Architecture and Photography

To celebrate world photo day, we reflect on the role photography plays in capturing architecture.



The ability to capture the atmosphere of a building in one shot is a talent. Great images not only require great architecture but also a talented photographer. For years we have worked with many talented photographers, two of which have captured our most iconic work. Kate Joyce (Kate Joyce Studios) and Steve Hall (Hedrich Blessing) have been invaluable contributors to our process. Each has an eye for analyzing a buildings relation to the community, the landscape, the city, the sun and the people who inhabit it. This contextualization is considered during the design process but only fully realized when a space is immortalized in an image.

“Steve and I started together. I was a new architect, he was a new photographer. Since then, our explorations chronicle and celebrate our mutual passion for space. When I see Steve’s images of our work it always reinvigorates me and I rededicate myself to making architecture that improves the quality of our lives. I will always owe a lot to Steve’s creativity and persistence. He is a good friend and a great photographer.

Kate’s work is like poetry. It tells a story in a way that can be startling and familiar at the same time. She makes it look easy, but I know from personal experience it never is. An artist who happens to photograph, she makes me see new things, both heroic and subtle, in the world. Anything she agrees to shoot will be totally memorable and provocative.” – Carol Ross Barney, FAIA.

Architecture thrives on experience and archival imagery, these two are inextricably linked yet inter dependent. The physical experience of a place is more dynamic than can ever be captured in a photograph, but the service of imagery is to inspire and create emotion.

Great buildings are more than just a finished photo, they are living, ever changing environments; preferred and beloved spaces to work, live, and think. When we bring in a photographer to capture a project, we send them a set of design ideas and areas we would like to focus on. We then allow them to go out and explore. We choose not to force them to capture our intended areas; we instead let the building speak to them. They visit many times throughout the day, observing the light, shadows, and interaction of users.

Finding the right angle or view offers a challenge that only the best photographers can overcome. When you experience a space, your field of vision is wide and three dimensional. The lens of a camera will never be able to fully mimic this in a two dimensional way. Even cinematography struggles to catalog enough pixels to bring a space to life. We find many times, that our photographers end up perched like birds on the railing of a staircase, capturing a unique angle of a gathering space; or among the leaves in a landscape to show the buildings relation to the sky, horizon, and surrounding environment; or quietly sitting in an urban space, camera at the ready to catch a couple holding hands and enjoying a magical moment. While some might argue that these are superficial views that can never be experienced by a user, we believe they are masterful two dimensional interpretations of what your experience of a space is.

These observations are pivotal in finding that right moment when a building/ space can shine, or reflect the most serene of settings, or the liveliest inhabitation. No frozen moment is right or wrong, they serve to document the unexpected life of a space for others to ponder. These results are sometimes startling, but we find them compelling and invigorating.

So on this day, we celebrate world photo day with a nod of appreciation to the photographers who have brought our buildings to life. Thank you Kate and Steve for offering your talents and skills, you have forever immortalized our projects as icons.

Origins of World Photo Day

“The date behind World Photo Day originates from the invention of the Daguerreotype, a photographic processes developed by Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre in 1837. On January 9, 1839, The French Academy of Sciences announced the daguerreotype process. A few months later, on August 19, 1839, the French government purchased the patent and announced the invention as a gift “Free to the World”.

It should be noted that the Daguerreotype wasn’t the first permanent photographic image. In 1826, Nicèphore Nièpce captured the earliest known permanent photograph known as ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’ using a process called Heliography.”