The Wooden Walls Of England

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The Wooden Walls Of England

Those of you with a historical bent will know what title means. The rest will think we are discussing building detail. Which leads into the topic of the post – architectural photography.

Never mind what you thought architecture was. It might have been that way but it isn’t any more. Universities and Institutes of Technology turn out hundreds of architects each year and from the looks of some of the designs they produce a few of them have even less sense of responsibility than photography students…when business is good you get to see this adventurous spirit in concrete and aluminium – actually you get to see some of it in papier maché and dried orange peel.

Whatever – someone has to document the design, if only for the Coroner. This is where the architectural photographer steps in. And you should see some of the stuff they step in. They are required to go to building sites where every square metre of ground is covered in mud and discarded packaging and every view of the structure is impeded by site fences and porta-loos. And they are still required to make the pile look good.

They need nerves of steel and boots of rubber – and lenses of tilt-shift and cameras of extreme resolution. Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, Pentax, and Linhof make these, but only the first four are accessible to the general public. Linhof photographers are a breed apart, and need special handling when being moved via public transport – in case they go off.

One of the funny things about architectural photography is the fact that the structures themselves may contain nary a straight line  – think of the Guggenheim Gallery – and may resemble something out of the gorier illustrations in Grey’s Anatomy textbook, but the designer and builder will insist upon the photograph being free of any optical distortion. Thus the tilt/shift lens, the rise/fall movement, the photo platform halfway up a skyscraper, and the 4:00 AM photo shoot to get just the right light. Architectural shooters are a hardy lot, and have a surprising vocabulary.

Is it a paying game? Well, if you can do it well, it is. Big buildings are big money and big reputations for the makers. They are big prestige for the occupiers. make them look good and you can charge. Charge big.

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