Capturing the Narrative of Two Realities
Archmospheres_Marc Goodwin & Cecilia Galera
What dictates your choice of staging your portrayal of architecture and its elements? (in terms of angle, inhabited or not, detail, light)
To answer that question, I’d have to split myself in two, and then double one of those responses since the personal project I’ve sent you was done in collaboration with Cecilia Galera, a young photographic artist.
One answer would be that I seek to tell the story of a client’s building in the most favourable light, according to the demands of a brief and a few serendipitous moments that fall outside that brief but usually provide the best images. The role of a commercial photographer is largely to make the product look good enough to feature in the most coveted publications. ‘Good’ in architectural photography, as everyone knows, often means empty buildings and good weather.
When shooting for myself I try to test the validity of those benchmarks. In short, I like to see if I can produce compelling images that tweak or completely reject the rules. That means shooting on days with ‘bad weather’, shooting people living their lives in these buildings, and looking for unusual vantage points – such as floor-level. Increasingly, I am trying to fuse these two practices into a commercially accepted kind of architectural photography that refuses to follow visual conventions. There is plenty of resistance, and clients ultimately have the final word. However, great architects usually also have a great eye so I am hopeful. But the publishing world would have to completely rethink it’s standards for a real sea change to occur.
Cecilia’s answer is connected but slightly different. She is interested in the transformative potential of photography, rather than its use as a documentary tool. For her, photographs are source material for three dimensional sculptures that abstract recognisable things in the world: bodies, buildings, etc. Her role has been to remove elements from these images and choose the colour spectrum. My job has been centred largely on photographic capture with a Cambo Wds on 4×5 film.
What is your work process for these new images? (Top Images)
Cecilia and I spent last year in Arles where we became fascinated by a set of late twentieth century buildings that stood out from their context. These buildings were free-standing essays in brutalist and post-modern design. They consisted of a car-park and library in the town centre and swimming pools on the periphery. Common to them was a state of disrepair and their unpopularity with local residents. We compiled a short list of ugly buildings and sought to reinterpret them as compelling images. During this process we not only fell in love with the buildings but also with the history of architectural representation. Hence these images act as visual quotes from images produced to assert the bold optimism of the first half of the twentieth century. We thought that optimism might be a means of reviving these unloved buildings and showing them in a way that would make people visit them anew, and rethink their position on them.
How are are the images manipulated in terms of colour to portray a specific atmosphere?
My atmosphere project is a result of the research I did for a doctoral thesis on the subject. By quantifying the atmosphere of images appearing in two major architectural publications I reached the conclusion that blue and white has replaced black and white photography. I claimed this because I discovered that in both publications the vast majority of images were of white interiors and blue skies. That convention leaves out most of the weather in most of the world, and since I was living at the time in Helsinki I found that weather particularly unrepresentative. That fact is significant because architecture is often claimed to be connected to place making, and much has been written about atmosphere. But the atmosphere of architectural photographs seems to have escaped the critics. Hence I take atmosphere at its most literal meteorological level with my Instagram project, and feature a different sort of weather each day. I’ve broken it down to three days for grey-scale images, one day for blue, and one day for warm tones. When you scroll through the feed I think it shows how important that predominant colour is in the perception of architecture since it has some much to do with the reading of the image. Colour is the first thing you see.
What is the meaning and effect of isolating the architecture from its context?
You might say it is just taking architectural photography to its logical conclusion. I’ve often felt like the best practices of the profession amount to a means of creating still-life products out of large structures situated in visually complex environments. Take a building, put it on a plain background and light it in a way that makes it glow. That is an daunting challenge which requires skill on the part of the photographer but also a client with a good eye for choosing the right images. For that reason, I love the conventional architectural photograph. What I don’t love is the lack of variation within the publishing industry. You can represent architecture so many different ways. As soon as someone starts claiming the blue-sky formula is the only way, I lose all interest. Photographers like Shulman and Baan have shown that you can put people in photographs without destroying the depiction of architecture. Now we need publications that show how fascinating weather is, too, once you cease to treat it as your enemy.
Archmospheres focuses on images which are the result of lengthy, detailed interviews with JKMM, ALA, K2S, AOA, Henning Larsen, PLH, KHR, Helin & Co and The Finnish Parliament. The visual rhetorics employed in the production of their images seek to communicate a meeting of two realities: what was it like there at that time and what the architect envisioned when he created the space.
Marc has been commissioned for six different books featuring the work of Rogers, Stirk Habour and Partners, MacCormac Jamieson Prichard, Edward Cullinan Architects, L35 Arquitectes, B01 Arquitectes, a forthcoming book about Event Spaces and a city guide to Barcelona. In addition, his work has been featured in countless publications in the architectural press such as: Archdaily, Wallpaper, Domus, Dezeen, Detail, A+U, ARK, AD, Mas Context, Building, Green Places, Landscape Review, Pro Interiors, Glorian Koti and many more. Marc, the founder of Archmospheres, has over 10 years of commercial experience as an architectural photographer and a doctoral thesis on the subject. Hence, in addition to his skills as a photographer, Marc adds the ability to write and give talks about his passion for architecture and photography.
Cecilia is a fine art photographer currently completing an MFA at the prestigious Ecole Nationale Supйrieure de la Photographie, in Arles France. In addition to her personal work, Cecilia has amassed an impressive portfolio of publications in a short time, including: This Photo That, Land Magazine, Halide Collider, Worbz, The Artful Desperado, We Are Helsinki, The Wall Street Journal & Mas Context.