Many years ago, back in the chemical era when we used film and digital photography was still science fiction I was photographing an atrium in a commercial building and was provided with a insight into the nature of my work by an innocent bystander.
I had set up my 4x5 camera at the foot of the stairs and was working to perfect my composition: move a sign, dust the leaves of the plant, etc.. I noticed a man sitting on a bench across the atrium watching me. He came over and with asked what I was photographing. I responded that I was photographing “The Space” with a sweeping gesture of my arm. I could tell by the perplexed look on his face that he didn’t understand. He was expecting me to say “the stairs” or “the plant.” This experienced opened my eyes to the non-objective nature of architectural photography.
Yesterday I was presenting to the architectural photography class, instructed by Nadereh Degani at City College of San Francisco and explained the idea of how most photography is object oriented, focused on capturing an image of a cat, baby, or bottle. Architectural photography is different because architecture more of a concept than a discreet object that can be clearly identified. A few examples: A door is not architecture, a table is not architecture, nor is a light fixture, but when combined the result is architecture.
When I photograph architecture or interior design I don’t work to capture images of discreet objects such as a chair, door, window or ceiling but to create an image that communicates the design concept of the architect or designer. I do this by connecting with their artistic vision, understanding their functional intent, comprehend their design as the vehicle of the message they are communicating, and connecting with the contextual meaning of their work.