Monday, 31 August 2009 10:05

About Architecture

I have been busy lately. I’m putting together a collection of architecture photos. Maybe I’ll even exhibit them one day. For now they are going to be used for a 20-image panel for an Associate qualification. Choosing good architecture photos wasn’t at all easy. I spent days rummaging through all my photos, selecting, shortlisting, refining, etc. It takes a darn lot of time, but in the end the result can be rewarding.

Architecture is a strange beast, though. Some might think that it is one of the easiest things to photograph because it is static and just sits there waiting to be captured, but the truth is far from that. My experience with architecture is that it can be quite frustrating, and this for various reasons. It is true, buildings sit there and beg to be photographed (some of them, at least!), but that also means that lots of people will have succumbed to that plea and most good buildings will have been shot from every possible angle, so the first challenge is to do it differently, and that in itself is already a bug nut to crack. To add to that, however, the photographer is faced with a “soul” to capture. I know this might sound strange, but some architecture can exude such energies that it feels alive. The challenge when photographing it is to capture not only its soul, but also that of its creators. It is important to spend some time to get to know a building before photographing it. Try to understand what went though the architect’s mind when it was being designed. If the architects were to photograph their own buildings, how would they do it? What would be the highlights they would want to immortalise?

Towards the end of last year, I was very lucky to be involved in a project with the Chamber of Architects aimed at raising awareness of modernist and post-modernist building on the island. The project was quite large and involved five top photographers who were each assigned some buildings to document. I got five buildings, each with different and unique characteristics. The first thing I did was read up on the modernist movement (luckily my wife is an architect and could give me some lectures and reading material). This exercise helped me understand the general mentality behind the movement. All I had to do now is understand each individual building and capture its essence. The whole exercise took months, but it did come together, and I am quite happy with the results. Modernist buildings, unfortunately, are not always the most aesthetically pleasing due to their simple forms and straight lines, which is even more of a challenge, since I need to feel a connection with the building before I can photograph it, which is why it was so important to understand the concepts behind them before photographing them.

This is true with every architectural shoot. Travel photography is even more challenging, because you usually only have a few moments with a building, and that means that the essence must be captured quickly and in only a few shots. When these photographs work, however, they can be incredibly powerful, which is why my set will be mostly based on travel photographs of architecture. The first stage is complete. It is now a matter of refining, which I will cover in a subsequent converstation. For now, here are the modernist photographs.