Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Art of Architectural Photography 1-30-2016

There is something so appealing about entering a realm of the future.  Of course, the future may be 20 years hence or a moment away.  It depends on one's point of reference.  Some await the far future.  Those who think of life in other galaxies, for example, yearn to connect with beings light years away.  In terms of time and distance, these encounters may be centuries from now.  It is true that light is a breathtakingly swift element, 300,000 kilometers per second in fact,  but as I understand it our space travel/exploration capabilities, while more advanced than let's say those of Galileo's day (maybe), have a ways to go before intergalactic trips become reality.  Except in the movies. The point being that there are those individuals whose thoughts indeed dwell in the distant future. 

On the other hand there are those who look forward to an art opening or other enjoyable occasion a week or day away.  That is also a means of projecting towards the future.  Most, I believe, look forward to impending delights or enlightenments, such as getting together with friends or loved ones or participating in favored activities, whether they be next door or on planet X.  There is a thrill to anticipating upcoming events.  Few people I know gladly anticipate war, plagues or other catastrophes, excepting monumental acts of nature, which can be very appealing even though destructive. Some photographers I know could not wait for Hurricane Sandy in order to turn their lenses on the natural chaos.  And check out the NYC Instagram pix of our recent blizzard......many were stockpiling, imbibing and cheerfully tucked in for the storm before the first flake dropped. Future planning!

For me, the future is but a step away.  Rarely do I think of events months or years in the future as I did when I was a child.  Then I looked forward to summer vacations from school starting around November!  However, the future always held and still holds something new and promising for me so I think of time as an elixir not to be taken for granted.   I often view doorways and stairs without the instinctual.  In other words, I think about going through a portal or descending a staircase in terms of time.  I believe my childhood, steeped in stories such as Through the Looking Glass and The Tinderbox, influenced my outlook regarding entering dimensions, even those familiar to me.  Staircases are especially marvelous because there are so many levels to experiencing the journey: distance, elevation, relativity, perspective and distortion.  Composition and form, light and shadow also come into the odyssey.  It may seem peculiar to liken going up/down a flight of steps to a sort of trip or even weighing steps as advances towards the future, but for me as a photographer the mundane for others may be transformed into a vehicle for imaging.  When I entered this stairwell in Europe, I was captivated by texture, pattern and grandeur.  Each tread became a quest into the future of my photograph.    

Black and White Architectural Photography

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Art of Architectural Photography 1-23-2016

Today we are experiencing a blizzard in New York City.  The first serious storm of winter.  The snow blankets all in a crystalline white powder that thickens by the minute.  I am not a snow person, although it is pretty to look at.  A favorite Dutch painter,  Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634) made snow come alive for me when I saw his paintings years ago in London's National Gallery.  Just as the Spanish Impressionist Sorolla made the heat of Spanish sunlight come to life, jumping off the canvas with the fever of Spain at noon in the summer, Avercamp used the frozen winters of the Netherlands as a light source.  In these, Avercamp's cold light shines from his paintings as if illuminated by actual fluorescence.  And so thinking of light in Avercamp's paintings as I look out at the frosty swirling snow, I shiver and turn to my recent photographs of India.  They warm me as no heater can.

The mystical city of Orchha was indeed hot when I visited there in November: at least 100F.  However, within the walls of the Jahangir Mahal nothing exists but the alluring majestic beauty of the place.  The design and intricacy of the architecture transcends any thought about weather or agility.  Yes, climbing around the building is critical to appreciation of its structural delights.  Steep stairs and narrow balconies; lofty precipices overlook the old city and the beautiful Betwa River. Each part of the place glows hot in the sunlight that accentuates the arches, domes, carved rails and elaborate details of the Mughal-style architecture. It is a gem of many architectural features: design, structure, texture, pattern, shape and form combine to create a visual feast.

Dreaming of Orchha dispels the wintry day outside my studio.  The testament to genius architecture and design in Orchha can serve as inspiration in the storm. 
Black and White Architectural Photography: Jahangir Mahal- Orchha, India

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Art of Architectural Photography 1-18-2016

There is something compelling about texture.  Texture creates dynamic interplay in a composition.  Architecture of the past depended on the juxtaposition of texture to add to the beauty, purpose and aesthetic to the structure.  Carved moldings, brick work, smooth marble and rough sandstone all contributed to the architectural appeal and drew the eye to all parts of the overall design.  Statuary and relief-work told the people who saw the building things about it.  For example, many places of worship etch symbols onto their facades to entice and/or inform worshipers.  Forts and palaces also used elaborate detail to make statements about power, worth and community.  The textures and designs of these buildings proclaimed meanings to the societies they rose above as well as to the populations they conquered. Further, textures underlie motifs to bring them to life.  Texture also weaves patterns and concepts into fluent design.

In India, I saw extraordinary pairings of textures and patterns.  What I thought was elaborate and ornate in Western architecture pales by Indian standards.  The textures and designs are so layered and intricate that just when you think you have seen the height of embellishment, a new design augments an already astonishing amount of detail.  Looking at architecture in India is as breathtaking as it is inspiring.  The use of texture and pattern melds into wondrous compositions that perhaps would not work in one's imagination, but are perfectly appropriate in reality.  At once India's architectural detailing that is so much a part of Indian architecture is as practical as it is mystical: marvelous to behold.

