Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 - Nicholas Calcott

Julian Faulhaber
Julian Faulhaber, ‘Gas Station’

A thought, though a fairly unformed one:

Contemporary photography seems to really have taken architecture as a subject in a way that seems to me unprecedented (despite the exclusion of commercial architectural photography, as Mrs. Deane noted).  Clearly, people have been taking pictures of buildings for ages and ages, sometimes particularly with the aim of showing off a space.  But photography-as-art has never really been as concerned with the poetics of space until recently.

I suppose Joel Sternfeld’s book ‘On This Site,’ bears a mention, as does the work of Thomas Demand. And photography as a medium has always been at least a little about what just happened or what is about to happen in an image – That is to say that it depicts space but not time, in a way that those interested in architecture find inviting like an empty building.

Which itself is a trope of photography – spaces emptied or just finished, frequently with the traces of what just happened or what will soon happen (see here for an example)  Ruins in photography is another blog post (it’s coming up, I promise), so I won’t go too far down that road for now.

It’s funny though that it seems to go the other way – there seems to be a perenial debate about how modern architecture is made for depiction – in 3d simulators or with a camera – a trend apparently encouraged by the fact that most people are more likely to engage with architecture by hearing about it or seeing a gallery on the web rather than treking to the far flung locales where most of the talked projects seem to get built (see 100 flickr collections for architecture buffs and tell me how many of these buildings you’ve visited, or even how many it would be possible for one person to visit).

Also: Cataloging seems to come into play in architecture photography- creating a record in photographs.  See it here, or better yet, check out Atget or the Bechers.  Now that I mention those two, it strikes me that architectural photography seems oddly tied up art since modernism.  I wonder why…?

Another note – Plenty of architects seem to migrate to photography, often finding success studying the very things that brought them to architecture in the first place.  Sze Tsung Leong and Elian Sommers, for example.  If you think of others, let me know in the comments.

**Oh, and I’m off to Arles later this week, so no more posting ’till next Monday.  Drop me a line if you’re gonna be there, or just ask for me at the booth**

  • mrs.deane
  • Interesting thoughts, even if unfinished.
    Another architect/photographer is of course Bas Princen, who doesn’t have his own website, but is represented on the web through numerous images from his gallery or elsewhere.

    Oh, and not only modern architecture is made for depiction, so is much of modern art.

  • Nicholas Calcott
  • Yeah, I agree that much of modern art is made for depiction. I find it fascinating that this has to be one of the most unintended consequences of the internet that in retrospect was actually highly predictable – That so much of our world is now encountered through little screens that it was bound to influence how we expect to encounter the world and how the world is created to be encountered…

    Another interesting tangent (but a central one, of course) is how photography really has become a dominating medium on the web. We now expect images on our web pages, and are disappointed when they are not there, in a way that we never are with video. This is something we never expected with the written word in analog format (with magazines, sure, but not with books – even newspapers at one time were image less and no one complained. I remember speaking to one of the old picture editors of the New York Times about how many negative letters they received when they first decided to put pictures on the front page. In black and white, no less.)

  • J. Wesley Brown
  • What about Candida Hoffer? I always thought of her images as not much different from a commercial photographer’s who was hired to take shots for an annual report or to advertise a royal palace on it’s tourist website. Access, check. Straight lines, check. Large format, check.

  • Nicholas Calcott
  • Yeah, I suppose I should have touched on her. As you said, her work is not much different than a commercial photogs, and that’s telling – that she takes these straight on pictures of architectural rich spaces and that is then art. Which is not to say that it shouldn’t be, of course. Her work fits into this equation almost so perfectly that it’s hard to really explain what’s happening.

  • Link Dump – 12th Press
  • […] This photo that appeared on Contact. The Morning News interviews Julian Faulhaber, who we’ve discussed before… Hein-Kuhn Oh‘s ‘High School Girls‘ (via The Sonic Blog).  This one gains […]