Architectural Photography – Exterior – Part 1

I have compiled a list of photographers whose architectural shots interest me. This list comprises a number of contemporary photographers, as well as highly regarded pioneers of architectural photography. I’ll split these over several posts, as the list is growing all the time!

I aim to examine their work and identify connecting themes (composition, lighting, technique, style, and influence). I imagine there will be a fair number of shots or styles that I don’t like, but hopefully I can probe into why this is the case and learn something from them anyway.

***I also have a separate ongoing list of architects who are notable either for their novelty, notoriety, or because I like or dislike something about their work. I hope to be able to justify why I do or do not like them by the end of the semester.***

Janie Airey

The composition of these shots by Airey lend the images an intimacy that is not wasted on me, as a viewer. There is very little, if any, sky or empty space, and where it is visible, it is framed so as to be ‘beyond’: behind a portcullis-looking gate, or tucked in the space between a concrete loop. Airey has put me in the frame, and faced me with her “little slices” of buildings. I like the busy-ness and the textures of these images, and they stand out to me more than Airey’s more conventional full-building shots.

Nick Guttridge

These shots by Guttridge could not be farther, compositionally, from the images by Airey above. To me, this is because the building in each is not demanding my attention, so my eye is free to wander around it, and appreciate its wider context. I like that in these shots, Guttridge has framed each building against a variety of skies – hazy, cloudy, a bit dreamy – instead of taking the shots all during identical conditions. There is a calmness which contrasts sharply with the almost abstract frames above.

Both Airey and Guttridge have a range of shots covering interior, exterior, whole-building, and feature/abstract details, and my comparison is based on only the selected images.

Eddy Joaquim

I really like the unexpected use of perspective in these images. The striking white house looming against the black background, lines converging, has a sense of scale made further confusing by the total absence of windows or doors in the wall. This scale, as well as the the shallow depth of focus in the glass building and the sheer busy composition of the street scene are all a bit dizzying.

Josef Schulz

Influenced by Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Thomas Ruff, Schulz uses architectural buildings to create surreal abstract images. Although his images are verging away from architectural photography in its most conventional terms, I really really like what he does. These images remind me of childhood, playing with Lego and painting wooden blocks to construct my own cities. The playfulness of the reduced palette, and the simplicity of form, make Shulz’s Formen series stand out for me.

Bas Princen

I find these images mildly unsettling. There is a dystopian vibe in these shots, and they are polar opposites of the sort of architectural images used in e.g. marketing or advertising. Each of these buildings/structures looks like it would be well-suited in a futuristic post-apocalyptic movie or scene. In Princen’s own words, “one is unable to see if things are being constructed or destroyed“. I like them.

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Many of the Bechers’ image series document the decline or ruin of industrial structures, unpretty things that adopt a sense of beauty when placed together in series such as Water Towers or Blast Furnaces. In their own words, “We photographed water towers and furnaces because they are honest.” This is a very different function of photography from that employed by Josef Schulz, for whom the Berchers are credited as an influence.

He is in good company. The Bechers are credited with influencing several other photographers, including but not limited to: Ed Ruscha; Carl Andre; Douglas Huebler; Andreas Gursky; Candida Hofer; Thomas Ruff; and Thomas Struth.

Judith Turner

The abstract compositions and bold lines give Turner’s photographs a sense of definiteness. The way she has captured light and shadow adds to the textures in the frame, and gives each scene a greater depth with the creation of lines and geometric shapes. I like how imposing the structures are; I have no sense of scale.

Ezra Stoller

The sense of scale in these images by Stoller is, similarly to those shots by Turner and Schulz, either impressive or difficult to comprehend. In each of the images I’ve selected there is one strong vertical line that commands attention, leading my eye upwards. The placement of a human subject here and there reminds me of how small I am in the world.

Stoller is hailed as a pioneer of the art of architectural photography, although he was apparently modest about his role. He had an academic interest in modernist architecture, as well as patience, and foresight, which encourages me to think and plan a shoot. If the weather isn’t good, I’ll make a note to return. If the light is wrong, I’ll try again at a different time of day.

Hélène Binet

I absolutely adore the aesthetic of these photographs. The harsh lines and brilliant contrast are reminiscent of the Art Deco revival of the 1980s. Despite shooting the works of a variety of architects, including Zaha Hadid, John Hejduk, and Le Corbusier, Binet’s own style comes across strongly. What am I looking at? Out of context, sometimes, I would have no clue. These images make me think.

I think that’s enough for one post, and I am starting to recognise certain patterns, styles, and compositions that interest me more than others. I definitely lean towards abstracts and geometry, and I like the surreal vibes I get from some of these photographers.

I have many many more photographers on my list, so I’ll explore those in Part 2!

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