Architectural Photography is a subject that represents architecture through the medium of photography. This type of photography is used for several purposes like documentation of spaces, advertisement of buildings, discovering of what is beyond our eye, recording of what feels in a space, exhibiting one’s experience of space. Architectural Photography is a field where many architects and photographers have worked on and today in the age of the internet, one can experience any far-off unknown place through photography only.
Photography started with the discovery of the Camera. The first camera was called Camera Obscura, which was invented by an Arab scientist in 1021AD, and the first detailed drawing of this camera can be found in Atlantic Codex by Leonardo Da Vinci. J.M.L Daguerre and William Talbot in 1839 photographed buildings as buildings are still, non-living entities and got maximum exposure time. From this time onwards two types of architectural photography evolved, Elevation and Perspective. The Elevation is mainly focused on the façade of the building and The Perspective shows the three-dimensional view of the building. In about 1969, Willard Boyle and George Smith at Bell Labs invented a charged-coupled device (CCD) which was a major step towards the development of digital photography.
There is a close relationship between photography and architecture from the very beginning and modernists used photography as a medium to popularize modern architecture. Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (21 October 1804 – 7 December 1892) is known as the first architectural photographer who started to take photographs with daguerreotype from early 1841 of significant sites like Paris, Egypt, Greece, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey.
Frederick H. Evans (26 June 1853 – 24 June 1943), a notable British Photographer known for his contribution to Architectural Photography as his photographs focused on French and British Cathedrals, and his works were among the finest work at that time, for which he was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in 1928 and also a member of Linked Ring photographic society.
Modern architecture started to flourish with photographs in about the 1920s when urban photographers like Eugène Atget, Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, and T. Lux Feiningercame into play. Eugène Atget(12 February 1857 – 4 August 1927), a French photographer known for his documentation of the streets of Paris before it entered Modernization. His works were published by Berenice Abbott after his death.
Berenice Abbott(July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991), an American Photographer is known for New York and urban design photographs in the 1930s and also for her portraits of between-the-wars 20th century cultural figures.
Walker Evans who was also an American Photographer and photojournalist and believed that being a photographer he must make the picture “literate, authoritative, transcendent”. He worked for Farm Security Administration (FSA) and documented the effects of The Great Depression.
- Lux Feininger (June 11, 1910 – July 7, 2011), a German photographer, painter, author, and art teacher who worked with Walter Gropius and became an artistic photojournalist chronicling the daily life at Bauhaus. In 1929, in Film und Foto his works were featured as a survey of modern photography, and his works were also exhibited as Dancing on the Roof: Photography and the Bauhaus (1923-1929) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in Manhattan in 2001.
Photography is an art form and the photographer can add or subtract anything to express his/her ideas. With the hands of Julius Shulman, Ezra Stoller, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Lewis Baltz, Stephen Shore, and Thomas Struth, started the era of modern photographers. Julius Shulman, an American Architectural Photographer is known for his “Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, 1960 by Pierre Koenig, Architect and Frank Lloyd Wright‘s remarkable structures. He introduced the human scale in architectural photography which gave the photograph a different dimension and aesthetically more pleasing. The Getty Research Institute held several exhibitions of his photographs titled “Julius Shulman, Modernity and the Metropolis” which includes sections like “Framing the California Lifestyle,” “Promoting the Power of Modern Architecture,” “The Tools of an Innovator”, and “The Development of a Metropolis”.
Ezra Stoller (16 May 1915 – 29 October 2004), a well-known American photographer and is known for the spread of the Modern Movement. His photographs include works of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s Seagram Building, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Alvar Aalto’s Finnish Pavilion, and Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs Holmdel Complex. He was also the first recipient of the Gold Medal for Photography from the American Institute of Architects and his works are featured in books, Modern Architecture: Photographs by Ezra Stoller and Ezra Stoller, Photographer. He also founded a Photography firm Esto Photographics which is directed by his daughter Erica Stoller and his son Evan Stoller is an architect and founded Stoller Works, a modern furniture design firm.
Bernhard Becher and Hilla Becher, a German conceptual artist and photographer also known as Bernd and Hilla Becher. They worked on Duo in projects which include photography of industrial buildings and structures and they were often organized in grids. They wrote several books and their works are for public display in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Tate Gallery, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and several other famous museums.
Stephen Shore(born October 8, 1947) is an American Photographer well-known for introducing color in architecture photography. He is the first living photographer whose works were exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1971. He won several prestigious awards which include the Royal Photographic Society Honorary Fellowship in 2010 and also wrote books like Uncommon Places (1982) and American Surfaces (1999) on the photographs he took on cross-country road trips in the 1970s.
