THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE SPACE:
An exploration of architectural photography William Klein and Julius Shulman
Introduction: People can’t digest the Visual food well.
“I see through my eyes, not with them” –William Blake
In the modern age, as people can get an information through digitalized rendered images with well written words, the knowledge of indirect reality seems to shape the world of design or at least it is supposed to be telling the truth of the space whereas it was only possible through a raw visual experience from their own travel when there was no internet. This applies to the public as well as the architects who are expert on architecture. Laszlo Moholy Nagy, who worked in the famous Bauhaus school at Dessau in the Weimar Republic, he wrote regarding photography in his work Vision in Motion that “<…> the power to become one if the primary visual forces of our life… Many people may not realize it but the present standard of visual expression in any field, painting, sculpture, architecture and especially advertising arts, is nourished by the visual food which the new photography provides.”
In the past, artists, writers and thinkers includes architects went on the Grand tour which sophisticated the creativity as well as the intertextual sensibilities at the time. According to the Adam Matthew Digital’s new website, a phenomenon of the Grand Tour took the public attention of English travellers to the continent between c.1550 and 1850, which had all sorts of meaningful effects on cultural, social, political, architectural, gastronomic, sartorial and artist movement.
From another point of view, the fluid and informative information allows people to require no imagination to make things valuable rather than impinging on the imagination. Osbert Lancaster argues “Today, architecture is an activity about which the average man cares a little and knows less and such views as he may hold are founded not on any personal bias, which might be regrettable but would certainly be excusable, but on a variety of acquired misconceptions.” Consequently, architecture has always coexisted in a frame with any nature of habitation, however, a modern architectural imagery as a medium tends to distort things to be a form of being superficially photogenic.
From the view point of designer and an architectural photographer, this author recognizes the broad implication of how unconsciously people are receiving the superficial infra-knowledge as if they were the nature of life and how it influences a process of decision making, more importantly, how people are taking as an obvious inspiration. It is almost like an assembly line system. This includes the author himself. This paper aim to review the existing state of architectural photography and its role in order to locate an organic relationship between place, people and photography.
Blurred line: The birth of Architectural imagery and its recognition
The first viable photographic named Daguerreotype process was introduced in Paris in January 1839 by Louis Jacques Daguerre Mande who was a Parisian stage designer as well as who had trained to be an architect. The first practical method of photography was a small (average size of 8 x 10 centimetres) silver-coated metal, “considered magical reflections of reality.”
Dagurre’s central intention towards the photography was to find more realistic way of rendering his image of captured “in his illusionistic spectacles and the dioramas.”6 William Henry Fox Talbot followed about four months later announced his Calotype process. The British scientist, Sir John Robinson stated the incidence in regard to the daguerreotype process in his letter to Royal Society of Edinburgh, &c. (Communicated by the Society of Arts) that “the original, are faithfully copied in these wonderful pictures” and he declared “accurate views of architecture.”8 He stated the discovery as the new method of recording of things in its a power of capturing details which went beyond a skill of naked eyes. Because of its high accuracy of photography as a medium for recording details, the photography began to free architects from producing countless number of architectural drafting and “blundering of the eye and hand”. The recognition of photography was surely but slowly gaining a population through a reputation hailed by Building News “veraciousness of representation … like Caeser’s wife, it can ever not be suspected”
For instance, a construction view of Palm house (1849), the new Louvre in Paris (1855) and the Crystal place in London (1855) were good examples of contemporary buildings captured in the early decades of photography. However, at the time, the use of photography was more of recording a process of construction due to its fast disappearance of building process. This is due to architects tended to see past drawings for their references thus photos of new age wasn’t something to be referred. Since a foundation of photography was not well-grounded yet it took time to be emerged to be recognised as specific genre of architecture photography. Besides all that, the development of photography was depending on various types of patronage as well as by counterpointing notions of medium’s role such as artistic, commercial and utilitarian, “that helped to determine not only what was photographed but also how it photographed”.
Ever since architecture photography was introduced, in the early stage, photographers were using examples from architectural drawings particularly for the elevation and perspective views.
