When describing photography, people often speak of “capturing a moment,” or “telling a story.” Let’s call this the “Narrative” approach. It’s a useful metaphor, and we can all think of examples, such as the Civil War photography of Matthew Brady, the “decisive moments” of Cartier-Bresson, or our family snapshots.
The Narrative approach is valuable in architectural photography, as well. It can offer a framework for photographing buildings in use, typically with people in the shot, or perhaps with furnishings and accoutrements that say something about how people are using the space. This kind of photography is terrific for drawing the viewer quickly into a setting, conveying scale, or elucidating the design by showing how it functions. Here’s a wonderful example from Ezra Stoller:
Photo by Ezra Stoller/ ESTO
If every picture tells a story, then this one tells several!
One of the things that I love about architectural photography is its complexity. I don’t mean the kind of complexity that gets in the way, but rather the kind of complexity that poses enjoyable challenges and rewards our full engagement.
There are many demands placed on an architectural photograph. A good photograph must serve a range of aesthetic and commercial purposes, while navigating a spectrum of technical choices to interpret a large, three-dimensional work of art. That work is itself subject to the influences of lighting, weather, climate, usage, and the rest. Simply put, there is a lot to think about, and one of the joys of the process is corralling these variables and making something out of them.
I tend to favor photographs that make incisive statements, but what Einstein said of science is also true of photography: “Everything should be made as simple...