The Intention of Architectural Photography

Architectural Photography can serve several objectives, knowing what your objective is will produce a collection of photos that will be useful for you in the future and will help direct your photographic decisions while on site.

Postcard photography: Visiting Modern Architecture

Many buildings have a particular view-point which is easily recognizable and widely documented.  This type of photography typically aims at getting a snap shot of the building from its most recognizable vantage point.  These photos do not require a lot of creativity but rather serve as a kind of proof that you visited the building.  Often people stand in front of the structure as further evidence of their presence.  These are fun and can be used in your slide shows or on social media platforms to show friends and family you were there.

 Visiting Ronchamp – there i am standing in front of the most notable angle of the building

Documentary Architectural Photography:

This is a method of photography where the photos sever to document the architecture in the most truthful means possible.  This type of photography would not implement any personal artistic expression but rather try to utilize as much technical skills to replicate the building’s specific design qualities.

Fred and Ginger by Frank Gehry, this photo represents what the building looks like in its context without any artistic interpretation.

Detail Photography:

This is an important type of photography for those who are very interested in the tectonics of architecture.  These photos focus on how materials come together and on the minute details that represent the whole building.  Mies said “God is in the Detail” these photos embody that principle.  I value these photos the most because they are very difficult to find and are not publically documented often.  They are typically more useful for architects or others in the industry for detailing ideas and should be catalogued well (for tips on cataloguing photos).

I really liked how this handrail felt – so I took a photo for my records

Collection Photography:

Some people enjoy collecting images of a particular architectural element from many different buildings sometimes from all over the world and compiling them into a collection.  Similar to a stamp collection, the architectural element is taken out of its context for review and comparison.  These collections are very always very interesting because they are so focused and by this repetitive comparison you can really begin to distinguish the minute differences in the architectural comparison.  I recommend trying this sometime.

In Peru I was fascinated with the different construction methods of the stone walls, here are a couple from my series. 

Journalistic photography:

This type of photography tells a story about the building.  It requires more attention to the architectural function and often the interaction of people in the space.  Journalistic architectural photography can humanize a building or do the opposite but it will require the photographer to be very conscious of how they want the photo will be interpreted.

As i walked under the building canopy and looked up the ‘skirt of Ginger’.  This photo represents that moment where the building transformed from playful to knotty. 

Artistic Architectural Photography:

Your artistic expression in architectural photography can be the most fun for those who enjoy photography professionally or as a hobby.  The architecture is the subject matter but the photo is really an expression of the photographer and not the architect (unlike the documentary style).  There are endless ways to be artistic with architectural photography however your interpretation of the architecture is the real purpose and at the forefront of the photograph.

This photo of Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Osoyoos, crops out much of the building and focuses on what i thought to be the most beautiful elements of the building: the slight curved wall composed colorfully stripping rammed earth and the long horizontal window. 
Next time you are photographing architecture think about the photos purpose….

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