The mainstream architectural photography genre that create photographs intended for presentation and marketing purposes of architectural spaces and products, generally interpret their subjects in the triangle of mass-volume-material. In those photographic representations, the architectural spaces are reflected with their most hygienic state, purified of the users and the usages/extensions that daily life necessitates. The actual users of those spaces are mostly excluded in these photographs or included in a limited number, just to strengthen the sense of space and scale.  These kinds of photographs that choose to reflect the spaces purified of their users are far from expressing the soul of those buildings. It is likely to quote this sense of purification from Walter Benjamin’s observations on Eugene Atget’s documentary images of Paris in 1900’s: “…They are not lonely, merely without mood; the city in these pictures looks cleared out, like a lodging that has not yet found a new tenant.”[1]

Those photographs are driven away from reality more, with digital interventions applied to the essence of the image, like perspective correction and alike. Consequently, there is usually a huge gap between the impact that a building’s photographs make on the viewer and the feeling one gets when he actually sense the building itself.

The mainstream architectural photography reflecting its subjects flawlessly, not only detach the architectural product/ space from reality, but also serve to the purpose of transforming them into objects of desire for consumer society while legitimizing them.

It is already a hard task to express architecture within limited, two-dimensional character of photography, whereas, beyond its four dimensions, architecture has characteristics that appeal not only to five senses of the human being, but to his sixth sense and imagination as well. The mainstream architectural photography genre is often inadequate to reflect the many dimensions and real potential of architecture. What is missing in those photographs is “sincerity”. This lack of sincerity may derive as a result of inefficient effort of the photographer in conceiving the real potential of the space or can be a conscious choice in order to serve for the marketing and legitimation purposes of the client.

In reality, what makes an architectural product succesful besides the proper operation of the building in its planned function, alongside its aesthetics quality is the positive contribution it makes to the lives of its users, mentally and physically. To achieve “sincere” architectural photographs, one should have a devotion and skill to experience the architectural space with all its dimensions and narrate this experience via two-dimensional world of photography.

What does “Archilifography”[2] propose?

  • The starting point for “archilifography” is the recognition that human is the subject, not the object; the headliner not the walker-on, in both architecture and its photographic representation.
  • The photographic recording of the buildings in ideal lighting and weather conditions to ensure its aesthetical acceptance by the onlooker, is considered to be insufficient in expressing the essence of architecture. Architecture is not a trinket; as F.L.Wright remarked, it is “life”, “or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life…”. “Archilifography” aims at speaking for architecture beyond its physical presence with all its dimensions focusing on its inseparable unity with the life evolving within. The following methods are proposed for this purpose:
  1. How architectural space is used and how it determines/ transforms the life within and around will be experienced in a participatory manner by a photographer who has observation skills, having awareness and preferably a notion of architecture. The documentation of some informal usages and the interplay of the users with architecture, is the keystone of “archilifography” in perceiving and transmitting the soul of the architectural creation.
  2. In order to reflect reality in the best possible way, the architectural product/space will not be photographed just from the perfect angle in perfect lighting conditions, but will be recorded from different angles, in different hours of the day and even in different climatic conditions. Especially the periodic impacts of daylight at interiors and exteriors will try to be reflected with all its reality. To express the fourth dimension “time”, some process-oriented techniques like ‘time lapse’ may be utilized.
  3. The level of optical and digital treatments (like perspective/lens correction) will be kept minimum not to lose the sense of reality. The camera equipments will also be selected accordingly. But the photographer will be free to interpret his sense of that architectural space, regarding imagination triggering qualities of architecture that is in question.
  • The architectural space is aimed to be photographed mostly while it is being used by actual users, meanwhile respecting their privacy. The main goal is to discover the soul of the architectural space and the life within, and transmit to photographs with all its reality. There will not be any stranger ‘models’ and the nature of the interior and exterior furnishing and equipments will be kept as they are, to a higher degree, without being re-arranged.[3]
  • In accordance with the related publisher media, to support the reality of the  expression of sense of space, suggestions for supplementary documentation[4]  to express the characteristics of the space to correspond to other senses of the audience will be considered.

Looking for “brave” architects, investors/ owners and architectural media…

“Archilifography” intends to re-discover the power of architecture in its most realistic state and become a powerful tool in sharing architectural evolution with the people who does not have the opportunity to actually experience it.

For “archilifography” to flourish,there is a need for brave architects who can stand behind the live performance of their designs, brave owners and users that will not hesitate to be a part of the photographic process with their real lives and brave architectural media that can give an opportunity to this alternative visual documentation of architecture.

Are you one of those?

[1] Benjamin, W. (1979): One-Way Street. London: New Left Books, 1979, p.250-251

[2] All the naming rights belong to “Sena Ozfiliz Visual Documentation of Architecture”. Can not be used without permission.

[3] The traces of real life will not be eliminated.

[4] Like sound recordings, collecting textures etc.


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