Architectural gain a deeper insight to the architecture

Architectural
photography is taking photos of structures or buildings, which are
aesthetically pleasing. Architecture is such
a wide genre, including everything from skyscrapers and sheds. Everywhere we go,
various forms of architecture surround us. Architecture is an extremely popular
genre within photography. Having lived in London for seventeen years, I am
aware of the architecture that surround us. London being a facilitating
location allows me to exploit such a vast range of architecture, which are
complete with useful photographic properties, such as the predominant focus on
shapes and lines. Being surrounded by interesting buildings all of my life, it
is almost natural for me to want to explore architectural photography and gain
a deeper insight to the architecture that I walk past daily. Even the simplest
of lines come under architecture. Although the photos are merely shapes and
angles, each work should carry character and have specific meaning.

 

American
architect, Julia Morgan once said,

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 “Architecture is a visual art and the
buildings

 speak for themselves.”1

 

Formalism

Formalism highlights the compositional properties within a
photo such as colour, shape, texture, and other perceptual elements. New
Formalism is a style within architecture, buildings that are designed in the
style of new formalism exhibit many elements including ‘strict
symmetrical elevations’. Buildings that fall
under New Formalism are “typically constructed using rich materials such
as marble, granite or man-made composites and also incorporated certain
qualities of concrete that allowed for the creation of distinctive forms.”2

There is a plethora of types of Formalism; Brutalism
is a post-war architectural style.

Ordinary
block-like structures that are usually made from concrete define Brutalism. It
is characterised by densely textured concrete and geometric shapes. Between the
mid-1950s and 1970s, Brutalism thrived. The Brutalist architects defied
traditional conceptions of what a building is supposed to look like, they
focussed on the interior of the buildings just as much as exterior. Another
type of formalism is the style of postmodern architecture emerged in the 1960s
as a backlash against the austerity, formality, and lack of variety of modern
architecture. Postmodern photographers only “recorded the hyperreal of
the Postmodern world.”3 Art Deco is another type
of Formalism; it includes characteristics such as bold designs, clear lines,
dynamic colours and interesting patterns. Structural shapes and profound colour
schemes are outstanding within Art Deco photography. A minimalistic architectural photographer’s work is
exceptionally polished and presents each building in an awe-inspiring way,
albeit with tight framing that is allows for a degree of ambiguity in each
image. Minimalist architecture demonstrates certain characteristics of form,
light, space, and material. Minimalism within photography is considered a subjective
concept, which leaves the meaning behind the photograph up to the viewer.

 

Time

Known as the ‘Zen master of photography’, Hiroshi Sugimoto is a
photographer from Japan whose architectural photography focuses on divergence
of existing and passing away. Hiroshi Sugimoto discusses his own work and says
that it is “an expression of exposed time or images that act as capsules of
time of a series of occurrences.” Sugimoto approaches his work from a plethora
of perspectives. In the book, Sugimoto: Architecture, Part 1, written about
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work exclaims that “His deliberately blurred and seemingly
timeless photographs depict structures as diverse as the Empire State Building
and Le Corbusier’s Chapel de Nütre Dame du Haut.”4
(Appendix A) His architectural photography allows the buildings to “exist as a
dreamlike, uninhabited ideal.”5 Sugimoto’s
realistic photos challenge the understanding of photography as an objective
form of art. Jonathan Jones says, “Sugimoto’s photographs are blurry, odd and
morbid… and some of the most mesmerising images ever made.”6
Sugimoto’s photography challenges the concept of time. Time simply means “the
perception of change in one place”.7
Time is a significant concept in architectural photography as architecture
attempts to prove that it is timeless. Sugimoto ensures that his photos are out
of focus, in order to remove the detail of the subject matter. This reconstructs
the well-known buildings into unknown shapes, creating intrigue and mystery.

 

The haziness of Nadav Kander’s most famous architectural
photos also exhibit a mysterious atmosphere. (Appendix B) Although the two
photographers use different techniques, the two produce work trying to elicit the
same punctum by ensuring that the viewer understands the effect that war has on
the war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

In terms of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photography inspiring me for
my architectural project, it highlighted to me that it is possible to enable
the viewer to feel something just by looking at a photo. Sugimoto is able to
produce a mystical atmosphere through the way he composes his subject matters.
Alongside this, he extracts the colour of everything that is in the frame, to
ensure that the outline of the subject is bold and the contrast of the
highlights and shadows is prominent; I used similar techniques to Sugimoto in
order to enhance my project and improve the impact that my photography has.

 

Memory

Nadav Kander looks at the relationship between architecture
and memory. He highlights how the importance of symbolism changes over time.
Through his photography, he portrays his concerns for humankind. His images
reveal sensibility that is strange and complicated. Each building that Kander
photographs has an individual sense of characteristic. Kander focusses on his
composition and deems it extremely important. He believes that “structure gives
me the device to make heavy pictures.” He uses composition in order to navigate
his way around a photograph in the most simplest of ways. For the book, Dust,
Distributed Art Pub Incorporated, Kander “photographed the desolated landscapes
of the Aral Sea and captured fascinating images of the restricted military
zones of Priozersk and Kurtchatov.”8 (Appendix
C) Kander’s backgrounds are foggy which enables the building that he is
photographing to stand out. In a Constructing Worlds exhibition review, which
was held at the Barbican in November 2014, Sean O’Hagan explains, “Norfolk’s
elegant ruins of war-torn Afghanistan make the cut in a nod to the architecture
of conflict.”9
Architecture preserves the memory or history of different buildings to give photos
context and meaning. Memories are significant for us to be able to understand
the past of the buildings that we surround ourselves with. Architectural
photography has the power to highlight the experiences and memories of the
buildings. The buildings that Nadav Kander photographs portray significant
memories of war zones around the world.

