Yale student Kate McMillan joined the RIBA’s photographic exploration of the Alexandra Road Estate…
As photographer Andy Day brought up during the RIBA’s Run, Jump, Shoot public workshop last week, so much of architectural photography seems to depict “post-apocalyptic visions of empty worlds experiencing seemingly endless summers.” Why is this so? Through a discussion of the transformation of architectural photography paired with a hands-on photo shoot of the Alexandra Road Estate, London, participants had a chance to challenge this idea and leave with some fantastic photographs.
To kick off the session, participants met at 66 Portland Place, the RIBA’s headquarters, to hear presentations by Justine Sambrook (Curator, Robert Elwall Photographs Collection) and Andy Day whose photographic work focuses primarily on parkour and free running.
Justine spoke about the history of communal housing, connecting the buildings themselves to the changing standards of photographs at the time. Through photographs documenting housing estates such as Thamesmead, Park Hill, Ronan Point, and Alexandra Road, she explained how photography went from focusing on iconic, peopleless images, to more realistic depiction of buildings in use. Participants then had the chance to handle original photoprints (such as of Thamesmead, image above) from the Photographs Collection, normally held at the RIBA in humidity-controlled storage.
Andy followed by sharing his views on successful architectural photography. He used visual examples to emphasise key ideas such as:
- empty space
- converging horizontals
- geometric shapes
Central to this was the importance of people in architectural photography. Throughout the presentation he brought up a few interesting questions for participants to explore:
- are architects building for people or for other architects?
- how can the photographer incorporate people to capture more than just a “post-apocalyptic vision of empty worlds experiencing seemingly endless summers?”
- is the photographer’s job simply to document, or should they aim to make the piece more than just the building?
This was the challenge as participants headed off to Alexandra Road, a successful example of a public housing estate which, as we discovered, is still a vibrant community buzzing with activity. Photographers took the chance to capture the incredible views…
Overall, the day was a great success! Many thanks to the speakers and everyone who came.
The next RIBA workshop will be an opportunity to develop new approaches to drawing. Sky Walks and Slab Blocks takes place on 13 July 2013, it will take participants to the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle. Booking essential.