Monday, December 29, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 12-29-2014

Although I majored in photography and architectural drawing in college, I wanted to be a painter.  I followed the dream and painted for forty years.  I drew a lot as well.  For me, drawing is the foundation of painting and as as such, it demands constant practice.  I love to draw.  Looking at a blank paper exhilarates me for I can imagine my sharp or blunt, dark or light pencil delineating space.  The first line becomes an anchor that supports the next and so on. Building, so to speak, the image. Therefore, when I came to digital photography I was excited at the prospect.  In digital I could draw in the computer in post production.  Photoshop became my sketchpad and the Wacom Tablet's stylus my pencil.

When I painted full time, I was a representational painter.  In college and grad school and at the Art Students League I learned about color and abstracting and expressionism through painting and drawing.  And I, who studied formally during the 60's and 70's, painted abstract art.  Big canvases of color and form.  But my heart was with the realism with which I had become familiar as a child visiting the Brooklyn Museum almost every week-end.  Sargent, Eakins, Ogden Pleissner, George Bellows at the Brooklyn; book images of works by Michelangelo, Rubens, Durer, Velasquez; and the great illustrators like Gibson, Rockwell and Leyendecker  and so many more influenced me in the way I created and saw.

As an architectural photographer I remain influenced by realism and dreams.  When I see a building, I am reminded of its glory days and think of the craftsmanship it took to create the brickwork, ornamental balustrades, ironwork and the overall design.  I frequently think of post production when taking the photographs, but sometimes I am overcome by the beauty I recognize beyond the wear and tear flaws of what currently exists.  Such was the case with this wonderful old apartment building majestically situated overlooking Moshula Parkway in the Bronx.  I was so taken with the marvelous brickwork, design, et al. that I overlooked the huge amount of post production drawing involved in "restoring" the building.  I include the Before so that you can see how the building, window air conditioners, hanging wires, graffiti and signs, looked in its current state.  However, I saw the structure as it appears in the After black and white photograph.  The After was a few weeks of intense Photoshopping and around 10 Gs over 5 images with multiple layers.  Occasionally, like in this instance, I don't see dangling wires, graffiti, window air conditioners, and litter.  The time I spent realizing the way I wanted the wonderful old Bronx apartment building to look was well worth it for me!



Black and white architectural photography

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 12-23-2014

I love eclectic visuals.  Although I admire the smooth unadorned sweep of an alabaster bowl or an elegant crisp edge of a beveled glass object, I am exhilarated when my eye stops at odd angles, curlicues, textures, light playing on surfaces et al.  The thing about a multifaceted architectural work as opposed to a steel box is the ability for the viewer to wonder.  Wonder at why the architect used wood or marble.  Why the building is frosted with plaster rosettes.  Why the windows are stained glass or mullioned panes.  I especially love statuary on a facade.  Who were these spirits, people, animals!

The surrounding area of a building also intrigues me.  Cobble stone courtyards, slate paved streets, trees or grass.  The exterior may tell the story of the interior.  In the case of this building, the interior was equally as grand as the marvelously embellished facade.  The textures, materials, seemingly modern glass top/skylight work together as a visual feast.  Rarely are such traditional building techniques complemented with a contemporary alteration.  The design of the structure allows wonderful lights and darks to play over the surfaces creating an even more elaborate, yet perfectly in sync composition.

Black and white architectural photography: Germany

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Art of Architectural Architecture 11-30-2014

There are those people who love cities and others who appreciate the quiet countryside.  The architecture in cities can be spectacular or ordinary.  Nature's architecture, the same.  Where there are mountains, white-water rivers, blooming foliage and grand vistas, settlements of people exist so that these sights can be part of daily life.  Too, there are people who prefer the muted landscapes of long grasses on flat plains.  Cities, also may be characterized by tall glass and steel skyscrapers or by ornamented lower buildings with "character."

Personally, I love the element of surprise.  On a dive in the pristine landscape, I delight in coming across a 19th Century Federal brick building apparently constructed or commissioned by the landowner.  A clapboard house with a wide lapped porch perched on a cliff enchants me (I always look for the widow's walk!).  Elaborately gnarled trees; naturally constructed intricate rock formations as well as a perfectly constructed flowers found in a city are all architecturally enticing to my lens.  The juxtaposition of nature's genius for architecture as well as humans' creativity and artistic building has been my inspiration all along. 

