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Art in Architecture


Many years ago Simon and Garfunkel sang “So long, Frank Lloyd Wright”. Intrigued, I looked up this famous architect with his landmark designs such as ‘Fallingwater’. So began a lifelong interest in exploring and photographing interesting architecture.

As I capture the patterns, shadows and shapes of buildings there are questions that spring to mind:

Is there a feeling of craftsmanship about this building or is it purely utilitarian?

Is it very much design led?

Is it fitting to express the status of its occupant be that a king, a business or the church?

Tastes change - has it stood the test of time? The millennium dome was not a popular building when it was erected, and it ran over budget but it now has a healthy life as an events venue.

Contrasts of textures draw me. One of my most sought after images includes the ruggedness of an old building with a vivid flowering plant against it. The ancient building is Aylesford Priory, and the freshness of the plant worked well as a contrast. More than that it was a suggestion of the freshness of the community life still lived within its walls.

Taking a picture of a block of offices may not be your automatic source of inspiration but the City of London is rich with bold, photogenic architecture. Think of the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie, both only a stone’s throw from the classic beauty of St Paul’s Cathedral. Cross the river to the South Bank and your eye (and your photographic portfolio) will be enriched by the many different styles of bridges across the Thames, many of which are lit at night. Stop when something inspires you.

When you are photographing a building the response of the viewer will be more than a response to a physical object. Some iconic buildings carry a weight of reassurance with them: Big Ben (how we miss it when it doesn’t ring), St Paul’s Cathedral, and Edinburgh Castle for example. Be inquisitive - I, of course, knew Tower Bridge in a general way, but it was only on further inspection that I realised it has a glass-bottomed pedestrian walkway. This obviously provides a whole new realm to photograph.

As well as curiosity, consider scale. Broadly speaking when you take an image of a cluster of daffodils, the size can easily be grasped by your viewer. The same is not true of architecture, as is used to good effect in films where models stand in for full scale buildings. For this reason the inclusion of some people in your picture may ground it. Look too at the ‘join and flow’ between hard landscaping and nature whether that is a grand house and garden, woodlands cradling a home, or the furniture of the seafront next to a wild sea.

Most of all, as I look for art in architecture, I aim to show my personal response to the man-made buildings I photograph. For some, a solitary candle inside an old church may be a dingy scene of little relevance. For me, the light of the candle in a place of worship envelops me and gives me hope. As with so many images, the joy is in how you perceive it and how you portray it to others.

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