Three Adelaide Photographers on the Art of Shooting Buildings

Architectural practices are known for their latest project and these works are able to be appreciated by a wider public thanks to photographers.

We put three of South Australia’s busiest architectural photographers David Sievers, Sam Noonan and Peter Barnes into the frame to ask what it takes to capture a great photograph of iconic architectural projects.

How do you see your role as a photographer to be used to communicate a building’s interior?

Sievers: The basic principle of architectural photography is to interpret the building or space into striking compositions that also complement the design story. While it is important to document a project we really get a kick out of celebrating it. I hope the images make people want to go and see the project themselves, get excited about it, all while making the architect or designer proud of what they have achieved.

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David Sievers, Drill Core Reference Library

Barnes: An architectural photographer’s primary job to create images that both attract the viewer and explain the space or the building. It involves finding the emotion or drama in a building and communicating that in a way that entices a closer look. Photographs can become an important record of our built environment, a way of communicating to others who can’t visit a building, because they are too far away, or because the building has gone.

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Peter Barnes, Adelaide Convention Centre

Noonan: I carefully observe and then interpret and visually translate the work through images, allowing the viewer an understanding of the architecture, to feel the space – more than just documentation. To create refined images that are relevant to my clients, representing their design with sensitivity and respect. Images can also provide access, to interiors in particular – often people will only experience a project through images.

architectural-photography-swanbury-penglase-sam-noonan-adelaide-reviewSam Noonan, MM Building and The Plasso by John Wardle Architects in association with Swanbury Penglase Architects

What do you think makes a good building photograph?

Sievers: Every project is different, so what makes a good photograph is dependent on the project. That said, I have always admired simple yet striking images. The ability of a simple composition slapping someone in the face to take notice should be the aim. Whether the drama is introduced by light, repetition or scale is dependent on the project.

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David Sievers, Southern Fleurieu Health Services

Barnes: A good photograph of a building is one that attracts attention, apart from pure documentation there is not much use for a dull photograph. But it also has to explain the building in an honest way, to attempt to give the viewer a visual experience not far removed from being there. A third important element is showing how the building relates to the world around it. If you can get all three in the one image – emotion, explanation and context then you’ve got a hero shot.

architectural-photography-adelaide-oval-peter-barnes-adelaide-reviewPeter Barnes. Adelaide Oval

Noonan: An image that transports you to that building helps you understand the space. I like images that work on more than one level. Has it been well-considered with the key elements just right – composition, light, timing, people skilfully placed? A fresh view and technically excellent also come to mind.

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Sam Noonan, Tonsley Main Assembly Building and Pods by Woods Bagot and Tridente Architects

What is the most important or challenging aspect of photographing buildings?

Sievers: Light. The ever-important most appropriate time of day. Without the right conditions and timing you are simply creating a record for someone. A lot of projects have that time of day that makes it sing. So the most important thing to me is finding that time.

architectural-photography-drill-core-reference-library-david-sievers-adelaide-reviewDavid Sievers, Drill Core Reference Library

Barnes: For exterior photographs, it is discovering how your subject responds to natural light, and predicting how that response will change with time of day, time of year and different weather conditions. The building is stuck where it is, the light has to come to it, and you have no control over that; all you can do is be there at the right time with the right gear pointed in the right direction. It’s finding that point where natural light and the built form interact best that is both the challenge and the delight of architectural photography.

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Peter Barnes, SAHMRI Building

Noonan: I strive to create definitive images, ultimately each image has its own requirements.

architectural-photography-bridge-house-sam-noonan-adelaide-reviewSam Noonan, Bridge House, Max Pritchard Architect

instagram.com/sam_noonan_photo
fotografo.com.au
davidsievers.com

Header image: Peter Barnes, SAHMRI Building

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