The combination of nature IN the city is a twofer I can't resist!  On a recent shoot in the Bronx, I visited Mosholu Parkway on foot.  Frequently I have driven along this beautiful road to get from one place to another and have always marveled at the wide expanses of park ribbonned into the highway lanes.  The boarders of deco apartment buildings face a single service lane.  Then a broad, tree-lined grassy stretch, followed by three traffic lanes.  This configuration is mirrored and the entire parkway is truly a park.  Last week I took the opportunity to explore the area with my cameras.  As I walked along the road, I encountered hills, brilliant flowers and foliage, stately trees, wonderful deco buildings with names like Delacourt, Oliver and Park Lane Court and old fashioned street lights.  Finally I came to a beautiful concrete elevated train station that spanned Mosholu Parkway.  City and country combined architecture in ways that revel in the complexities of creation.

Sepia architectural photography

To learn more about Mosholu Parkway and parks in cities visit:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 11-12-2014

There is something so appealing about glass.  Glass allows light in.  It also has a certain glow factor that draws us to it.  Whether glass is used as building material, ornamental substance or the many other uses glass has, the undeniable allure of glass has motivated its employment for centuries.

Reflections also inspire our imaginations.  Water reflections, reflections in glass, images in metal: all created by light and attractively rippled to give the eye an opportunity to follow the arc of refracted light.  Reflections are captured in a moment and then altered by light so that their essence is ever changing.

Glass and reflections are a fascinating combination: bound in light, these inspire creativity.

Sepia architectural photography

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 11-4-2014

There is something so appealing about looking through a window.  Looking into as well as out of a window gives me a sense of wonder.  Perhaps that is why I am a photographer.  Looking beyond the frame always seems magical to me and sparks my imagination to create my own world.

When I was a child, my family's narrow row house was in Borough Park, Brooklyn.  Down the street, on the corner, stood and still stands a small Roman Catholic Church.  Looking through the windows of the church held such mysterous beauty.  The exterior was stone and in the Gothic style.The interior was very dark with light streaming through jewel toned stained glass windows.  The glowing light made marvelous pools of colors within the velvety black space.  From the outside the reds, blues and yellows of the glass Biblical scenes shone like gems through the heavily mullioned casemet windows.
Smells of incense, candles and flowers drifted through the portals with organ music and Latin hymn singing.  Powerful sensory images for a child.

These have stayed with me and from time to time I chance upon a reminder like this beautiful Gothic Church in Brooklyn that I saw recently.  The colors of the stained glass gleaming from inside took me back to my childhood and inspired the same creative spark as long ago.

Black and white architectural photography.

To learn more about Gothic Church architecture and stained glass visit:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Art of Architectural Photography 10-26-2014

Light is that marvelous substance that provides the shadows, highlights, lines, forms and focus to whatever you are looking at.  You may be viewing at a grand vista or an egg on a table, the light creates that which impacts your eye.  Light describes the subject and each place has its own special light.  Fortunately, I have been able to observe the different qualities of light in places where architects, artists and photographers captured the unique qualities that "their" light offered. For example, I was glad to travel to Sweden several years ago to see architecture, paintings, sculpture and photographs in the natural light in which they were produced.  One can really understand artworks when observing the light that directly affects artists and their subjects.  The cool, crystalline light of the northern countries, such as Canada, Sweden, Wales.  The hot, vibrant light of Spain. Some places surprise: Scotland truly has a "heathery" light and I found that Cornish, New Hampshire has a "buttery," glowing light. 

Then, too, available light may alter the perception of the individual work of architecture, art and other aesthetic.  When looking at an artwork, you are naturally influenced by the light that illuminates it.  Many public buildings have added glass walls and skylights to bring more natural light into the building.  Architecture is frequently positioned to be lit to its best advantage by ambient light.  Such power does light and its capture have that since the beginning of time, peoples have been trying to maximize its amazing characteristics by channeling it into their own creations.

Skylights, around since Roman times and probably before, were invented for just such a purpose: make use of light to illuminate and elevate the subject or important art in the structure.  Many modern buildings have incorporated skylights into their architecture and this provides natural light, even moon light.  I find the varied designs of skylights intriguing and, for the most part beautiful.  The light that comes through the skylights is, of course, marvelous.

Black and white architectural photography

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