Sunday, November 24, 2013

Constructing Reality

Photography started as a mean to document the physical world as a two-dimensional picture. A photograph captures reality as it is. However, throughout years of development and explorations, numerous photographers such as Alexander Rodchenko, Beate Gutschow, Andreas Gursky, have changed the meaning of photographs. These photographers altered their photographs to express their ideas; the ‘documents’ are now ‘art’. Similarly, architects have also used photo alteration techniques to present their ideas. With the same techniques, they insert their imagined building into a photograph resulting in an illusion of reality. Mies van der Rohe is famous for his collages and renderings. Contemporary architectural rendering company Luxigon also uses similar although more modern techniques. 

Alexander Rodchenko - photographer (1891-1956)
- represent idea though collages
- cutting pieces from several source materials to create a new image
- these collages doesn't look real
- scale is ignored
- the emphasis is on getting the idea across

White Sea Canal
- also a collage although Rodchenko tried to make it look real
- the emphasis is still on getting the idea across
- the purpose of the idea (propaganda) requires the image to look real and beliaveble

Mies van der Rohe - architect (1886-1969)

Concert Hall
- the idea (a series of planes composed in space) is represented through the use of collage
- pieces of papers are used to represent the planes and the relationships between them
- minimal effort in making the image look real; perspectival because it is required to represent the relationships between the planes

- presented as if it is a single photograph
- in reality it is composed out of a landscape photograph and a model photograph
- the idea is to present the design in a real context
- there is a need to make the image look believable

Andreas Gursky - photogapher

Bahrain I, 2005
- large scale image created by combining several photographs of different sections
- perspective is impossible to achieve without photo manipulation
- without closer inspection, scale and identity of the objects in the picture are hard to determine
- the scale and contrast in color give the built environment a graphic quality

Sao Paulo, Se, 2002
- again, photographs of different sections are used to create a larger image
- the quality of the space is exposed next to the details in the photograph
- crowds give scale to the environment, without it the picture would not look as real

Beate Gutschow - photographer
S#10, 2005
- a synthesis of different urban landscapes created by combining several different photographs
- despite the amount of information presented in the photograph, it is still impossible to identify a geographical location or time
- the idea is to create a sense of failed utopia

S#14, 2005
- uses the same technique, combining photographs to create a composed image
- the building is stripped from human occupation giving it a forlorn and timeless quality
- the idea is to put the building in a non-existent context, blurring the line between what is real and unreal

Luxigon - architectural rendering

- a computer rendering is put into real contexts such as trees, people, and site
- the purpose of the image is to sell the building therefore the building is presented in an idealized environment
- because of this, the image does not look real but still beliavable

Northern Harbour
- same technique as the image above, the addition of contexts makes the building look real
- also presented in an idealized environment to sell the building
- the purpose of the image is to present certain aspects of the building (in this case, human occupation and relationship to the water)


Architectural design from photographically constructed views

Photographers: Helene Binet, Lucien Herve, (James Turrell, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Aitor Oritz, Thomas Demand)
Architects: Zaha Hadid, Le Corbusier, Peter Zumthor, Daniel Libeskind, Caruso St John, Sverre Fehn

-the visual
-aspects of space and the photograph (light, shadow, materiality, shape, frame, time etc)
-constructing the view... framing
-generate ideas
-trigger imagination
-telling a story
-lines and directions

“Hélène Binet has emerged as one of the leading architectural photographers in the world. Every time Hélène Binet takes a photograph, she exposes architecture’s achievements, strength, pathos and fragility.”
(Daniel Libeskind)

''Lucien Hervé is one of the few photographers to combine humanistic philosophy and architectural thought. Its framing in diving, its views in oblique, a certain counting and a willingness of abstraction characterize a photographic style very different from that of his contemporaries.'' (web translation from

What interests me is how we can perceive these images and how they can trigger our imagination. Does the photo simplify the space or make it more complicated? I believe that simplicity (the abstract) can be very complex. What happens beyond the frame? What scale is it? What type of space is it? Or is it an object, not a space? Even though a space is empty of 'life' there can still be a presence of light, atmosphere, shadow, colour, texture, surfaces, direction, form, pattern etc. Can you imagine /create the space in the photograph as part of an architectural structure /building and inhabit it? Can you then use this to design a building?

