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  • Jon Longworth

My Focus in Architectural Photography

Since a very early age when I first started photographing, I had always been interested in photographing environments. My parents would give me disposable cameras whenever we went anywhere nice, and I would often use up roll after roll in these spaces. It was all drivel mind you, as you would expect from a 6-7 year old child, but the concepts were there, manifesting at that early age.

As well as this, I have always had a sensory thing when it comes to light. It is everywhere after all. I've always had that interest in how light reacts, and how our environments react to light. There isn't a wider discussion to be had about how this light reacts, it simply is. And whilst I have a immense passion for documentative photography, architectural photography is the one that comes easiest to me. But that'll be discussed in another post.

This is what photography is to me, its a reactionary thing. How light reacts to brick, to metal, how light shines through fabrics. Whilst there needs to a discussion there to talk about those larger themes, it is very rare that you'll go into a project completely ready to talk about everything that you want to talk about. Instead you'll photograph your chosen spaces, and then make observations from it.

So onto architecture photography. I had photographed buildings from time to time before University and during my first year, but I never really photographed to any kind of further extent. Then in second year, we had Dan Hopkinson, a guest speaker, come in. I was immediately drawn to his work. This was in large part due to the usage of natural lighting. A lot of other guest speakers tended to focus on stuff that delved more into the realms of commercialism and fashion photography, and whilst they can produce some incredible pieces of work, I struggle with that usage of controlled light, and therefore struggled to relate to their pieces on any personal level.

Secondly, Hopkinson's work felt neutral in its messaging. Buildings are inherently political devices after all. They are a result of arts movements, which are in turn, reactions to the cultural and political climate. But I found his work, in a sense, devoid of that. It didn't feel like it was trying to impose and inflict any form of messaging on me. Maybe it was, but I never felt like there was. During that day, where we were asked to go and shoot the Barbara Hepworth building, I found myself feeling incredibly involved in the shoot. It felt like a nice change of pace to purely observe what was there, rather than use the space to imprint larger concepts onto it.

In addition, I have always had an issue with photographing people. Not with work along the lines of planned portraiture. My type of photography has always been more in the open in public spaces, which results in a lot of street photography. The only issue is that, by themselves, the photos have non meaning, no concept, just purely an observation of the people in these public spaces. But the moment they have to included in a project, these personalities are suddenly projected onto them, whether they like it or not. The larger themes of a project effect these blank personalities that you have shot and that is something I have never entirely agreed with. This is why I have such an interest in public buildings. No one is having these false identities or concepts imprinted upon them, it is just a pure connection between the photographer and the building, and how that photographer chooses to interpret these buildings. Obviously context is given to these buildings at a later stage, but it feels like a very different experience to applying context to people.

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