On the drive to Khajuraho, I stopped at the city of Orchha, which dates from the 1500's.  There I saw the Jahangir Mahal, a stunning example of Mughal architecture.  It is entered through wonderfully textured and huge wooden doors with iron fittings.  Layer upon layer of stone carved design frames these doors in both smooth and rough materials all in proximity with flat and coarse slate flooring.  The intricately interlocking carvings and the aging of the 400+ year old palace urge the eye to continuously roam around the structure, seeking new visual delights.  Visiting Orchha, a place that has lovingly preserved the magnificence of a once established empire, remains a highlight of and insight to the fabulous Indian architecture I saw in India.

Black and White Architectural Photography: Orchha, India

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 12-12-2015

There is always a fascination with looking through one dimension and beyond.  Perhaps when Leonardo DaVinci said: "The eyes are the windows to the soul," he was referencing that beyond concept.  Beyond one plane lies another.  The anticipation of going from one place into another location, whether that be visually or physically has always greatly appealed to me.  The reality of beyond is exciting, provocative and speculative.  I have the ability to imagine what is around the corner, through the portal and find yet another sensation.  The reality of more comes into play here, as well.  Knowing that there is another sight to see, another experience to encounter and new adventures to add to my cache entices me to go through that doorway into the beyond.

While traveling in India I encountered many such doorways.  Each offered new and unique vistas: some mythical and some stark reality.  However, there was always the sensation of traveling through one dimension into another to explore and discover and to even learn a bit more about myself as a photographer and perhaps as a human being.  All by going beyond. 

Monsoon Palace: Udaipur, India
Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah: Agra, India

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 11-27-2015

The old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words," is true for me.  A picture tells me a story.  The story may be personal, newsworthy, romantic, scary, but nonetheless, whatever the subject, there is a tale to spin.  The photographer views a subject and captures forever its impression by snapping the shutter. The impression is always part of the narrative I weave around the photograph, mine and other images I look at. 

When I look at photographs I like to think about the befores and afters.  What happened prior to the photo's being taken and what transpired subsequently.  This is how I approach taking photographs as well.  Was the old temple abandoned decades or hundreds of years ago?  Who worshiped there?   Did the noodle maker always cook or was he formerly crafting something different to sell? Does he love noodles or is this simply a livelihood?  These and many other aspects of the story are the thoughts that intrigue me.  This is why I take pictures: to tell stories. 

Temple: Delhi, India

Noodle-maker: Jaipur, India

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Art of Architectural Architecture 11-19-2015

I love architecture.  One of my majors in college was architectural drawing.  I spent 7+ years as an architectural draftsman.  I photograph architecture.  I guess I'm really into architecture.  So much so that sometimes I put the most important part of architecture on the back burner of my mind: people.    It is the people's creativity, wants and needs that produce architecture.  Without people, architecture may survive; however, if people do not look at or appreciate what remains of architecture, what is the point?

I told my friend sculptor Simon Rigg that I was going to India to see and experience the architecture.   I was told by this world traveler: "Ellen, the people ARE the architecture of India."  I mulled that over before my trip, not understanding.  When I got to India, my first trip to Asia, I got it immediately.  The architecture in India: temples, state buildings, houses, structures big and tiny are creations of the people of India.  The religious beliefs, cultural heritage, economic struggles, and very lives of Indians are clearly evident in the architecture; in everything. And so, my perceptions altered and reevaluated, I took pictures of the people, too.  The architecture reflects a culture so layered, textured and stunning, it takes my breath away.  Too, the people I saw, met and conversed with gave me a new perspective for which I am truly grateful.

Villager: Udaipur, India

Temple: Udaipur, India

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 10-14-2015

In preparing for a trip to India, I'm emptying my small Epson Multimedia Storage Viewer of the photographs I took on my last overseas journey.  That was in 2014 when I ventured to Germany.  I don't recommend storing images in a device for years; however, I backed up the Germany images shortly after returning home. I just hated to delete them right away because I had such a wonderful time.  And so the jpegs and raw images remained in the Viewer all this time.  And now, looking at the pictures I took many months ago, I am once again captivated by the sights I saw in Berlin, Potsdam, Munich, Ulm, Dersden and the other cities where I stayed.  The medium of photography allows us to vividly revisit the past with an immediacy that is breathtaking.  Each image I see on the screen perfectly captures the time, colors, scenery, people and essential perception of a past encounter.  Whether I snapped the shutter yesterday or years ago, for me the moment comes back fresh and intact.

Another way to keep time in a bottle is by using the app Instagram.  I have a good deal of pleasure in taking photos with my iphone and posting on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It is a quick and fun way to share what I observe and that which attracts me.  Instagram provides an opportunity to instantly relate to other photography lovers and the give and take is not only enjoyable but a learning mechanism.  Right away, I am critiqued by others and in turn I can see great shots continuously.  Always fascinated by the immediacy of photography, I realize that technology has created a new time frame that will continue to speed up as new apps, like Instagram, evolve.

Having deleted all of my Germany files from my Viewer, I look forward to filling the Viewer with new images of India.  But the two need not be mutually exclusive.  The fresh look of the images I took a couple of years ago appeal to me in the same way they did when I was right there.  Recently, using Instagram has encouraged me to look for pattern in my images more than ever before. Thus another positive aspect of using the app.  To that end, when I came across this interior photograph, I was taken with the patterns and the darks and lights. Abstracting photography into shapes, patterns and darks and lights is a wonderful way to visualize architecture.  Instagram, with its lightening speed, is a remarkable tool for abstracting areas of buildings.  Using the app has made me even more aware of the individual parts of an image.  This one was taken with a Canon Mark II, but lends itself to my recent design inclinations. And, through the photography medium, the image transports me right back to Berlin!  Instantly!

                                                      Sepia Architectural Photography
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