Recently I’ve been integrating human figures into my imagery of commercial, retail and urban projects. At the beginning of my career back in the 1980’s and ‘90’s I was taught to isolate the building and never include anything that could date a photograph when I was being trained as an architectural photographer. This included people because clothing and hairstyles changed so radically and what was seen as cool and stylish at the time would be seen as out-dated twenty-five years later, negatively impacting the power of the presentation for the architect or designer.

Since moving to San Francisco things have changed, dramatically. Today it’s common to see blurred human figures in images of both commercial and residential architecture and design. When done well this is a very effective method of illustrating a design concept given the new human centric approach of modern design.

My intent when including human figures in my imagery is to help realize the purpose of my clients’ design, as well as provide an understandable measure of the scale of the structure or space whenever possible. Since collaborative workspace and new urbanist projects are designed for people to live and work in and around, I integrate the people into my compositions as though they were styling elements. I work to show people interacting with the spaces, structures and each other in normal, contextually appropriate ways that hold experiential and emotional significance for the viewers.

Example: Human figures in an urban environment:
These images are from a small job I shot for Gould Evans Architects recently: Avalon Berkeley Apartments

The design architect, Lauren Maass, Associate Vice President at Gould Evans met me on site on the day of the shoot. We discussed her creative vision and angles of view. We determined the best presentation for the front elevation would be to include the train because the station is immediately adjacent to the project and the idea of the motion of the train was an element of her design concept - her creative vision.  The inclusion of the two human figures and dog next to the building work to communicate scale and populate an otherwise empty street. I was hoping to draw attention to the the podium construction of the building.

While waiting for the train a group of children riding their bikes presented the opportunity to communicate the human-centric focus of the design, and reinforce the new urbanist appeal of the project.

You can see how the inclusion of human figures helps soften the presentation of the building and reinforces the human centric design. I admit the kids on the bikes was luck, but as Seneca so famously said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

My comprehension of the creative vision of my client, gained through collaborative consultation and my understanding of the intent of the design allowed me to craft a strong image that communicates a powerful contextual message that has meaning and significance for the viewers of these images today and for many decades to come.