So what is the future of architectural photography? Much might depend on asking what is the future of architecture?
If we consider architectural practice as transitional – where the balance now between style and process is swinging towards process – it would seem obvious that photography of projects built by process-driven architects should reveal these qualities. Consequently more and more architects seek to have every aspect of their projects covered in photographs, both in and out of use. Some want to tell a story, others want plurality.
Digital media has made this more viable. The pressure is on the ‘professional’ photographer to provide what the architect wants (more images). The proliferation of images per project is perhaps a symptom of the digital age: it’s too easy to provide more images where the old-school film photographer might provide less. Time will tell if progression in technology such as high resolution mobile phone cameras or the increasingly inexpensive, large megapixel, Digital SLR might further dilute the quality of the architectural image.
The idea of the one iconic image – the ‘money shot’ of a project – is one that can’t be ignored, but for the moment seems to be forgotten. This is the hardest image to come by as it takes the most effort and like any photography, or indeed any form of creative output, the distillation of ideas and outputs can lead to the best work: a singular iconic image is far more powerful than many good images.
Great photographs are created by great photographers. A good picture is not simply the output of affordable, easy-to-use, technology. It is far more than a subject’s likeness framed blankly with a digital eye. It is an interpretation, perceived by the photographer that says much about how the photographer views the world.
Of course an architectural photograph must also say something of the aims of the architect. As an architect you see buildings in a certain way, an ‘architectural’ way. And while it might seem that this is the perfect modus operandi for an architectural photographer, I sometimes feel that the human aspect of projects is lost, papered over with perfect architectural imagery, of the perfect building (which obviously doesn’t exist). For this reason I’d like to see a wider range of photographers used by architects and not just the traditional ‘architectural photographer’. There are so many wonderful photographers out there who can bring art and beauty to a project and capture that elusive, iconic shot. So many that could tell a different story in a different way. This is where the future lies.