In the late eighteenth century, a method of representing architectural images began to focus on rendering architecture more pictorially easy-to-understand in order to earn public attention which photographers were keen to find their own way of representation architecture. “This dependence on an existing visual syntax is hardly surprising” says Elwall. This is due to its unique background of photographers at the time were mixture of painters or the graphics arts which today is even more diverse anonymous. Both in France and in the U.K., the 1850’s was a very formative decade for photography as the Building News stated that “advanced from recreation to trade” and it officially started organising as a foundation.
From this stage photographer’s attitude toward architecture started seemed to be splitting into two major groups, while one pursuing picturesque and the others are more trying to achieve architect’s intention of their architecture. “In most of their productions, the English photographers appear to have aimed chiefly at the picturesque. To render architectural photographs vulnerable as studies to the architect, the picturesque must frequently give way to the exhibition of form and detail. It is necessary for the photographer to know what the architect requires in representation of edifices. It is but too evident that the majority of the photographers whose works are exhibited are entirely ignorant of what the architect requires”14 whereas in France, an architectural photography was forging a close relationship between architect and photograph by means of dissemination architectural information. In addition, there was a movement of photography market in Italy which was thrived by photographs taken by ground tourists. Their tourist customers were interested in those photographs of eyewitness historical monument where the ground tourist had been. One of the ground tourists who worked in Rome, Robert Macpherson won his international recognition at the exhibition at the Architectural Union company’s premises in London in 1862. Macpherson’s photograph was admired by some classical architects, Donaldson and sir William Tite, however, from an architectural point of view, it was strongly disapproved of the idea for its commercial sense. “<…> a great want of that which we are always led to expect in architectural drawings – mathematical precision”.15 Within about a decade of recognition of photography as a medium for architecture, the constant tension among diﬀerent thoughts and purposes of photograph has always been a controversial between topographical record, architectural documentations or a piece of art. The blurred line within architectural photography begins to surface.
Manipulations: A history of being photogenic has aﬄicted architect’s imagination
" <...> the architectural photograph has come under increasingly intense attack for forcing “architecture into a straitjacket. the straitjacket go being photogenic, or at least comprehensible through photographers." -Robert Elwall
After one and half century since photograph was regarded as a representational medium of architecture, arguably there has always been a close relationship between architect and architectural photographs however "The symbiotic relationship between photographers and architects at the time had a lot more meaning than just the photographers being used for marketing," said Redstone, the curator of the exhibition at the Barbican Centre which focused on exploring of how photographers have shaped public perceptions of architecture over the past century.
In a social norm, prominent architects work had always captured by personal photographer such as Le Corbusier, for example, had a strong relationship with Lucien Hervé and stated that "You really have the soul of an architect" and worked closely with him for over two decades, Luigi Ghirri and Aldo Rossi, and Frank Gary and Pedro E. Guerrero. “<…> the work of Zaha Hadid is not in some way influenced by the photography of Hélène Binet.” The relationship had been a place to constantly challenge one another to inspire to produce another creativity, “Architects who have grasped the value of photography owe it many an idea or inspiration” says Giebelhausne.
On the other hand, it seems that the meaning of architects working with photography has changed through out the decades. Practically, “photography is everywhere”, thus it is almost impossible not to see architectural photography, especially who involve themselves in the field of architecture. Therefore, architectural imaginary nowadays seems to takes up an imagination of young architects or architecture students and it is instilling in their mind of architecture to achieve their design to be ‘photogenic’. “A control of lens (photography) surely influence architecture (architects). The defensive stance against ‘to be photogenic’ makes architecture (architect) as if they were a fashion model”.
A regular based architecture magazine with the latest features of architecture is one of the most influential media for architectural design nowadays. There are mainly two kinds of media, one is a professional architectural journal and the other one is a general magazine. However, from the late 1990’s, a number of general magazine rapidly increased while professional journals were forced to be replaced. In addition, the information distributed from the issuer intertwined with their cultural values (image) which is recognized as architectural imagery today.
