Fuller's series of papers in the July 1961 issue, thus becoming one of the first magazines to draw attention to population numbers and sustainable design.
Less known about Monica Pidgeon is she was a talented and prodigious photographer using her camera extensively from the 1960's, capturing both people and architecture. Her photo journalistic approach produced memorable images that convey a sense of time and place.
Monica Pidgeon's archive is one of the little-known gems of the RIBA Photographic Collection.
To see more of Monica Pidgeon's work, you can book an appointment via email@example.com
RIBA 66 Portland Place London W1B 1AD
Legacy - something that is a part of your history.
Individual buildings can be an architectural legacy for a community. A body of architectural work across sectors and continents may be preserved in drawings, models, digital renderings, films and photographs by institutions and foundations.
Not all practices have the luxury of an archive to preserve the work. None the less there is a legacy. With limited time and resources objective editing is a key element. My life's work has been with photographs of architecture, my husband Richard's approach to photography has always been consider, understand and edit in the camera. No waste. We're photographing architecture - not a photo finish of a race - an extreme example. For a photo finish you'd likely takes bursts of images, dozens and edit later. This approach may work for site & progress recording but are these the kind of images you'd want your work remembered by? Don't think this is early days in our practice, or we're really small - it doesn't matter - it does.
Each week I have requests for images from publications and scholars researching up to 50 year old projects many the work of practices that have been forgotten or you've never heard of. Remember people see and remember the image before they even contemplate reading the text. Architect or photographer: Shoot and edit with discipline make each image count. You should never regret seeing an image of your work - that you have personally shot or instigated, being published. This feature is about imagery and legacy. Earlier this year Michael Wilford died. Richard Bryant worked with Michael - and James Stirling across time and continents.
A single eye providing a unified photographic legacy.
Here is a tiny glimpse:
All images, except portrait ©Richard Bryant
It's rare for any communication not to be image led.
According to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the human brain can process entire images in as little as 13 milliseconds. Images in reports and communications increase interest, 91% of consumers prefer visual content to written content (Forbes).
Forget the elevator pitch of up to 90seconds, if you are competing for an award or commission that's only 13milliseconds to grab attention.
Unlike a painting or furniture, architecture in the real world cannot be transported, it is in a fixed location, it doesn't come to you. While we are progressing towards technology that may allow us to visit and explore locations virtually, we are not there yet.
In the interim one of the most cost-effective ways to convey architecture, the form, space, usability and location is in a series of photographs.
Photographs are the current medium needed to initially attract judges at WAF and many other awards and commissions. They must be good and tell the story.
Several days spent photographing a project is a blink of an eye relative to the duration of a building project. Photography must not be seen as a last-minute rush to make an award deadline, there must be patience.
Each image must be considered and taken at the best time which may be when the building has settled down and the landscape is less raw.
Remember, you are creating a legacy, your business will grow, you will want to communicate with future potential clients and celebrate past successes.
Old projects can be repurposed and included in books and exhibitions that you may instigate as part of your marketing strategy. Be inspired by the architectural practices that do this well, the ones that from their modest beginnings worked with professional photographers.
You will need consistently good images.
They must stand out above the cacophony of images that bombard us, they must transcribe your vision.
There will be times when you think you are the best person to do that - don't spread yourself too thinly - if you are an architect you must concentrate on the next building.
Keep all this in mind and encourage your photographer to enter the APA2023.
"Now that 'everyone's a photographer', the importance of good architectural photography has increased because of the myriad images that potential clients (and award judges!) encounter every day. The APA programme is an annual reminder of how architectural photography can enhance our understanding of design, rather than merely recording what is there. Long may it continue." Paul Finch - Programme Director - World Architecture Festival
Just One Thing...
Advice to Aspiring photographers:
Hoping that the weather isn't too hot, the month of August is usually a time to take a break, writes Lynne Bryant.
You may be turning your camera onto family and friends, and/or the architecture of the holiday region.
Regardless of the photography being for work or pleasure there are a few very simple things that you can do to improve your pictures.
The first is one of the easiest and yet most overlooked;
Clean your lens: this is really important when shooting on a mobile phone.
Think of the many times you touch your phone and each time you will get dirt and grease on the lens.
After cleaning the lens your images will appear sharper with improved contrast and if you are shooting into the light or the sun a clean lens will minimise softening the image and flare.
A greasy lens has its place - but perhaps not in architecture.
In Hollywood's golden age portrait photographers would deliberately smear grease in the form of vaseline onto the camera lens for a dreamy look and a soft flawless complexion think Marlene Dietrich and Rita Hayworth.
Second: Load the grid lines onto your camera screen.
Go into Settings , scroll down to and tap Camera or Photos and Camera
Find Grid and turn it on
Cameras and phones differ but I'm sure you find it.
This simple device helps with establishing horizontals and will aid composition.