February 27, 2018

This month, I am excited to be the featured photographer in the February 2018 issue of the Marketer magazine. The Marketer is the national journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), the leading organization for marketing and business-development professionals in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. You can find them at www.smps.org

The magazine has 7,000 subscribers, with additional pass-along readership. There are about a dozen of my photos in the issue, and it’s exciting to see them in such a high-quality format. Thanks to the publisher, Christine Chirichella, and her colleagues for a beautiful issue!

February 19, 2018

North Carolina has one of the few state-owned art museums in the country. It’s a welcome expression of the state’s better nature, especially considering that the government lately has been better known for  the infamous

House Bill 2, systematic racial gerrymandering, and unlawful voter suppression.

The West Building, which houses the permanent collection, is an internationally significant work of architecture. Architect Thomas Phifer designed the building, which was completed in 2010. Phifer is based in New York but has roots in the Carolinas: He holds two degrees from Clemson, and early in his career he worked at firms in Charlotte and Greenville. Notably, the museum has its origins in a 1920’s bequest of artworks and funding from one Robert F. Phifer. I don’t know whether he and the architect are related.

The building sits calmly in the landscape, a strong yet low-key presence amid gravel paths...

January 5, 2018

I recently visited the James B. Hunt, Jr. Library,  on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh. The building opened in 2013, and is designed as a flagship research library for the NCSU system. The architect is Snøhetta, with executive architects Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee (now Clark Nexsen), and construction by Skanska. For a detailed article featuring some of the backstory of the project, click here.

I first saw the building in photographs, and I was intrigued by its shape: at once streamlined and blocky, its ship-like form seeming to float on a sea of earth beneath an open sky. It did not disappoint in person. My first impression was that this thing is huge: as wide as a football field, and  1½ times as long. On its west side it rises 88 feet above the sidewalk, creating a canyon effect against the buildings on the opposite side of the street. Inside is over 220,000 square feet o...

December 20, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! I have nothing profound to add about the season, or peace on earth, or the renewed opportunity for hope that each New Year brings. Mostly, I wanted an excuse to use this photograph that I took last year at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Nevertheless, I wish everyone a peaceful, meaningful holiday, and a prosperous and fulfilling year ahead.

September 26, 2017

In Lansing, Michigan, you can visit my in-laws, enjoy creative flavors of ice cream at the Michigan State Dairy, and puzzle over why the state capital isn’t in Detroit. You can also visit the Broad Art Museum on the MSU campus, designed by Zaha Hadid and completed in 2012.

I recently visited the Broad (rhymes with “road”). The exterior is distinctive, to say the least, with its sharp-finned, steel-clad envelope, and its evident hostility toward 90-degree angles. Inside are more jagged edges, a few vertical walls that concede to thenecessity of hanging things, and a conspicuous absence of curves.

Someone once wrote of an actor that “his suits wear him, not the other way around.” I felt much the same way about the Broad: The building visits you, instead of vice versa. The structure never lets you forget it’s there. It’s always redirecting your eye, or influencing your steps, or throwing up some jarri...

June 8, 2017

Today is the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth. I am one of Wright’s many admirers; in fact, for years I have kept a photo of him near my desk for inspiration. Most of the commemorations today will probably emphasize his architecture, and justifiably so. I love it, too.

Beyond design, however, Wright inspires for the way he lived. He wasn’t always a role model in his personal life, but Wright had a monumental spirit. He was a fiercely independent thinker, who had no regard for cant or sacred cows. With the exception of a few lulls, he was tirelessly productive, and he was still doing meaningful work in his 80’s and 90’s.

Above all, he seemed always willing to evolve as an artist. His portfolio contains a staggering variety of design. Works like the Larkin Building, the Guggenheim, the Johnson Wax Building, and the Beth Sholom Synagogue, to name a few, are in many ways as different as...

May 3, 2017

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, as the saying goes, you’ve heard about the recent efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Amid the political arguments and policy discussions, I have heard little or nothing about the effect of the insurance system on people in the creative professions, especially the many of us who are self-employed. It may surprise some people to learn that a poorly managed health-care system could severely hinder progress in the arts.

Like most Americans, artists and other creative types need to provide for themselves and their dependents in a country where going without insurance could be ruinous. If health insurance isn’t affordable, a lot of creative entrepreneurs are likely to put their own work aside and take other kinds of jobs, simply to get access to coverage.

My own situation is an example. After working for various employers in the legal profession...

March 8, 2017

In the profession of architecture, my former profession of law, and many others, practitioners need to meet continuing education requirements to maintain licensure. For better or worse, there are no such things in professional photography, but the conscientious photographer looks for ways to learn more of the things that will improve one's work.

Like many architectural photographers, I don’t have a formal background in architecture. I don’t think that is necessarily a handicap; if nothing else, it may help me to look at things naively, which can lead to useful discoveries. Nonetheless, I generally think that one can take better photographs the more one understands what he is looking at. And so I read books, attend lectures, study buildings, and keep up with the periodicals as ways to deepen my understanding of architecture.

I have just found another good source: a free online course offered by the...

January 2, 2017

It's a daring claim, but it might be true.

I took these photos at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Josef Paul Kleihues. Among his  achievements, Kleihues is known for his theory of “poetic rationalism,” which sought to add grace and humanism to the sometimes austere geometries of modern architecture.  

The staircase is a great example of this theory in action. At first glance, the building is indeed rather boxy and geometric, even sparse. (This is hardly a failing, however: there is actually a lot going on with the exterior, and the interior is deliberately spare, the better to highlight the art on display.)

But even to the casual observer, things really change when you get to this staircase. It is a unique design that has been variously described as “ovular,” “ellipsoid,” or “fish-eye.” It’s striking, by whatever name. The lines combine curves and angles in a way that sometim...

October 25, 2016

Where any view of money exists, art cannot be carried on.

                                                  -William Blake

The idea that money, patronage and trade automatically corrupt the wells of imagination is a pious fiction, believed by some utopian lefties and a few people of genius such as Blake but flatly contradicted by history itself. . . .  On the whole, money does artists much more good than harm. The idea that one benefits from cold water, crusts, and debt collectors is now almost extinct, like belief in the reformatory power of flogging.

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Architectural Photographer

Charlotte, NC



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