The latest issue of Lenswork (#72) has some lovely images of Walt Disney Hall, designed by the famous Frank Gehry (he of the Bilbao Gugenheim). The other day I saw a lovely image of a spiral stairway and my first reaction was, what a wonderful photograph. My next reaction though was to note that it was clear the architect set up this view deliberately, the sweeping curves were there to be recorded.
So how much credit goes to the architect and how much to the photographer?
Bruce Barnbaums wonderful cathedral images only show what was built by artisans sometimes almost a thousand years ago. Should they get most of the credit? Well, I have been seeing cathedral pictures in one venue or another my whole life, from TV and magazines to photo books, and Bruce's are outstanding - so if most of the credit went to the builders, how come we didn't see the kind and quality of Bruce's images in the work of most of the photographers?
Frank Gehry chose that brushed stainless steel specifically for it's light reflecting properties. He'd already used it in previous projects and knew exactly how it would photograph - so do we discount entirely the images of Bilbao and Walt Disney Theatre?
Obviously there is technical skill in recording the images, but what about the framing of the image - deciding where the borders go, and what to focus on, where to stand and how to line things up? Does the photographer get any credit for choosing the perfect light and for making a rich image of wonderful tonalities? The architect makes an interesting three dimensional object and the translation into a really good two dimensional image of finite edges is a whole other art and I suspect that once a few obvious views of a building are made, anything new and good is likely to have earned a goodly share of the credit for the photographer.
What are your thoughts - is photographing architecture a poor cousin to real photography?