Daniel J. Boorstin, an author of The Image or What Happened to the American Dream, Boorstin argues that the definition of the images are “an artificial imitation or representation of the external form of any object, especially of a person.” Boorstin calls the cultural values as an image and he states a definition of the image that it is artificial, it looks realistic, it is passive, it is specific and active and it is simplified. Architectural magazine is mainly composed by photograph, architectural drawing and texts, however it is considered that the role played by the photographs has a large ratio by means of delivering a direct visual information. According to a research conducted by Shoko Fukuya, How architecture is delivered: architectural photograph as a system, in a Japanese architectural journal 建築文化 issue Oct 1997 (architectural culture ), photographs are on 118 pages out of 168 pages, photograph takes 32 percent throughout a whole magazine. The public interests towards architecture increases in step with a growth of general architectural magazines in the market. Thus clients oﬀer architects a design based on a knowledge which they gained from an image figuration of magazines. From this point, public readers seem to receive architectural information as if they were consumers.
As a result of this continuous flow of information, for architects, understanding the role of photography as a medium and its importance became crucial part of design to be photogenic and its process of design making decision. This is hugely aﬀected by the accelerated public opinion and a growth of digital media globalization. Because of the oversupplied architecture imagery, a matter of public opinion and a sense being photogenic has flattened an aesthetics of architects and the manipulation of aesthetics let architects lose their sense of reality towards architecture which to "consider buildings from a human or functional perspective" and it leads to a discussion of “This is Not Architecture, Media Constructions“. A mass produced modern architectural imagery is losing an essence of architecture, the inherent of human nature and its habitation. It is commonly known that most of architectural photographs are commissioned or supervised by architects or contractors, although they can be more personal and be detached from the vision of architect.
Where have all the people gone?:
The sterilizing of human existence on architectural photography Flick through any architecture magazine, or browsing any online architectural reviews, there is most likely an architecture stands there by itself as if they were a fashion model, and it is beautifully layered with nice tone and smoothed surface. However, besides a superficial aesthetic of its architecture, there seem to be no life being expected to happen. To borrow a word of Barthes, they are alas, inert and polite, they have no punctum.
In the history of architectural photography, an existence of human has always been kept out of architectural photography and it has been a controversial whether or not people. “Human figure may have a negative and positive eﬀect on scene”, Schulz argues. Most of the cases, an absence of human existence is strictly prohibited or tactically setup. It tends to be believed that architectural photography works the best when there is no presence of people. It is to eliminate a distractive attention of human figure and to lead eyes straight onto architecture, which is to focus on a main subject, however, architecture completes with a presence of people. Or Architecture is for people, people and their habitation, a coexisting is the main subject of architectural photography. “Architecture creates a link between people and people” Otherwise, like, Elwall argues Architecture ends up being only photogenic as if it were built for photography, not for people.
Architects imagines and design house or public space of its urban cityscape, either if it is ordinary or extraordinary, there is supposed to be some sort of life event is expected to happen. Therefore, architectural photography should not just embrace its depiction, also it should expect to allow an existence of people. However, when it comes to a process of creating representational image of architecture, photographs are often taken without an existence of people. This is because a human existence can interfere a message of architecture itself. People can be distracting a reader from focusing on a main subject while it can give an idea of scale and its atmosphere as an object.
“Just as the photographer’s task does not end with the push of a button, the architect’s responsibility is not confined to the computer screen or drawing board. Architecture is a public art, and its depiction must embrace not only the unblemished innocence of the design but its social dimension as well. We need, and currently lack, an architectural photography that communicates the experience of the building not just as the architect hoped it might be but as it is perceived in reality by the user”.The statement above is how Robert Elwall, the late senior curator of the RIBA Photographs Collection located to start oﬀ the final paragraph of his book greatly influential volume Building with Light: The International History of Architectural Photography. His statement shows a voice of Robert’s towards our contemporary warns about the possibility that mislead theory of architectural photography is not delivering enough of real built environment.
