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IN PRACTICE

This week the AJ launches a 'visual column' - a series of photographs that celebrates the richness and diversity of architectural practice

In the AJ, and in architectural publishing in general, photography tends to fall into three broad categories: narrative images designed to illustrate a particular point (a building being demolished, a speaker at a conference, the existence of dry rot), conventional architectural photography (straight lines, no people, great light) and straightforward portrait shots. In commissioning Tim Soar to produce this 'visual column' we set out to blur the boundaries between the three.

They are portraits, whether of individuals, couples or groups, but they are also works of narrative in that they attempt to tell a story - to convey something of the ethos of the practice but also to capture a particular moment in time.

For example, in the portrait of Richard Saxon, director of strategic marketing at BDP, on page 28, the boardroom setting evokes the practice's corporate professionalism, while the decision to photograph Saxon alone reflects the fact that the shot was taken at the time when Saxon was standing for the presidency of the RIBA and his personal profile was very much to the fore.

They are also very much 'architectural', in that they consciously set out to explore the way the practitioners interact with their space. The architecture itself, of course, offers an insight into the practice. The nature and character of architects' workspaces is never incidental. Even the decision to leave a space more or less as found, as is the case with the 1930s extension to a former textile mill in the portrait of Studio BAAD shown opposite, can be read as a conscious choice.

We also set out to capture the diversity of architectural practice. Each week we will publish an image of a different way of working, from the large commercial practice, to the semi-retired sole practitioner, to the young couple struggling to reconcile the demands of bringing up a family and running a practice from home. Tim Soar has often described himself as 'one of the most expensive cleaners worldwide', a reference to the fact that, like most architectural photographers, he spends much of his time cleaning windows, polishing floors and tidying desks. But in this instance, subjects were actively discouraged from tidying up in readiness for the shoot. We wanted to let the clutter - the post-it notes, the ashtray full of cigarette stubs, the tricycle competing for space with the drawing board - to speak for itself.

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