-a medium of discovering the reality in front of us (helene binet)
-capturing the initial dream that an architect had at the start of a project
(helene binet – zaha hadid)


-fragment vs whole
-contained space vs open space
-the world out there vs the world as it exists in ones mind
-distance and perspective
-context, what happens when 'it' is taken away from 'its' context?
-Framing …. way of creating a window between 2 perspective
-frame reality which is too complex
-creating your own view
-Frame = format. Proportions of frame.
-power of framing and composition
-one point of view
-can create different volumes and shapes
Lucien Hervé - Mill Owners Association, Ahmedabad
Hélène Binet - Zaha Hadid

-less information conveys more
-2D vs 3D
-senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, hear
-its not space it is a photograph (helene binet)
-reduced message

Hélène Binet and Lucien Hervé draw on the concept of the reduced image. Binet says in her lecture at Harvad 'composing space' that less information conveys more.

Hélène Binet - Caruso St John
-distance and perspective
-playing with scale
-create a moment of amnesia: what are you looking at?
-refer to your own knowledge to decide...

The scale in architectural photography can become very ambiguous, especially when you draw from the concept that less is more.

Hélène Binet - Zaha Hadid

-light is the photographers tool
-we need light to see the object and vice versa
-an object is needed to disperse the light
-volume variation
-embodying light
-camera … box collecting light … compare to arch (libeskind Jewish museum) (helene)
-time and space
-shadow is an absence of energy
-penetration of light at a specific time
-light needs material to exist
-objects become shapes/form
-zaha hadid by night … isolate form/shape, take away context, play with light

Hélène Binet - Le Corbusier
Hélène Binet - Peter Zumthor



-image of an idea
-image of a space
-how the conscious subject observes the world
-private experience
-change, fluidity
-moments in time are unique
-create a story
-combine the above
-a medium of discovering the reality in front of us (helene binet)
-capturing the initial dream that an architect had at the start of a project
(helene binet – zaha hadid)

Lucien Hervé - Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp
Lucien Hervé - Mill Owners Association, Ahmedabad

Lee Friedlander is an American photographer with a fascination on the street photography. He works primarily with his Leica 35 mm camera and black and white film. Friedlander photography style is considered as “social landscape photography” because of his prominent street photos focusing on the look of the modern life. Friedlander focused to photograph his surrounding with unique perspective. He doesn’t stick to any convention in taking photograph. He wonders around and pursued different types of photography.

Friedlander pioneers the new visualization perspective of street photography. Throughout his career, he captures images from his surrounding with unique approaches. Rather than documenting straight and clear-cut photograph, he intentionally juxtaposes layers of weird perspective and creates confusion to deliver the story. Friedlander uses the strategy to show something that the viewer can’t immediately comprehend to captivate their interest in the photograph. Visual complexity, unfamiliar perspective and abstraction become the major role in Friedlander’s style of street photography.
Friedlander fascination with photography began when he started to take photograph of Jazz musician. He started his photography career by shooting freelance photography of Jazz musician and featured on many covers for Atlantic Records. During this period, Friedlander was interested in taking alot of portrait photograph and behind the scene photos. Joel Dorn, a producer of Atlantic Record, suggests that Friedlander photographs show “how the people were when they weren’t being who they were”.

“It fascinates me that there is a variety of feeling about what I do. I’m not a premeditative photographer. I see a picture and I make it. If I had a chance, I’d be out shooting all the time. You don’t have to go looking for pictures. The material is generous. You go out and the pictures are staring at you”. Lee Friedlander

The quote best describes Friedlander’s position in how he pursues his own photography style. Friedlander was started off by going to the Art Center School Design in Los Angeles to chase his interest in photography. But he dropped out of the school because he considered the formal education in the institution is boring. Thus, He happened to self-taught himself in photography and started to capture as much picture of his surrounding. During his self-educated process, Friedlander encompassed directions from learning through Evans and Atget works. He also got help and source of mentorship from Edward Kaminski, a photographer and an artist from his previous formal school instructor.
“(..) a mysterious intersection of chance and attention that goes well beyond the existential surrealism of the "decisive moment" Lee Friedlander