 

Similarly, the buildings that Simon Norfolk photographs
reveal the ruins of war-torn places in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
When looking into the connotations of their photos, they both highlight the
effects of war and the impact that conflict has on the buildings within these
countries. However, where Kander uses compositional techniques in order to
ensure that his photos are simplistic and focus on the subject matter, Norfolk
fills the frame with various subject matters. (Appendix D) Although both of the
photographers convey a similar idea, the way in which they photograph that idea
is completely different.

Nadav Kander’s photography emphasises the importance of successful
composition. Kander’s work made me realise that, if the compositional
techniques of the photo are used correctly, then the photo will automatically
improve; therefore, I understand that in order to ensure that my photography is
more successful, I must focus on the composition, using compositional techniques
similar to that of Kanders, for example, rule of thirds and symmetry.

 

Colour

Within some of
Norfolk’s photos he uses colour popping in order to highlight the subject
matter and to ensure that it stands out. Colour popping is where part of an
image is highlighted in vibrant colour, with the rest of the image being in
black and white or merely de-saturated. (Appendix E) The book, Afghanistan:
Chronotopia, Norfolk’s work is analysed and evaluated by Dewi Lewis. Lewis
states that “Norfolk’s powerfully beautiful images reveal utter devastation on
a vast and overwhelming scale.”10
Jim Casper exclaims that Norfolk is studying war, and its effects on many
things: the physical shape of our cities and natural environments, social
memory, the psychology of societies, and more.”11  Simon Norfolk’s photography contrasts with
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photography in the sense that, Norfolk uses the technique of
colouring popping in order highlight the subject matter within his photos and
enable it to be prominent, whereas, Sugimoto ensures that his photos are black
and white to create a chilling atmosphere and give meaning to his photos.
(Appendix F) Another contrasting factor between the two architectural
photographers is that Sugimoto’s photos tend to appear flat, due to the
haziness and the fact that they are out of focus. However, the details within
the main subject matters of Norfolk’s photos enables different layers to emerge
and ensures that he fills the frame, making his photography dynamic.

Simon Norfolk’s
photography was useful to me as it allowed me to experiment with different
techniques, including colour popping and symmetry. Unlike Sugimoto, Kander’s
use of colour popping enabled me to use the colour of the subject matters, within
some of my photos, to make the subject stand out and attract the viewer’s eye.
Furthermore, the simplicity of some of Norfolk’s photos makes his work even
more compelling. Although many of Norfolk’s pictures are busy and loud, others
a rather plain, (Appendix G) ensuring that the viewer’s eye will not be
distracted from the main subject matter. As well as experimenting with filling
the frame, I also aim to use Norfolk’s style of simplicity to interpret which
technique is more successful in advancing the quality of my photography.

Conclusion

The exploration of these photographers enabled me to
criticise my own photography and allowed me to deeply analyse each
photographers work, in order to depict specific techniques that I would be able
to replicate to improve my photography. I was able to incorporate aspects of
each of their work into my architectural project in order to ensure that my body
of work became more extensive.

As well as the use of analysing each photographers work,
this study also improved my understanding of architectural photography in
general.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s technique of de-saturating his
photographs inspired me to attempt to de-saturate a plethora of photos within
my architectural project in order to try and achieve a similar punctum to
Sugimoto.

Through the development of this essay, I have been able to
gain a deeper understanding of how to portray the reality of passing time
through architectural photography. The work of Nadav Kander elicits the
expression of time passing away and the preservation of memories of the war in
Afghanistan. The concept of portraying time passing within architectural
photography inspired me to attempt to convey the fact that buildings are stuck
in time, by mimicking Kander’s photography.

Furthermore, Kander’s use of composition allowed me to attempt
to incorporate compositional techniques, such as symmetry or leading lines, in
order to navigate the viewers eye to read the photo and build the message for
the viewer, that I am trying to convey to them.

The progression of my architectural project was enhanced
further by discovering the work of Simon Norfolk. After having researched
Norfolk’s photography and discovering how he ensures that his photography is
successful, I became motivated to ensure that I was able to achieve a similar
outcome with my work.

Simon Norfolk was the most influential photographer for me
during this project. Within the majority of my project, the use of colour
popping has enabled me to ensure that the subject matter stands out. Therefore,
colour popping was the most significant technique that I have learnt and
utilised throughout my project in order to make my photography influential to
others.

The main thing that I
have learnt from researching architectural photography and executing this project
is that ‘The physical shape of our city
effects our natural environments, effects social memory, effects psychology of
societies and more.’

1 https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/architecture-photography-beauty-of-interior-and-exterior-designs/

2 https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=New%20Formalism%20(architecture)

3 https://manuskywalkerblog.wordpress.com/tag/postmodernism/

4
Sugimoto: Architecture, Part 1, Hatje Cantz, 2003

5 Sugimoto:
Architecture, Part 1, Hatje Cantz, 2003

6 https://www.theguardian.com/arts/pictures/0,8542,770712,00.html

7 https://architecture.knoji.com/architecture-and-the-concept-of-time/

8 Nadav
Kander: Dust, Distributed Art Pub Incorporated, 2001

9 https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/22/constructing-worlds-barbican-review-photography-architecture

10
Afghanistan: Chronotopia, Dewi Lewis, 2002

11 https://www.lensculture.com/articles/simon-norfolk-forensic-traces-of-war