Lights, Camera, Architecture!

As a design reporter, I’m exposed to pictures of structures everyday and each one evokes a different reaction in me. Most of us experience architecture through photographs — we can imagine the Eiffel Tower, a baroque church in a small European town or the Big Ben, even if we haven’t been there. These images then become the window to the world outside and we perceive cities and cultures on their basis. But do they justify the beauty of the building? Or is it a calculated move to control perspective? Architectural photography encompasses views of the exteriors of commercial, religious, institutional structures, as well as records of the evolution of places. Its aim is to generate either visual documents or meaningful images for artistic or propaganda purposes. While, architectural photography was prevalent in the early 1800s, it was only in the late 1980s that it became a lucrative career and architects began working with photographers in specifying particular views. However, this tradition represents a constrained interpretation of buildings: rather than emphasizing how these spaces normally function, the photographs present an ‘architectural’ idea… one, in which light is used to articulate form and space. While some may agree that digital photography has facilitated the photographer to manipulate colour, contrast and light, and give him unlimited chances to capture that perfect image, others are quick to justify that the two go hand in hand. When capturing a building, the photographer too, is likely to face this dilemma: do you add perspective to produce a compelling and beautiful photograph? Or do you prefer to stick with authenticity and realism? An idealist like me feels that untouched realism is so much purer. The most basic black-and-white image has the ability to evoke a feeling of awe in me that a vibrant (and often colour-corrected!) image falls short of. I cannot help but draw a comparison between the rustic and real pictures of the film with that of modern day DSLRs, and always seem to favour the former. But is it practical or possible? Do we know the difference between the two? Will we relate to such purity today? The answer is both yes and no. Each photographer and viewer has their own unique reaction and treatment to the subject. Even an amateur like me, uses multiple options Picasa offers to ‘correct’ the picture of the Burj Khalifa that I took. Therefore, whether it is a monument in ruins, a skyscraper or a steel bridge, our experience of architecture is often inseparable from the images we see. What should concern us is the product and whether it is able to achieve its purpose. Nothing replaces the experience of being physically present, but a good picture definitely comes a close second. Therefore it wouldn’t be wrong to end with the age-old phrase… a picture is worth a thousand words.

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