One of Friedlander’s photography characteristics is his fascination in reflection. He likes capturing picture of people reflecting through storefront window, taking picture of store mannequin, or even his own shadow reflection for his self-portrait project. The reflection through the storefront window gives the sense of abstraction and perplexity into the image. It also delivers complexity through adding more content into the photograph. Thus it takes time to the viewer to wander around and digest the picture itself. All of his photographs have no technical manipulation involved. Friedlander’s reflecting photographs are straight photograph from the material that we encounter everyday.  However, he invites the viewer to experience the everyday image that he captured through his lens in a provoking yet eccentric perspective. Friedlander’s picture of reflection evokes ambiguity between actual reality and reflected image. Thus it requires a through inspection to really understand the meaning behind the photograph.

Friedlander also enriched his social landscape photography by having multiple frames and layers from the content he documented. He intentionally categorizes the content inside the image by creating multiple frames in it. The photograph he took in Chicago, Illinois in 2003 seems like a flat image of multiple frames in it. all the vertical elements are parallel and. He parallelizes the street light pole on the foreground with the Marina City on the background. He activates the vertical elements to frame the focus in the photograph.  The vertical element seems to bring a sense of unity into the picture. It is a really weird perspective that confuses its viewer. But on the other hand, it also creates a logical sense to deliver his perspective of the city. The perspective shows how Friedlander approach to relate order in the chaotic city into his photography. Thus it creates the complexity into the image and allows the viewer to investigate the picture to fully understand the story behind the image.

In contrast to the photograph above, Friedlander’s work,  The Desert Seen, seems to symbolize beauty through chaos. His main subject on this book is plant, and most of them are cactus. Friedlander captures the cactus from the point it burst out and reconfigure the surrounding. He tries to describe chaos in form of inherent beauty. The picture shows a chaotic branch of tree uncontrollably extended outward and create the sense of abstraction. The Dessert Seen collection also gives the sense of complexity in its content as to allow eyes to wonder around the picture.

The visual confusion created by Friedlander makes his photographs more interesting. It delivers as a piece of art that reflects human experience. Friedlander photographs intrigues the assimilation of what we see and our ability to comprehend.


                                                                   Look through your window.

                                                                                       What do you see?


Looking through the window is that moment when we separate ourselves from the world around us and are the ones observing it all. Whether we feel we belong or simply feel excluded and not understood. Time has stopped, the most unimportant details noticed  and the most  distant noises heard.

It is a moment of solitude.

The photograph Butte, Montana is taken from his hotel while traveling alone across the Northern States. It captures the feeling of loneliness and at the same time the story of mining cities in the west Americas. It is part of his series Looking in America, opposing to the bright and colour photography that was out in magazines reflecting sunny prosperous America. The photograph wouldn’t have had the same effect or innovative point of view if it hadn’t included the detail of the curtain. It’s that relation between the photograph and what he sees what  makes the banal so personal, reflecting his own psychological  state in the place and moment where he encounters himself.

Alec Soth tries to see through Robert’s Frank eyes some decades later.

 Look through your window again.
Take a picture of what you see.

What do you see now?

When architects design window opening, do they think of that moment of staring through the window, of putting a window so as to provoke that banal and yet so natural act of gazing through the window?

There are two ways Andre Kertesz looks through the window  -  to capture a certain encounter of relations, using the window as a place to look from  

or to stay inside, retaining his eye on the foreground details, only having the outside world as a distant background.

There is something very personal and intimate in the photos taken by Robert Frank, Andre Kourtasz. Even though it seems to be about the outside world, these photographs are actually revealing the photographers own state of mind and their connection to the outside in that very chosen moment. They reflect from the inside the outside , from that inner state of loneliness, of contemplation, of embracing it all, the outside world of relations, daily events and places. Their photos would reflect the most banal actions, the most cliché landscapes but through certain details engage their own participation in them and change the final view of the outside.

John Pfehl looks at famous American landscapes, city views from inside lookingout.

Unlike some previous works, where he would interfere directly into the landscape to alter the actual view, in this case it’s the way we look from inside, the characteristics of the layers of frame that determine the outside view. The stains, the broken panes of glass are natural forms of mark-making.


