The widespread circulation of architectural photography through modern marketing and social media—heedless of the confinement to a curated viewpoint—has broadened our awareness of worldwide trends immensely. Free from the precision of generative drawings, documentation through photography asserts an alternate subjective reading of architecture and has long been a visual aid for communicating design intentions organically through its straightforward semiotics. Architectural photographs have, therefore, successfully formed a creative expression that appeals to a wider audience apart from design buffs—such as stakeholders, clients, and inhabitants—resulting in a collaborative intent.
However, media consumption and access to abundant information are responsible for the ballyhoo of architectural projects today, delineating architecture through uncurated photographs that can be deceptive and misleading rather than actual spatial experiences. In today’s coetaneous and fiercely competitive world, expert architectural photography has the flair to set apart high-quality buildings from falsehood by portraying them in their legitimate reality, with a perception of coherence between the space, its usage, and social values. With its rapid evolution and the potential to truly capture the essence of space while evoking an emotional response, architectural photography—when done right—offers extensive possibilities and explorations to perceive architecture in unprecedented ways.
Towards the Dawn of Social Media
A well-reckoned visual medium by the 1860s, architectural photography subjected to structures and buildings of cultural significance earned public admiration, developing an apposite tangibility compared to paintings and pencil sketches. Since originating as a mere tool for documentation, architectural photography has evolved in profuse styles and radical perspectival experiments to capture the heterogeneity of the built environment in incredibly unique and ingenious ways, from historic static images with crisp facade compositions to modernized manipulated distortion and fragmented viewpoints to highlight glamorous elements. This creativity with carefully-curated atmospheres and staged humans gained aesthetic recognition in editorials and magazines by portraying buildings as charming cultural entities, emphasizing the spaces associated with specific lifestyles to seduce potential occupants.
Since the late 20th century, social media and web technology have gained impeccable importance in modern society, enhancing interaction and communication to influence foreign lands. This digital advancement has provided numerous insights into design and challenged architectural practices in newfound ways, making compelling images, relevant hashtags, and geo-tags critical for marketing while also becoming habitual tools for architects to analyse sites in remarkable ways. In today’s generation of active media consumers, where visuals are the primary language for communication, architectural photography has emerged out of its niche as an eminent platform that accentuates the relationship between design and representation, garnering interest amongst many.
Technique and Skill Set
The specialisation of architectural photography has the latent to convert anodyne spaces into glorious sets, modifying the interiors and exteriors through meticulous processing, techniques, and skills to express the details, features, and scale of structures with professional elegance. Spectacular imagery of architectural projects with aesthetic compositions, flattering lighting, and germane perspectives gain prestigious acknowledgement on social media and can utterly impact the perception of design. From documenting behind-the-scenes footage during construction to drone shoots of the site and post-production of outcomes, the precise technique of architectural photography captures and simulates the glorious ageing of a building, providing a virtual experience that influences people and cultures all over the world. The transition from perceiving architecture in reality to visualisations through prints, renders, and photographs fabricated the skill set of converting three-dimensional space into two-dimensional.
Accidentally Wes Anderson (AWA)—one of the growing communities with one million individuals on social media—is a photography platform that captures the “most beautiful, idiosyncratic, and interesting places on earth while uncovering unique and unexpected stories behind the facades.” Inspired by the legendary filmmaker’s visual style, the community takes stunning photographs of real-life counterparts through atypical architecture that seems plucked out from the beloved director’s film sets, gaining skyrocketing popularity on Instagram for its newfound compositional aesthetics of photographing buildings, landscapes, facades, and interiors. Architecture thrives online today with the art of photography as a collective mode that—within seconds—changes our perception of design.
Branding and Publicity through Photography
Apart from representation and contemplation, photographic visualisations are also commodified and aggrandised to emerge as noticeable adverts in architecture and real estate, governing critical assessment in addition to the design intentions. It is of sheer importance for the financial gain of any development project to subjugate its design in the form of strategic photographs, as this form of effective representation has delved deeper into the essential components of social media today, making visualisations the bulkiest revenue-producing assets. Developing a brand identity through photography to gain awareness has become increasingly common among architects and designers to generate a tailored visual language on websites, prints, brochures, and social media channels. The preference for high-quality visuals demonstrating the diversity of work for portfolios, inventories, or social media feeds with photographs, walkthroughs, reels, and before-after videos form the association with media-obsessed people while promoting and advertising the brand’s unique character.
Architecture and its Image
Photography innovatively relates to its subject of architecture, revealing underlying organisational principles of design to convey a novel understanding of architectural imagery, often through a targeted series. With social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr, the obsessive compulsion of curated photographs for the tenets of increased following necessitates sharing architectural imagery as an aesthetic and cultural statement. The distribution and spread of architectural photography via social media, whether for publicity or for educational purposes, has instilled critical ideas and theoretical values from designs made accessible to the world, playing a vital role in architecture’s evolution and pedagogy.
- Jones, C. (2022) Why architectural photography is so important to your business, Mike Butler – Architectural Photographer. Available at: https://mike-butler.com/why-architectural-photography-is-so-important-to-your-business/
- Stouhi, D. (2019) Building images: A video on how social media is Changing Architecture, ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/916205/building-images-a-video-on-how-social-media-is-changing-architecture
- Sunil, S. and Chinurkar, K. (2023) Honest impact of social media on society and architecture, The Design Gesture. Available at: https://thedesigngesture.com/impact-of-social-media-on-society/
- Frew, A.S. (2022) The power of people: A case for populating architectural photography, Journal. Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/competitions/populating-architectural-photography/
- Bumb, S. (2020) Has architectural photography changed the way architecture is … – IJSR. Available at: https://www.ijsr.net/archive/v9i12/SR201221000957.pdf
- About (2022) Accidentally Wes Anderson. Available at: https://accidentallywesanderson.com/about/
- Swain, P. (2021) The growth in Architectural Photography: Past, present and future, The Design Gesture. Available at: https://thedesigngesture.com/architectural-photography/#:~:text=The%20origins%20of%20architecture%20photography,to%20a%20blueprint%20or%20plan
- Maya, W. (2018) Architecture and image making: It’s cultural, aesthetic and media impact as a (not so new)…, Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/william-maya/architecture-and-image-making-its-cultural-aesthetic-and-media-impact-as-a-not-so-new-b6672e70d03