Photography is an eﬀectively a technique to capture an existing moment of architecture and its aesthetic as a spatial quality, visual and material value of the architecture. Therefore, an images of the architecture should be the most realistic representational which can provide readers a high realistic sensation. Most of photographers tend not to see where it ends. Pressing a button on a camera does not deliver and define architect’s thoughts and its responsibility to the digital screen or any other mediums, architecture sits in the environment as a public art and the presence must reflect a life of events, not only purely extracted shiny surface of its design. In the past it was used for a specific purpose for advertised area. However, the radical statement of architectural photography today has lost its own essential part and it has become a commercial in nature. While the internet is a key infrastructure in making knowledge globally available, it accelerates a hypnotizing an image of architecture photography. As Joan Fontcubeta states “We are surrounded by the capitalism of images and excess that, more than just plunging us into suﬀocating world of consumption, confronts us with the political capability of dismissing, reducing, or ensuring them”. This is probably not a new trend as there is a story of Lucien Herve in a collaboration with Le Corbusier for Marseille Unite d’Habitation. Herve brought back 650 photographs which was depicting a harmonious coexistence of photography and architecture, however, it was refused to be published in France Illustration due to its lacking of revelation of trendy controversy whereas while Corbusier enthusiastically appreciated Herve.
“We humans, thrust into a maelstrom of so-called progress, orchestrated by greedy, self-serving "developers" and supported by irrational political emissaries are swept into their shallow schemes.” –Julius Shulman
Essence of reality: Introducing a people’s habitation on architectural photography
American Architectural photographer, Julius Shulman is known for his work The Stahl House, Case Study House #22. Julius Shulman's architectural photography presented another avenue and provided a clear path through to an expression on the photograph of places and people. Shulman's work revealed an essential part of architecture, building is for the people and his photograph sold a lifestyle to the world. The 20th century architects, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies Van der Rohe and others commissioned Shulman for their representational architectural image of their architecture.
He is also known that he gave very sensitive direction to locate interiors, where to locate flash lights and the lightings and even what models should wear or where they should stand. Shulman states his lighting method that "The subtle interplay of light and shadow on a building is "paint" an architectural photographer uses on his canvas of film."44 It can be argued that a house is a stage of living for people, therefore, to set up or render (mise en scène) a photography like Shulman represents a history of western architecture history since their history of performing arts and architecture has a close relationship. Shulman often involved models, his friends, inhabitants in his architecture photograph in order to achieve a drama of life to be true rather than simply showing a brutal photogenic object by itself. "Empty buildings are not for Shulman" writes Bainbridge.
In terms of providing a reality through rendered image like, a Shulman’s The Stahl House, Case Study House #22 might bring a controversial over whether it is a realism or a fiction. However, what exposes a reality of human is the photograph which captured the decisive moment and be documented as a documentary or a snapshot. Inserting people on the architectural photography blurs a border line between the realism, snapshots and setup rendered image, in another word, it blurs a border between a documentary and a fiction. An appearance of man renders another perspective to architectural space and its atmosphere. Man’s motion, man’s action and man’s visual line brings another will to the photograph. Man’s appearance itself indicates the presence of will. There happens to be another story whilst architecture itself seems to have one immovable story.
If the rendered architectural photography with man’s presence is considered to be a wind on the stage (architecture), it can be argued as man in the living picture. Shulman’s rendered models in a classical pose seemed to have a link to a relief of mural paintings. “Photography is a form of non-verbal communication.” Brian Reynolds COM 101: Principles of Communication, he explains that non-verbal cues are extremely influential and make up for a large amount of the perceived meaning in communicating. Reynolds states that nonverbal by means of using nonverbal cues has a huge role in communicating emotions.
An empty architectural photograph would not speak anything. It does not belong to a meaningful photograph or a successful photograph without a presence of real life. It is true that photography won’t bring readers a whole set of language what one wished to say. A photographic image becomes a communicative language when it comes with a package of visual + verbal. Today, architectural photography is losing an aesthetic of its functionality as non-verbal communicative medium. Or a challenge between architects, photographer and their photography has lost its primitive role as architectural photography whereas Shulman was demonstrating a life of California through his photographs. More importantly, Shulman made the images of integral coexisting of landscape and natural elements in order to accentuate the building drama and its purpose.
Shulman commented in his letter to an editor of Los Angels chapter of the American Institute of Architects in a response of pictures of recent award programme that," I observed the current issue and there was not one person in any of those photographs." and he adds " I thought architecture was for the people".