In his photographs nothing is accidental or unobserved. He meticulously sets up his camera through a picture window stripped to its basic rectangle in a darkened room.  The blackness around the picture manages to capture the isolation and resounding silence of the act of looking through.

He is exploring all the dynamic that occurs around the static.

T h e C h a i r _

Constructing the vision of the essence of occupancy of human life in their locality whether city or private space, is initially illustrated through Candida Hofer's photography. Hofer's reflections on photography of dance rehearsal halls, librarys, exhibition spaces with the absence of humans, but still reflecting body culture and the crowd within these public realms, had taken my initial conversations.
The voided ornament would be a topic to which Hofer's work can be discussed, she choices a space, of generally Public and city importance, and voids the image of any physical human illusion to the eye initially, but broadcasts their existence through the abstract patterns created by rows upon rows of lamps and desks preforming mathematically precise choreographed movements of human influence and construction, and often also emphasized by the 'left behind' or remaining rows and stacks of books, art exhibits and boxes all illustrating the past performances/ knowledge that is viewed as a cultural manifestation of life of the individual. The idea of the voided ornament is echoed throughout Hofer's work, where rhythmic repetitive gesture, anonymity and abstraction are recurring strategies, in particular empty chairs.
The constant repetitive gestures and the endless rows of empty seats or even the individual empty seat reinforces the mechanization, standardization and strict uniformity of the space, as well as the function to evoke the absent human . There is always a conversation between the architecture and the individual, a continuous interchange between the performer and the surrounding architecture. 

The empty chair questions the inscription of the human/ body in architectural environments, the one chair within the theatrical and preforming spaces, but as well as the chair creating boundaries for the viewers interpretation of the real and the virtual/ imagined space, and also a boundary between the physical and the fantastic. The chair, whether single or grouped, activates a found architecture, a human influenced space. a chair can investigate the typology of real space, evoking their social, historical or cultural functions. it is perhaps useful to isolate the role of a single chair as a means of animating space. The chair acts as a focal point, the figure of the chair preforming for the camera and is then projected , as an symbol into the envisioned reality of its space.
  Micheal Wolf 'Bastard Chairs' was an influencing piece of research in my conversations so far. it is a study that initially looks simple and thrown together, but it represents an intentional meaning. the Bastard Chairs project started when he moved to China, and represents life of an urban city through topics such as hardships, purpose and work. he is showing the beauty in these used objects and they subsequently represent social significance. 
The figure of the chair acting as a focal point. The conflation between not only the lense of the camera and the eye of the viewer, but also the intense detail of construction in the chair, representing life, results in the skillful implication of the viewer in the position of, close proximity, that which activates the piece. Wolf involves the spectator as an active participant. It is also the key that indicates a blending of the two distinct moments in the creation of life. The spectator visualizes the broadcasting qualities and meaning from these chairs. We are focused to recognize the work as an illusion, as a montage of the real and vitual. 
What is emphasized by the 'Bastard Chairs' images, is the central role played by the figure, an animator of the space. the tight fixed camera shot, the detail construction, the blending of materials and human/life experiences and influences are the spinal exciting background to these chairs and this is what helps to reinforce the figure (chair) as our focus.     

Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) was a New-YORK photographer. He was born, raised, worked and was always drawn to go back to New-York. He was labeled street photographer and "snapshot aesthetic" was used to describe his work. He personally didn't believe in labeling his work. He called himself a photographer that tries to know life.

Garry Winogrand started his carrier in journalism and advertising so to pay his bills but he started working at his own work from 1960 onwards. His work takes mainly place in the streets of New-York and other cities of America.
"Winogrand seemed to be his best when he confronted a wall of humanity" is how Westerbeck describes Winogrand's photography. His photography tries to capture the  chaos and vitality of humanity in the streets of New-York with new characters appearing in each frame. People in New-York are all going somewhere from somewhere in every direction crossing each others paths for split seconds of time.

