architectural photography

This is one of the last images that I made with a large format view camera (a 5x7 monorail) before I left living in Sturt St in Adelaide's CBD  to move down to Encounter Bay on the coast on the coast of the southern Fleurieu  Peninsula. The  photo was made early on a  Sunday morning in the late autumn.   Hence the empty streets.  

It is of Wakefield House  in Wakefield Street just east of Victoria Square.  I do not think that it is heritage listed.  Wakefield House  is  a heavy, concrete modernist building that would have had a utopian feel to it when it was first built and celebrated.   This building represents the future.  It stood for  modern,  industrial  Adelaide. Today, my personal impressions is  that the building has a historical,  almost brutal look.  

There are  a number of such brutalist buildings in Adelaide from the 1960s/1970s. 

There is a long history of architectural photography and this one is a modest architectural photo in a documentary style,  rather than an atmospheric moment, or the specific look of the photographer.    It does not strive to be the glossy architectural photo that one sees in the architectural magazines.   It  makes no pretension to be an architectural hero shot, namely the photo that gives a project an identity through being the face of a building. The hero shot  is the image in commercial architectural photography  that is done for the client which  everyone goes ooh aah over. 

Photography is now dominant in the making, promotion and experience of architecture and it is the principal medium through which architecture is experienced by us. The photos of architectural photography  are designed to show us idealised spaces. The  photographer  acts as a publicist and it is a form of marketing. This approach  acts to exclude the documentary approach of say an  Eugène Atget in Paris  or a Bernice Abbott in New York. 

This photogenic architectural photography  is idealised in the sense that architecture is usually  photographed and presented under certain conditions: 

1) perfect weather, i.e. blue skies, or alternatively: 

2) at night or dawn, 

3) no trace of usage, 

4) no people to be seen. 

Traditionally,   a modernist  architecture photography --eg., Max Dupain and Wolfgang Sievers in Australia--  is one that is removed from everyday life with the building  treated in terms of the purity of the form. There are no weeds or distracting objects  in these photos. 

The experience of architecture is now  inseparable from the experience of its imagery, and as photography increasingly  belongs to the very same networks of spectacle, then  an independent and critical photography of architecture starts to become endangered. 

What would such a critical architectural photography look like today?   I'm not sure how to do this with respect to Adelaide.    Here is one possibility  from the 1970s that opens  the tradition of  architectural photography to new pathways. Luigi Ghirri creates a space,   or a clearing,  where architectural photography develops  its own  artistic autonomy.