Friday, November 27, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 11-27-2015

The old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words," is true for me.  A picture tells me a story.  The story may be personal, newsworthy, romantic, scary, but nonetheless, whatever the subject, there is a tale to spin.  The photographer views a subject and captures forever its impression by snapping the shutter. The impression is always part of the narrative I weave around the photograph, mine and other images I look at. 

When I look at photographs I like to think about the befores and afters.  What happened prior to the photo's being taken and what transpired subsequently.  This is how I approach taking photographs as well.  Was the old temple abandoned decades or hundreds of years ago?  Who worshiped there?   Did the noodle maker always cook or was he formerly crafting something different to sell? Does he love noodles or is this simply a livelihood?  These and many other aspects of the story are the thoughts that intrigue me.  This is why I take pictures: to tell stories. 

Temple: Delhi, India

Noodle-maker: Jaipur, India

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Art of Architectural Architecture 11-19-2015

I love architecture.  One of my majors in college was architectural drawing.  I spent 7+ years as an architectural draftsman.  I photograph architecture.  I guess I'm really into architecture.  So much so that sometimes I put the most important part of architecture on the back burner of my mind: people.    It is the people's creativity, wants and needs that produce architecture.  Without people, architecture may survive; however, if people do not look at or appreciate what remains of architecture, what is the point?

I told my friend sculptor Simon Rigg that I was going to India to see and experience the architecture.   I was told by this world traveler: "Ellen, the people ARE the architecture of India."  I mulled that over before my trip, not understanding.  When I got to India, my first trip to Asia, I got it immediately.  The architecture in India: temples, state buildings, houses, structures big and tiny are creations of the people of India.  The religious beliefs, cultural heritage, economic struggles, and very lives of Indians are clearly evident in the architecture; in everything. And so, my perceptions altered and reevaluated, I took pictures of the people, too.  The architecture reflects a culture so layered, textured and stunning, it takes my breath away.  Too, the people I saw, met and conversed with gave me a new perspective for which I am truly grateful.

Villager: Udaipur, India

Temple: Udaipur, India

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 10-14-2015

In preparing for a trip to India, I'm emptying my small Epson Multimedia Storage Viewer of the photographs I took on my last overseas journey.  That was in 2014 when I ventured to Germany.  I don't recommend storing images in a device for years; however, I backed up the Germany images shortly after returning home. I just hated to delete them right away because I had such a wonderful time.  And so the jpegs and raw images remained in the Viewer all this time.  And now, looking at the pictures I took many months ago, I am once again captivated by the sights I saw in Berlin, Potsdam, Munich, Ulm, Dersden and the other cities where I stayed.  The medium of photography allows us to vividly revisit the past with an immediacy that is breathtaking.  Each image I see on the screen perfectly captures the time, colors, scenery, people and essential perception of a past encounter.  Whether I snapped the shutter yesterday or years ago, for me the moment comes back fresh and intact.

Another way to keep time in a bottle is by using the app Instagram.  I have a good deal of pleasure in taking photos with my iphone and posting on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It is a quick and fun way to share what I observe and that which attracts me.  Instagram provides an opportunity to instantly relate to other photography lovers and the give and take is not only enjoyable but a learning mechanism.  Right away, I am critiqued by others and in turn I can see great shots continuously.  Always fascinated by the immediacy of photography, I realize that technology has created a new time frame that will continue to speed up as new apps, like Instagram, evolve.

Having deleted all of my Germany files from my Viewer, I look forward to filling the Viewer with new images of India.  But the two need not be mutually exclusive.  The fresh look of the images I took a couple of years ago appeal to me in the same way they did when I was right there.  Recently, using Instagram has encouraged me to look for pattern in my images more than ever before. Thus another positive aspect of using the app.  To that end, when I came across this interior photograph, I was taken with the patterns and the darks and lights. Abstracting photography into shapes, patterns and darks and lights is a wonderful way to visualize architecture.  Instagram, with its lightening speed, is a remarkable tool for abstracting areas of buildings.  Using the app has made me even more aware of the individual parts of an image.  This one was taken with a Canon Mark II, but lends itself to my recent design inclinations. And, through the photography medium, the image transports me right back to Berlin!  Instantly!

                                                      Sepia Architectural Photography
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Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 10-3-2015

Photography has become so much a part of our culture that it is incorporated into almost every aspect of daily life.  Who does not have a camera and multiple devices, tablet iphone, et. al. to record not only vacations and special occasions but trips to the mall, candy wrappers in the street and cups of coffee!  For billions, Instagram has become a wonderful way of communicating the moment to moment way we live to people all over the world.  I, too play with Instagram, taking pictures of the momentous and the mundane.  Usually I convert to black and white in my Instagram photography because monochrome is my medium of choice.  Currently I have no real sepia application for Instagram, although I'm sure I will begin to download many Instagram apps soon.

Yet, once in a while I find a subject out of my realm of architectural photography that is so breathtaking that it takes me completely by surprise.  Instagram, my cameras and any other gear I have cannot capture the image in my mind let alone on a device.  Such was yesterday as we drove through Crawford Notch, NH on Route 302.  This was not my first view of the Notch as I have traveled this road for decades.  However, the sight of early foliage and the chill (about 45 degrees) in the air gave the experience a pictorial quality that was entrancing and nostalgic: far beyond my own life, I could imagine the forest primeval.  Once in a while a view captivates me so that it is difficult to decide on how to present it.  And so I have it in color, sepia and black and white photography.  Each has ts own life.  Each conveys what I saw at the top of Crawford Notch in early Autumn. 