Exposed life: capturing a raw relationship with architecture and human habitation
While Shulman was establishing his way of approaching to a relationship between people and architecture, William Klein was pursuing another vision towards the relationship between places and people through his lens.
“I used photography to see what I could do to shake up representational, realistic photography because there was no real experimentation in that area like what was happing in the other art”.
Klein is known for his no taboos photographic technique of grain, contrast, blur, decomposition, accidents, "whatever happens." Klein was not intentionally shooting architecture or people itself in the city of New York, however, Klein's work on NEW YORK represents a real condition of the relationship between places and people. (236-237, A monster Third Avenue Elevated subway station) Klein comments " The El, an achievement when built, had become a headache and eyesore. Within more or less liveable Manhattan it was torn down. It's still up, however, in Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens." William Klein represents a local habitants in a city and he portrays the irrelevant moments which extracts the mystery of the city as a series of vibrant moments, "it was more like, a slap in the face. Hamilton argues that Klein's NEW YORK is not an ordinary travel picture book which shows a colour those who wanted to see the city in all its glory."54 In fact, NEW YORK was only published in France and it was never published in the States until 1995.
John Szarkowski argues that Klein's photography twenty years ago was way beyond standards, therefore it was not easy to understand. However, it expanded a language of photography in its representation what a reality of life can look like. “If you look carefully at life, you see blur. shake your hand. Blur is a part of life.”
“If you look carefully at life, you see blur. shake your hand. Blur is a part of life.”
Klein collects moments of the space in a fragmentary fashion. Gathered fragment of reality of life appears on Klein's photograph. Klein's anarchic mode of photography seems to come and go back between a reality and a fictional narratives of blur, grain and distortion. David Campany argues that " Klein has never made any pretence to objectivity but there is a deeper psychological realism." And he adds that Klein's photograph is like, set of galleries of characters. It is a collaborative theatre in the pictures.
Klein is also known as a fashion photographer commissioned by Vogue, Klein achieved his mode fashion photography in Paris which was backed by his knowledge of painting and architecture. He took models outside of studios and shot them on the street, under the natural light. Klein's models in the latest mode fashion were asked to stand still as a monument in front of real monument of architecture such as The Palais Garnier. "It almost seems like, models were dummies attached to a wing of a theatre stage" writes Imahashi. Klein's expression towards fashion was more of pursuing a monumentality and its coexistence with the cityscape. "Klein has never thought much of his fashion work". He was interested in photography. (woman from vogue)
Cityscape as a stage and models to represent mode. Klein explains his method that ‘shooting the girls in traffic and cityscape, seemed to give them the impression that I could invent and be a fashion photographer’. Klein was exposing a raw statement of architecture and people and building a various associations between places and people through his “Urban architectural mode photography” under the strict eye of editorial team of Vogue.
Role of photographer: forming a raw sensitivity without a standard
Today, an architecture criticism never happens without an architectural photograph. Therefore what promotes architecture is surely the photography and it is the most influential medium. "
<...> exposure to the public is a sensitive matter and frequently the dividends are significant."
To speak a role of architectural photography in a simple term, it should provide readers a condensed information. Which means to have a striking imagery is the most influential. Brad Yendle, an art director of Architects Journal writes in his response to an article 'Where have all the people gone" that there are many cases why those architecture photographs end up being empty. However, most of the times, main reason can be because it looks less messy or to avoid the space being imagined small. In another case is that photographers may want to sell it to other publishers.
Architect, Herman Hertzberger criticizes a flattened standard of conventional architectural photography being “cut oﬀ from life and unpeopled”. Elwall, in the discussion of Dutch photographer Johan Van Der Keuken's work, in his book “Building with Light, Elwall states that “pleaded for photography to concentrate on the ‘habitable space between things…to where ordinary day to day lives are lead…’”. Elwall comments on Keuken’s work, that this “new sensibility” is “well seen” .
Shulman argues that photographer's responsibility is to "show it the way it is" and regardless the weather and other things, photographer should accept the condition and carry on, just take photographs. He also argues that "the photograph would not necessarily be of the value towards projecting the architect's design intention."
