Use and Beauty: Photographs by Eric de Maré
At the Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1, until 6 June
Eric de Maré is in the top flight of photographers, writes John Bancroft . Even today, so many years after he was excited by the industrial structures in his pictures, the thrill he felt comes through to us undiminished in intensity. Would we have appreciated their poetic beauty without his revealing, in masterly images, the directness and strength of unadorned functionality? But this was just one aspect of this multifaceted man.
Born in 1910 to Swedish parents in London, photography began for De Maré at the age of 10 with a birthday gift of a box camera. Such was his need to master every aspect of his craft that he went on to write two textbooks, Photography (1957) and Architectural Photography (1957). De Maré began his architectural training at the Architectural Association in 1928 - a time when a Beaux Arts approach still lingered, but Howard Robertson as principal was busily disseminating news of 'avantgarde' achievements on the continent. Robertson was abetted in this by FR Yerbury, who that same year published Modern European Buildings , with its 154 plates. No doubt this and subsequent Yerbury books would have been known to the young De Maré, who graduated in 1933.
De Maré later had a spell as editor of the AJ but his work featured more in The Architectural Review , notably through his collaboration with its editor JM Richards, which led to a special issue of the magazine in July 1957 and a related book, The Functional Tradition . De Maré's photographs of mills, factories, warehouses and the like, drew attention to the textures, materials and basic geometry of these products of the Industrial Revolution - and, like all great art, they had the power to change people's perceptions.
This is not the first time the AA has honoured De Maré with an exhibition, and the monograph from its predecessor in 1990, Eric de Maré, Photographer: Builder with Light , is on sale, amplifying what we see on the walls. The current show is highly recommended, not just for its superlative photographs but for the unique industrial heritage that they record.