My recent photo of a Ferris wheel will appear in ArtFields, a juried art festival in Lake City, South Carolina, from April 23-May 1. This is the fourth year for the event, which is gradually turning this small town into an artistic hub for the Southeast. The organizers have distributed some 400 works of art among assorted venues, and the week’s activities include artist talks, art walks, demonstrations, and other events. In addition, the public and the jurors will select a handful of prize winners to receive significant financial grants for further work. Having grown up in rural Ohio, I love it when people prove that art is not limited to the big cities and the usual venues.
Working with this image got me thinking about things that are not exactly architecture, but aren’t exactly non-architecture, either. (The best term I’ve come up with so far is “quasi-architecture,” though that’s kind of awkward – suggestions welcomed.) These are man-made structures that may not have been designed for aesthetic appeal, but are interesting for some of the same reasons architecture is interesting, such as line, volume, negative space, and the evidence they provide of human spirit and ingenuity. Examples include the Ferris wheel above, or this photo that I took of a roller coaster:
Another example is this photograph by Andreas Feininger:
© Andreas Feininger
Feininger is an important figure in American photography. He was born in Paris, trained as an architect, and worked with Le Corbusier for a time. He then moved to the U.S. and became a photographer, where he was perhaps best known for his long affiliation with Life magazine from 1943-1962. His other achievements include a collection of instructional books, as well as his industrial photography, which includes entrancing images of machines and infrastructure.
Around the time I took up photography I came across his book, Industrial America, 1940-1960. I still remember paging through it and being awed by the factories and huge machines and industrial landscapes, all rendered in luminous black-and-white, and I am sure this helped to develop my own interest in photographing the built environment.
Much of this “quasi-architecture” would probably fall within the category of industrial photography exemplified by Feininger’s work, though other kinds of structures could also qualify. It fascinates me that although these structures were probably designed purely for function, they are nonetheless beautiful and awe-inspiring. One of the joys of photography is that it helps us to appreciate beauty in all kinds of things, even where it is not intended.