Back in the summer of 1979, the AJ published a two-part feature called ' The Craven Image', in which Tom Picton argued that architectural photography was too cold, sterile, and obsessed with perfection. Its images gave no sense of use or occupation but instead created an idealised world, which kept clients and magazines happy but did architecture a disservice. So the same complaints today have a history.
One photographer interviewed in the second part of Picton's feature (AJ 01.08.79) was Henk Snoek, who later left 40,000 of his negatives to the RIBA. A selection of these are on show in a new exhibition, Framework: The Architectural Photography of Henk Snoek, at 66 Portland Place, London W1, from 10 March-22 April.
'I have to produce a photograph to satisfy my client, whoever they may be, ' said Snoek, though he claimed to temper an architect's way of looking at a building with an 'environmental or human viewpoint'. It will be interesting to see if this emerges in the RIBA exhibition or whether the formalist wins out. Pictured above is one of Snoek's shots of Basil Spence's Sunderland Civic Centre.
Also opening at the RIBA is The New Vision for the New Photography: Czechoslovakia 1918-1938, in which the images are presented frankly as collaborations between avant-garde architects and photographers - the products of a shared aesthetic. Inter-war Czechoslovakia was fertile ground for Modernism, as a book on this period published by the Architectural Association, Czech Functionalism, makes clear.
This is just the kind of show that would benefit from some 'now' and 'then' images, so we can see the fate of such former sites of 'progress' as the Baba housing estate in Prague.
It's more likely, though, that the exhibition will keep Modernist dreams intact.
Inter-war Modernism (and what came after) is the subject of this week's biggest and most promising show, Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World, which opens today at London's Tate Modern and continues until 4 June. With over 200 works in a variety of media, this should be one of the highlights of the year.