                                                                Color Photography
                                                                  Sepia Photography
                                                            Black and White Photography

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 9-22-2015

There are some who favor stillness in their lives, in the arts and even in the weather.  I love motion.  In all aspects of my waking hours ( I DO favor a quiet sleep!), I like to feel that things are moving around me.  The swirl of people; the feel of the wind; rolling waves, all appeal to my personal tempo.  When looking at a still mirror lake, I am most fascinated by an errant bubble rising to the surface or a moving cloud sliding across the reflection. Movement gives stillness life for me. 

Perhaps my passion for movement was the impetus for my fascination with elevators.  Or was it that I grew up in a single family house?  Down the street from my childhood home was a six-story apartment building with an elevator.  The apartment building was a simple brick rectangular structure, but to me it was a portal to fantasy: elevator rides.  I loved the sliding steel doors with their magical silvery glow.  As they swished open, I would quickly glance left and right to make sure no one else was going up.  Then, as the doors hissed closed, I merrily pressed every floor button on the panel.  In those days they were black projecting circles with white etched numbers on them.  A single strip of fun for a little girl.  The fan shaped dial would indicate the floors with an arrow shaped arm that pointed to numbers: 1, 2, 3 and so on.  It was a great activity until the "super" or a tenant caught me and I was ousted for the rest of the day.

Many of the elevators of my childhood were simple steel or wooden door affairs with little decoration.  However, on trips to Brooklyn's downtown shopping or Manhattan's department stores or hotels, I was awe struck by the magnificent brass paneled elevator doors.  All sorts of imagery graced these stunning elevators housed in ornate lobbies. Many are gone now.  Progress.  Recently I went into a midtown NYC hotel and found the lobby so changed I hardly recognized it.  Yet, the elevators were still there.  An entire bank of gleaming brass door, intricately designed to delight the eye and add elegance to surroundings. To invite the visitor into a special place of sophistication and luxury. This elevator door tells the story of another age.  I still love riding in elevators (Today I rarely press every floor button!), but to ride in one like this is to enter a yesteryear of artistry and style.

                                                      Sepia Architectural Photography

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Monday, September 7, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 9-8-2015

Amusement parks hold a special fascination and pleasure for me.  As a child, growing up in Brooklyn, I loved our trips to Steeplechase in Coney Island.  My brothers and I each had a favorite ride and we would challenge each other to see who could ride the ride the most times.  The eponymous Steeplechase ride, wooden horses that wound their way around and above the park on a track with only a thin strap to keep the rider safe, was my particular thrill.  I would ride the ride 10+ times before the afternoon trip wound down, waving my arms in the air, looking at the people below, feeling the freedom and lightness that joyful and daring adventures bring.  The ride dynamics also intrigued me.  Why did the track dip here?  How did the horses stay on the track?  Was the boarding platform close enough to the horses?  Thus began my passion for and captivation with amusement parks and rides.

This summer I was delighted to visit a few amusement parks.  Anew, I looked at the rides with great interest.  The design, construction, architecture, engineering of the rides are as important as the building of any structure; however, unlike constructing a building, the rides are in constant motion, must provide a thrilling and or pleasing sensation and ultimately, safety is essential.  These exquisite features of the park are perhaps some of the most complex and wonderful architecture that exist.  Gems of functionality and eye appeal, rides are often overlooked in their superb craftsmanship and development that are required to provide a good time while keeping riders safe.  Next time you are near an amusement park, state fair, carnival or other event, look at the rides:  engineering and architecture seamlessly joined as one.

                                                Black and white architectural photography

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Art of Architectural Photography 8-10-2015

Amazingly, and I do not use that word lightly, New York City is still a treasure trove of architectural details.  The juxtaposition of old and new architecture in the CITY is often jarring, especially when no attempt is made to reconcile building style or even purpose within an area.  Take for example a row of brownstones c. 1900 and, end the visual line with a glass and metal cube bank or drug store.  The brownstones are graceful with ornamentation of stylized designs around the windows and doorways.  There are stately columns with carved capitols at the entryway and intricate wrought iron or sculpted stone railings.  Then the eye is diverted to a recently erected antiseptic glass structure lacking any sort of character other than a business logo.

NYC once encapsulated elegance in architecture and architectural detail.  Materials were freely used and lavished with ornamentation.  Several reasons caused the rise of relatively inexpensive ornament-free structures in recent years.  Practically speaking, the City has grown enormously and the need for workable space with it.  The artfully constructed buildings of the past are now deemed (perhaps rightfully) inefficient in offering maximum space and acceptable technology logistics. Cost is a prevailing factor in almost all construction decisions today.  In yesteryear there was apparently money to spend and much thought given to the look of the City.  It seems that today people with the purse strings are looking only at the bottom line.  Finally, the master masons, sculptors, craftsmen and artisans are not the legions they once were.  The waves of immigrants seeking a new life in New York in the 1800's and early 1900's no longer bring their expertise in artistic building with them to the City.  And those whose grandparents or great-grandparents were artisans have rarely followed in their ancestors' footsteps.

When I chance upon architecture beautified with architectural detail, I stop to reflect, with respect, on the marvelous past that New York City enjoyed in its architecture and design.  And, once in a while I will be buoyed by a new building that hosts my eye to the pleasures of exquisite architecture, art and craft.   

 Black and white architectural photography

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