Watching Garry Winogrand working in the streets of Los Angeles he is constantly moving, looking in all directions, quickly puts his eye to the view point, clicks as his eyes are already looking for a new snap in another direction. He takes pictures frantically, he is constantly moving and twitching. He is fast, mechanical, continuously looking, watching, seeing, framing, timing and triggers the shutter. He never seem to be focusing too much time on the one frame and takes hundreds of photos a day.
Part of his work is a "matter on luck", with the perfect time he could get to freeze the incredible picture by multiplying the amount of pictures he possibly tried to multiply his probability to take a perfect snap. Stephen Shore says that some of Garry Winogrand's work "freezes time". The picture feels like it stopped time, a new event has been created which existed for a split second.

Garry Winogrand, El Morocco, 1955

Garry Winogrand talks of his responsibility as a photographer are exclusively frame and time, content and the action of taking a picture. The picture is what the camera saw . He thinks of what to include -not what to exclude or what to crop at the edge- and only orientates his camera towards what interests him. His main interests are to capture people, their vitality and interactions as well as woman, animals, and the influence of the press on events. 

Garry Winogrand, New York n.d.
Garry Winogrand took pictures of women walking in the streets. Although you can feel the anger and awkwardness in their eyes, Winogrand is able to capture the vitality and movement of those woman. He uses a wide lens camera but stands close up and takes the picture from above of the subject walking or stepping onto a curve. He is then able to fit the all body in the frame, "the whole figure is drawn". The energy, movement, elegance and vitality of those bodies is condensed in this "pictorial structure" Winogrand was able to create. Would you be able to take those pictures today in the streets of New York? I would say no but the way Winogrand was quick at taking pictures he probably just took it as she raise her eyes to see. Maybe if you were to use the same technique you would be able to take the same pictures today.

Garry Winogrand takes pictures of people in the streets, in a club, in a zoo, and captures interactions, bodies, energy but mainly a sense of life. "The nervous manic, nearly chaotic quality of these frames was an appropriate formulation of a sense of life". He describes a city life filled with people on the go. Winogrand strives from this energy and trying to capture it, he photographed almost every day. He developed his own way of capturing and creating links between pedestrians. The way he formed and composed his pictures by tilting his wide lens camera not to include more but capture movement and focus. He didn't simply tilt but would make a vertical or horizontal element or line to re-orientate the viewer and intensify.

Garry Winogrand, Radio City, 1961

Winogrand takes pictures in the streets because of its theatricality. The Zoo sequence of pictures weren't about the animals but more about people around animals and their interaction and their similarities. The old ladies face seem to have been a rhinoceros in a previous life.

"A successful photograph must be more interesting than what I photographed" says Winogrand about his own work. He only takes pictures of what interests him but he will only know its good until he develops the negative. Photography needs to be more than the content for it to be art or beautiful. Pictures describe reality, Art photography describes beauty through capturing a certain reality. Garry Winogrand sees the world as "a wonder and a fascination" that is worth showing.

John Swarkowski claims Winogrand is part of a new set of documentary photographers. Is Winogrand trying to create documents to describe his world? Winogrand "through photography tries to know life" he doesn't describe. His photography is personal and he creates moments of beauty and vitality. Also in contrary to documentary photographers Winogrand has no social goal through his pictures.

Garry Winogrand is just a photographer , he worked by instinct and didn't think of the final product. He tried to move away from what was known and taught as a beautiful picture. He tried to deal with " knowing too much about pictures". He finds that too many times photographers try to re-produce the perfect because we are formatted by what we have seen before. He moves away and finds his own way of making good photography, through frame, timing, light, tilting and content.

 Meyerowitz remembers describing Winogrand's work by the word "tough" because it was "out of instinct, came from your gut, raw, of the moment, something that couldn't be described any other way". Winogrand's work is indeed born from instinct. The instinct of a city boy knowing its streets, its life and constant change.

Lee Friendlander
Winogrand, Friendlander and Arbus exhibited together and would be categorised in a same bracket of photography. They were influenced by the generation of photographers that came before them and took pictures of people in the city streets and in America, Eugene Atget, Robert Frank, Walter Evans. Diane Arbus takes pictures of the uncommon people, the "freaks" and shows them objectively for who they are. Lee Friedlander is more detached and uses reflections to show the street and world reflected behind him. Those 3 photographers changed the vision of photography and refreshed the art by their objective framing. They didn't theorise their work and considered themselves as photographers. 

Winogrand tries to catch the beauty of the world around him and print to share his own sense of life.