Architecture & Photography

Review: Photography

Constructing Worlds:
Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age

25 Sept – 11 Jan 2015, Barbican Art Gallery, London

d3e295b7-ffa0-413c-af09-b7b4ea9b275c-1020x812click on any image to enlarge.

00067d7b-2359-4149-bbd6-2b9c2bda729d-336x420This is a great photography exhibition. It was publicised as being about architectural photography. It isn’t. Not quite.

I generally do not enjoy much of current architectural photography as much of it is about working in a style that is demanded by the architectural professions. The usual architectural professional exhibitions contain carefully crafted photographs, some often played with and altered, to present a very clinical view of the wonders of their so-called architectural creations.

Usually the photographs are accompanied by loads of technical drawings and stuff. All this may be of interest to the architectural types, but for the rest of us it a yawn and waste of time and effort to attend such exhibitions.

Such exhibitions, often the award-winning exhibitions, are put together by marketing people who know little about audience but know a lot about how to please their client, the architectural profession. This is why the architectural professions love them as they are about self congratulations. However the general public simply stay away as they know that they are not the target audience despite the superficial and shallow spin by the well paid promoters.

Back to this exhibition. There were a couple of photographers who worked closely with architects here. The difference was that the photographer had control of the artwork. In these cases the images were strong and wonderful and were a reminder of the benefits of not allowing those narrow-minded folk in the architectural professions to control the images that photographers can produce. It is called having respect for another profession; the photographers.

cd0c9085-eae7-481e-ad81-2184a4304d6d-1020x835In London in early November, we jumped of the tube between appointments and went in to see this exhibition. It was far better than the promotions had let on. The spaces had been especially designed and the photographers on exhibition had separate rooms to exhibit their works.

The photographers were not all the usual suspects of photographers who are tied to the architectural professions. Most of these were real artists and their work related in various ways to urban environments and architecture. there was a lot to take in and it was all pleasurable.

220f4f0d-c147-40cf-9888-f602892cdd11-1020x804The list includes:  Berenice Abbott, Iwan Baan, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Hélène Binet, Walker Evans, Luigi Ghirri, Andreas Gursky, Lucien Hervé, Nadav Kander, Luisa Lambri, Simon Norfolk, Bas Princen, Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Julius Shulman, Thomas Struth, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Guy Tillim.

All were represented with some beautifully chosen works. This is not necessarily about architecture (thank god!). This  exhibition was a well curated exhibition about photography, about images, and about the subject.

Have you get the message yet? This exhibition is about some wonderful works by some very talents photographic artists.

Barbican-P1080602Yep, I very much liked this exhibition and the manner in which it was curated. I also noted how apt it was that this exhibition was being shown within the Barbican – a place of architectural interest. That’s my photo of the Barbican to the right.

On  a quiet Sunday morning, the exhibition was busy. The were many people taking a lot of time with individual images as they made their way around this vast and well curated exhibition. Full congratulations to the curators, to the Barbican gallery, and of course to the artists.

The promotions for this exhibition emphasized the focus on architectural subject matter at the expense of the appreciation of the photographs as artifacts. In talking about this exhibition to friends, I realised that they had been put off the exhibitions because of the slightly misleading advertising. I think I convinced them that it was definitely worth the effort to spend an hour or two wandering through and enjoying the exhibition.

My regret is that I did not make the opportunity to revisit the exhibition before we left London.

Here are some of the pictures – click here. and note that all the images on this linked page can be enlarged using the double arrow in the right hand corner of each image.

Recommended: rating 10/10

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Paul Costigan

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