0693 | Architecture Transformed | Cervin Robinson & Joel Herschman


I’m trying somehow to reconcile my love of architectural photography with the demands of the MA in Photography that I’m currently studying. I’m in the first year of three and, while I’ve so far completed five assignments, only one has actually focussed on architecture.

In order to try to help me merge the conceptual photography the MA is demanding of me and my existing skills shooting architecture, I’ve been trying to read as much as I can find about architectural photography.

I had hoped that this history would have given me some ideas of the concepts that helped form the development of architectural photography. Although the book is lavishly illustrated and the commentary is lengthy and covers about 150 years of examples, I gleaned very little of value from it.

While the book is engaging, they’re heavy on the historical examples of different styles but very light on the philosophies that drove their development. That’s where my interest lies and, arguably, it’s not really a history unless you can get at the underlying influences in more detail than they do.

Robinson and Herschman somewhat short-sightedly subtitled their work The History of the Photography of Buildings from 1839 to the Present. Their present was 1988. No one else’s is.

The influence of the 1980s is quite apparent firstly in the bizarre choice of format (11.25 x 12.5 inches) which makes it a real pain to hold and read. Furthermore, its entirely illustrated in black and white. This isn’t really a problem until you get to the last chapter which discusses the influence of colour photography. You know you’re on shaky ground when you have to tell your readers what the photos you’ve reproduced in monochrome look like in colour.

I also have a suspicion that the major conceptual influences on the photography of buildings took place pretty much straight after this was published as technology enabled archtitecture itself to be translated into vastly more conceptual forms (think Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid). Sadly, therefore, I didn’t get much from this.

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