With the development of the art of juxtapositions and the concept of double exposure images, the architectural photographers started to play and gave photography a new dimension. American contemporary visual artist, John Divolaand American Photographer James Welling started Architectural Photography with Juxtapositions.
With the rise of modernists, gradually the pop art movement came to act and several photographers got influenced. Edward Ruscha, An American Artist, and Photographer who was also known for his association with the pop art movement. His works were mainly straightforward, the photographs by him emphasize the essential form of the structure and the placement within the built environment. He received many prestigious awards and also worked on documentary-like Dennis Hopper: The Decisive Moments (2002), Sketches of Frank Gehry (2005), The Cool School (2008), Iconoclasts (2008), and How to Make a Book with Steidl (2010), etc.
A Japanese Architect and Photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, well known for his work as an expression of ‘time exposed’, the transience of life, and the conflict between life and death. His series of photographs called Seascapes, where he captured the sea and the horizon and the locations were all over the world which includes the English Channel, the Cliffs of Moher, Positano, Italy, etc.
The master of edited and reimagined images, Thomas Ruff, a German photographer, known for his series Häuser where he shot various building portraits and edited the photographs digitally. He also made a series of digitally altered photographs of buildings by Mies van der Rohe and also worked on Krefeld buildings, Barcelona Pavilion, and Villa Tugendhat in Brno.
Lucien Hervé, a Hungarian photographer, known for his architectural photography and started his career working with Le Corbusier. He was called to photograph the Paris offices of UNESCO, by architects Marcel Breuer, Pier Luigi Nervi, and Bernard Zehrfuss.
Jules Spinatsch, a Swiss Photographer known for his works like Temporary Discomfort (2005), based on emergency lockdown at three cities, and also showed how photography can be produced in contemporary society. He made a 360⁰ Panorama View of Opera House by arranging the images in a chronological grid and installed the photograph at 10008/7000, Karlsplatz, Vienna, for public display.
Nadav Kander, a London-based photographer known for his portraiture and landscapes. His photographs are mostly dominated by immense architectural structures and humans are shown as small in their environment. He has exhibited his works in many famous Museums and also received an Honorary Fellowship award from the Royal Photographic Society in 2015.
Guy Tillim(born 1962) is one of South Africa’s finest photographers who photographed the cities of South Africa during the apartheid era representing the bad times with the rest of the world. He wrote several books and also worked for foreign firms like Reuters (1986 to 1988) and Agence France Presse (1993 to 1994).
Michael Wesely, a German Architectural photographer known for his ultra-long exposure shots and famous for documenting the reconstruction of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and representing the change in the architecture of a place. His works were exhibited in MoMA as the Open Shutter Project in 2004.
Iwan Baan, a Dutch Architectural Photographer who gave architectural photography a new dimension. His photographs speak about how people can use space and tell a story through his photographs. He depicted buildings as isolated and static by representing people in architecture and showing the building’s environment.
Hélène Binet, a London-based photographer and is also one of the leading architectural photographers of the world. She had worked with several architects including Daniel Libeskind, and Zaha Hadid, and also published several books about the works of architects.
Contemporary Architectural Photographers do photography as an independent art form to express their ideas and their feelings through it. With the rise of social media platforms in the 21st century, photographers reached more people using the platform. Some of the well-known architectural photographers are Rut Blees Luxemburg (German Photographer, takes urban nightscapes photographs), Tekla Evelina Severin(Photographer, designer and colourist, takes colourful vibrant photographs), Fabien Charuau (French photographer based in Mumbai, working on Architecture and Interior), Sebastian Weiss (German Architectural Photographer, loves to play with geometry and colours in photograph), Jeanette Hägglund(a minimalist Architectural Photographer), Mauricio Tufiño (loves to capture history, urban spaces and geometry in architecture), Hufton+Crow(team of two, capturing urban spaces and architecture with play of sunlight), Cristobal Palma, Rory Gardiner (loves to capture architecture with a special focus on texture and its impact to human emotions), Edmund (London based Architectural Photographer), Fernando Guerra (Lisbon based Architectural Photographer, captures photographs with humans in action), Simone Bossi, Kerstin Arnemann, Mihai Florea, Julia AnnaGospodarou, ArnaudBertrande, and many more.
Today with the advancement of technology, we live in a world where all sources of knowledge are in our pockets and multiple cameras in one device. Photography has found a new meaning and every individual can now photograph. Architectural Photography is still not much explored in developing countries but the field is rising and jobs are opening up in this field.
“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lenses of the camera.” — Yousuf Karsh