Telling a Story Through Architecture: Narrative Approaches to Architectural Photography

This article discusses the importance of a building’s facade in creating a good first impression and highlights the need for durability in the face of changing climate conditions.

Ask an architect to talk about their designs, and you’ll discover a multitude of interesting stories. From the tiniest nook to the grandest hallway, every space within the design will unfold a unique narrative that taps into the hidden depths of its spatial tapestry.

Narrative is crucial for designers, from materials to space, every aspect of a building can convey a story, and what better way to capture it than architectural photography? Architectural photography allows us to see beyond the mere depiction of a structure, capturing the emotion and character that defines it.

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever” Aaron Siskind, American photographer.

It is a great tool to communicate emotions, tell stories, and inspire action when applied to architecture. Therefore, we’ve asked multiple architects and designers to list down how architectural photography can help narrate different narrative approaches here in the blog, let’s get started!

Historical lineage in Architecture

There’s no denying that architecture is not only the product of its current time but a clear reflection of the cultural and historical values of society. It’s the physical manifestation of history that can be understood through photography by creating a narrative that conveys the same.

For instance, capturing photographs highlighting architectural details such as ornamentation and craftsmanship can provide a solid visual illustration of the building’s timeline. Many photographers narrow down their lens towards intricate stone carvings of a medieval cathedral rather than capturing the entire monument to express the age and evoke a sense of longevity.

Exploring the Emotional Connection: People

Architecture impacts human emotions in multiple ways. Where a compact space feels claustrophobic, a high-ceiling room can help alleviate that feeling by making one feel more open and vulnerable. By considering the emotional impact of the photography’s composition, an emotional narrative can feature people using the space. This can foster a sense of connectivity and community in the visuals.

Role of Functionality in Architecture: Lens and Angles

“How can I express the function of a space?’ is the most asked question by a photographer. Every space has a purpose or two. These functions can be highlighted through countless means. For example, a sports shoe showroom can be captured using different angles and perspectives to introduce a sense of flow and motion, allowing the function of athleticism to come into the foreground.

Giving an Identity: Elements

Any Google office photograph can be recognized within seconds, even without its logo, ever wondered why? Because almost all the photographs are captured to serve the narrative of the Google office. This happens through highlighting the bold colors, interactive graphics, collaborative workspaces, and showing advanced equipment to highlight the technological advancements of the company’s office space. The elements in photographs become reflective of the brand identity thereby creating a cohesive narrative.

The Beauty of Architecture: Lighting

One needs two skills for this approach—-technical and strong artistic skills. As the pursuit of aesthetics and beauty remains a central goal in architectural photography, it is important to know the player of the game i.e. the art of lighting. By strategically capturing light to create a contrast between light and shadow, the photography naturally becomes visually interesting. Lighting equally helps in accentuating the depth and texture of a photograph, creating more drama even to the plainest walls.

Resilience in Architecture: Challenges

It’s unquestionable that successful architecture has played a significant role in the resistance of marginalized communities. By documenting the raw realities of systemic oppression, poverty, discrimination, and other narratives of resilience, photographs have the power to reflect the challenges and draw more attention to these social justice movements.

These narrative approaches can prove to be a great help to larger society where it can initiate social activism, with architects and activists working collaboratively with marginalized communities to promote inclusivity and equity.

Credits: Architizer
Essence of Sacred Spaces

Churches, basilicas, temples, and mosques are long-standing proofs that architecture is intertwined with sacredness and spirituality. Architects have used the power of design to inspire the feeling of the divine, providing a framework to practice the dogma. Snapping symbols, transcripts, metaphors, and other design elements can communicate spiritual ideas.

Some man-made design features, such as colorful stained glass windows, detailed carvings, and mosaics, can characterize scenes from religious transcripts and convey spiritual themes. Additionally, some natural features like light, water, and biophilic presence can also evoke a peaceful and meditative environment.

Climate Change Through Design Lens

Lastly, as architecture plays a pivotal role in both causing and mitigating the effects of climate change, it would be unfair to overlook this relationship. It is essential that we explore it through the means of photography. For example, capturing architecture’s intersection with the natural landscape can depict the effects between the built environment and the surrounding landscape.

Subsequently, photographs can also document the urgency to design architecture that can withstand the extreme effects of climate change. Photographs could also find narratives that show the eco-friendly design of green buildings, thus showing architecture’s commitment to harmonizing with the environment and representing a sense of responsibility.

 

Giving justice to unique stories through architectural photography requires a keen eye for details, a deep appreciation for design and people in architecture, and of course, the attitude of unlearning to learn. The willingness to experiment and push the creative boundaries of architectural photography can challenge our own expectations.

Ultimately, narrative approaches to architecture allow us to see the built environment beyond being just functional. It adds a layer of richer, more diverse visual storytelling for understanding and appreciating the architecture around us.

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Estefania was very kind and professional to work with. A little difficult for the different local times to work with different artists but they put great effort to sort the problems out but it could end up with some delays. All the renders were very good in the end. thanks again

Pasquale Pinto
Redfish Design