Photoessay: Architectural juxtapositions

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I’m pretty sure none of the architects or designers involved with this project could have envisioned the sightlines I used for these images, or if they did, it’s almost uncertain that they would have been able to forsee the changes in the environment surrounding the buildings. Some believe that photography is no more than a derivative work of somebody else’s primary creation; I of course disagree – and that will be the subject of a future article.

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In the meantime, however, I’d like to present you with proofs (as usual) in the form of images: photographs that require an understanding of light, perspective, position and timing to execute – even if the subjects are static, changing light and atmospheric conditions mean that you’re probably not going to see the same thing twice. The subjects speak to my continuing personal interest in the abstraction of form, geometry and color; the images frequently take that one step further by consciously removing depth cues (as opposed to looking for them, to define the spatial relationship between a subject and its surroundings) to add a degree of surrealism. These juxtapositions may be real, in the form of changes in the surroundings, or projected, in the form of temporal shadows. In any case, I’ve said enough. Time to let the photos do the talking. Enjoy! MT

These images were shot in Prague with a Ricoh GR and sometimes the 21mm GW-3 converter.

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  1. I learn so much from photography like this! Wonderful, wonderful! I’d like to do architecture more but I need to see images like this to inspire me. Thank you.

  2. Fantastic as always, Ming. Architectural shots like these show off an attribute of great photographers…patience.

  3. quote -‘I’m pretty sure none of the architects or designers involved with this project — environment surrounding the buildings’. Most Architects (singularly and in teams) obsess, myself included, over these things. We have the means in software to see every angle, perspective, day and night lighting conditions, effects of surrounding environments both internally and externally 24 – 7 – 365. How spaces feel and perform through the day is one of the more interesting aspects of the profession and navigating the mostly conflicting and impossible compromises is a major part of the process. Buildings rarely turn out as designed in concept as too many other influences dilute and/or injure the designs. I have been an Architect for 35 years and a mediocre photographer for a lot longer and if you want to capture the essence of a building or environment you can do worse than ask the designers as part of the assessment before clicking – you could be surprised or told to get lost (too many Architects have giant and cantankerous egos). Of course as a casual photographer this is rarely possible but it is for a paid commission and can be a major influence and help in the process. We design buildings for people that appreciate design – sometimes – but mostly for ‘bean counters’ who just want maximum value at least cost and could not care less about anything other than the bottom line which is also too often the case for the builders. Their greed is often counter productive and devalues the investment.

    looking at the first picture which I assume is a retrofit installation in a cafe courtyard, you have skillfully composed the light and shadow interaction with careful camera positioning to get a very interesting image that is more than one taken from even a slightly amended perspective or at any other time. The result implies the promise or more than is probably on offer.

    I do find your articles and photographs wonderful and that you forgive this minor rant


    • I’m sure you obsess over them at the time of design and construction – but the sight lines from an old building to a new one are almost certainly outside your brief unless it’s significant/ historical. And certainly won’t be done for something that was put up 50+ years ago. 🙂

      On commissioned shoots I do spend plenty of time with the architects before shooting. But these were not, so I shoot what I see.

      The first image was shot in a museum courtyard – the installation was done a few years ago, but the buildings are 19th century.

      • Martin Fritter says:

        There’s a famous piece by Morton Feldman associated with this Chapel. One wonders if the very specific power of Rothko’s painting could be meaningfully captured photographically.

  4. Michael Matthews says:

    All a pleasure to view, of course — but I find the interiors most striking, particularly #9 and #10. Few people have the ability to see things in that way and then do something about it.

  5. This is one of my favorite subjects and styles of yours, and I’m glad to see it in its own photoessay!

  6. Martin Fritter says:

    The argument is specious!
    All art’s memesis.

    (nice work btw)

  7. Beautiful set! I was going to say the first was my favorite, but then they all became favorites. I love these!

  8. Ron Scubadiver says:

    When I shoot architecture I think of Mondrian.

    • Oddly enough, me too – and Rothko.

      • Ron Scubadiver says:

        I should go over to the Rothko chapel.

        • There is one?

          • Ron Scubadiver says:

            The Rothko Chapel is located on Alabama Ave in Houston, TX near the De Menil Collection art museum. I frequent the park where it is located, but don’t go inside much. The paintings are almost black, but take on color as one stares at them. Many in the US have a bi coastal mentality believing everything in the middle is fly over country. They have no idea…

            • That Rothko chapel is fantastic. Though I don’t think they allow photography inside. Also, right around the corner from it is an amazing reconstructed Orthodox church from an island off Greece, with the holes from the ruins filled with glass. Simply stunning, and again, no photography allowed.

              • Ron Scubadiver says:

                You are correct, no photography inside the Rothko chapel. I have to check out the Greek church.

  9. Ming, — excellent photography as always

  10. Kristian Wannebo says:

    The patience of the photographer …
    To wait for the right sun-time or (and!) clouds, or their absense.
    Or was it luck with time and sky? 🙂

    I especially like nr. 3 and nr. 12, although (or perhaps because) it is a classic.
    My other favourites: Nr:s 6, 8, 9, 10 (although all are so very right).

  11. Will Solis says:

    I started photographing almost daily since I started following your blog/flickr. It is remarkable how many quality photographs you consistently post and it’s definitely challenged the way I see my area. I thought I captured it in every way possible.

    I’m grateful for the effort you put into your work.

  12. From my point of view, such images are founded on the willingness to look – if we don’t look we don’t see. It’s easy to rush between one object and the next, photographing them as we go – it takes a much more considered photographer to look for relationships and juxtapisition to create images.

  13. Excellent! A technical question, Ming – how much did you crop the Ricoh images (third or fifth to last, for example)?

  14. So good and so clever! The second to last photo I have been thinking about for months. It is perfect.

  15. David G. says:

    forsee –> foresee*
    Just pointing it out; feel free to delete this comment when it’s fixed.

  16. Excellent. I agree with you Ming, 100%. The primary creation could be the main subject of a photograph but it just cannot be seen the same all the time, plus add the artist’s touch and you have a unique and original creation.

  17. Some great compositions here Ming! As for the derivative argument re:photography, this makes me laugh. What isn’t derivative in art. Look forward to reading your thoughts on the topic. Have a great day!

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