Simon Kaene Cowell responses to Shulman's photography that Shulman's rendered image for Pierre Koenig’s Los Angeles Case Study House #22 is a drawn up ideal space of domestic and living. What Shulman sold here was that a fantasy of a contemporary space credited by the architect. Therefore, "in a word, It's propaganda".
A rendered photograph represents architecture as a fiction. However, it is a fact that a presence of people shows a nature of architecture clearly and a story comes along. On the other hand, architecture activates a functionality of a fiction and insert a moment into a daily life. In a review architect Sir William Holford criticized architectural photography that “Architecture becomes, not a background to people, but a series of studio portraits.”
Slight’s comment on The Photographic Journal that "things can not be true if it is not a fact. But truth in truth in art is like truth in ethics. A thing may be perfectly true to nature, without existing as a fact in nature; whilst on the other hand, it might have an existence, as a fact being without true to nature."
Daniel A. Novak, an author of Realism, Photography and Nineteenth-Century Fiction writes regarding representing "absent things" that photography functions as a form of realism to produce and record a form of non-existence as ideal fiction imagery through an abstraction, objectivity and imagination and he states that photography acknowledge and create a technology of narrative.
In a simple term, for most of photographers who wants to crop out a scene of architecture, a focus spontaneously shifts to architecture itself therefore existence of people can be just a distraction. Yet, presence of people is just like colours of our life. Regardless the purposes of media production, architectural photography is the only medium which has been imperturbably passing out an image of architecture to the world.
Since architectural photography has its role as a non-verbal source of knowledge for architects, historians, critics and those who follows architecture in their education, a narrative of architectural photography should be considered carefully. In the case of general architecture magazine, photographs on magazines are fatally expected to show a public the vivid surface of up-to-date trend and it has to change as the changes of the times. Yet, those images passed a filter of culture which had been selected, evaluated, approved and collected, it doesn't deliver dynamic changes in the fabric of society surrounding the architecture though it is fluidly delivering the images of latest superficially photogenic architecture.
"If, therefore, we look at the development of architectural photography less from the perspective of art appreciation and more from a viewpoint that seeks to explain how and why particular photographs were made, what audience they were intended to serve, and, crucially but often forgotten, how they reached that audience, then a diﬀerent story emerges. " Shulman argues an importance of photography and its responsibility is poorly recognised by the architects that "I learned that it was not unusual for architects to be incapable of placing their own design statements on film." In the modern society of consumption, just like a concept of minimalism, architectural photography is now fitting into a straightjacket and the spreading imagery is leading a conventional architecture design. On the other hand, it can be said, Mies Van der Rohe's famous quote "Less is more". By way of contrast, amidst such a situation, it can be said that an approach towards a production of architectural photography needs to reaﬃrm the significance and principles of human value and its essential part of relationship between places and people. By adopting an attitude of permissiveness to the sense of capturing raw can play in resolving increasingly serious common challenges that architectural photography faces.
Having a real-life and randomness allowed to come in and out of the frame, It would not bother readers and it is probably what architects need to face to take ideas into their own ideas otherwise city will become a collective of unpeopled architecture.
William Klein was seeing people and said "What is amazing is that all these people buy a camera and start using it and what they do are the most avant-garde things that no professional cameraman would dare to do."
What is this word that he said.
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Hippolyte G. (1839.) The Literary Gazette; and Journal of the Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences, &c. (London) No. 1147 (Saturday, 12 January 1839): 28. FINE ARTS. THE DAGUEROTYPE. Paris. p.28
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Slight. The Photographic Journal, Volume 10 Contributor Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, Published Mar. 16, 1865 Sir Robison,J. (1839) Notes on Daguerre’s Photography, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal (Edinburgh). p.155–57 The Building News, ( June, 1857) vol. 3, p.657
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The Many Lives of William Klein. BBC TV series. Episode aired 20 November 2012
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnN9LMvjM7Y> [accessed 6 March 2016] Talk: Star photographer William Klein & Gerry Badger -
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l93XQrGNigM> [accessed 6 March 2016]