Architectural photography remains an intensely personal enterprise, and today’s top photographers each have their own approach. RECORD spoke to a number of photographers—as well as architects—to learn how they like to work. Despite their varied moods and methods, they are all devoted to the enormous challenge of capturing not only the details of architecture but expressing the experience of space and scale.


Click the thumbnails below to read more about each person’s process.

<br><h9>National Museum of African American History and Culture by Adjaye Associates <br>Washington, D.C., photo by Nic Lehoux, 2017</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>NIC LEHOUX</strong><br>
Photographer based in Seattle<p>   </p>Images are meant to open up a conversation.
For the first 15 years, I shot on 4x5 film, with
complex lighting—hot lights and strobes;
technically, they were very involved shoots. I
still have that in my DNA and apply some of
those techniques in my current work. But
I’ve always had a strong sensitivity to street
photography; some of my heroes are documentary
and war photographers, people who
are looking to capture the soul of the culture
we live in. It was harder to bring these instincts
into 4x5 film work. However, the use
of medium-format digital—I use Arca-Swiss
and Fuji GFX cameras with an assortment of
esoteric German lenses and filters adapted
from the cinema industry—has given me the
freedom to be more exploratory and experimental
in how I approach architecture with
people. At the same time, there’s a new openness
on the part of my clients, who more and
more are willing to have me tell almost a
social story through their buildings.<p>   </p>My compositions are extremely rigorous:
no excessively wide angles, always very concise
one-point perspectives, very sectional
and elevational in composition, and then I
break this rigor visually by mixing in the
theater of people in the public space. It’s
about setting the proper composition and
then waiting for the natural ballet of people
to enter the space at the decisive moment.
Sometimes the shot is done in 30 seconds,
and sometimes it takes 45 minutes. I want to
capture people enthralled by the space, as
well as the subtleties of the space itself. Why
are people captivated? What is magical about
this space? The result is a studied composition
with an incredible natural looseness of
people in the space. We’re lucky to be in an
era where architecture is particularly interesting,
aren’t we?</h6>
<br><h9>Poetry Foundation by John Ronan Architects

<br>Chicago, photo by James Florio, 2017</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>JOHN RONAN</strong><br>
John Ronan Architects, Chicago<p>   </p>
When I’m choosing a photographer, I look for someone who “gets” the firm’s work and values. And I look for someone who’s easy to work with, since I am typically on-site with the photographer for the entire shoot, which can go on for several days. We tend to shoot a building periodically while it’s under construction, for project documentation and marketing purposes. Usually, we wait to shoot the finished building until after it is open and people are using it. Since a theme of our work is the integration of the building and site, I like to shoot at different times of the year, to show how the character and atmosphere of the spaces change from season to season. And after the building has been open for about a year, I will send in a “people” photographer to get candid shots of how people actually use the building; these photos tend to be more relaxed and genuine than the more formal building photos that typically show up in the design press. Another major theme that runs through my work is spatial layering, which is sometimes difficult to capture in a photograph (easier in a video). For photographs, I try to get figures in the foreground, mid-ground, and background to help communicate the layering; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.</h6>
<br><h9>LeFrak Center at Lakeside by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects <br>Brooklyn, photo by Michael Moran, 2013</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>BILLIE TSIEN</strong><br>
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, New York<p>   </p>We have worked primarily with photographer
Michael Moran. We admire his work and his eye
and value his friendship. He knows the kinds of
images we most appreciate: they are often frontal
and stable rather than diagonal and dramatic.<p>   </p>
They do not attempt to replace experiencing the
work firsthand. We also love the images that we
find on Instagram or Flickr—just people enjoying
themselves in spaces we have made. We are looking
for the play of light, the change of seasons, and
the sense of inhabitation. At most, we hope that a
hint of what it might feel like to be there is transmitted.
Our best work is the least photogenic.</h6>
<br><h9>National Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron<br>Beijing, photo by Iwan Baan, 2007</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>IWAN BAAN</strong><br>
Photographer based in Amsterdam<p>   </p>I don’t like to be thought of as an architectural photographer. My
background is in using photography to tell stories about people and
places. Since I met Rem Koolhaas 13 years ago, I’ve been surrounded
by architects and architecture, but my way of doing photography
hasn’t really changed. Buildings and cities are the backdrops now, but
I’m still focused on how people live.<p>   </p>
Even with a building I don’t like, I can still tell an interesting story.
For example, I don’t find the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the
world, particularly interesting, but the context—a row of buildings
rising out of the desert, with one trying to be taller than the others—
is compelling. I recently shot two projects by Herzog & de Meuron.
One is a cultural center in Hong Kong, in an incredibly dense setting.
The other is a large new development near Moscow, in a vast, open
landscape. The contexts couldn’t be more different.<p>   </p>
I divide my time between commissioned work and longer-term
projects. Tatiana Bilbao and I have just completed a collaboration with
11 universities in the U.S. and Mexico in which we looked at various
issues involving the border. It will be a book from Lars Müller and an
exhibition at Yale—both called <em>Two Sides of the Border</em>.<p>   </p>
I use Canon 35-millimeter handheld cameras with a range of lenses.
I don’t use tilt-shift lenses very much, because they’re about taking a
building out of context and framing it perfectly, which is exactly what
I don’t want to do. I use my iPhone a lot—I have more than 130,000
followers on Instagram—and I can’t wait for the day when the phone
is all I need to carry.</h6>
<br><h9>Heydar Aliyev Centre by Zaha Hadid Architects <br>Baku, Azerbaijian, photo © Hélène Binet, courtesy Ammann Gallery, 2013</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>HÉLÈNE BINET</strong><br>
Photographer based in London<p>   </p>I have been working for 30 years to capture architectural space
in photographs. I spend about half my time in the commercial
world and half my time doing personal work. Recently I’ve been
photographing traditional Korean architecture, which is astonishing.
The photos may become a book.<p>   </p>
There are a few architects I’ve been working with for many
years, including Peter Zumthor and Caruso St John. I like to have
long relationships—I feel I grow with the architects; it’s not just
shooting and going home. Zaha Hadid was very important to my
career. I shot all of her buildings starting with Vitra. There was
something primordial about her work, something very deep,
which I hope I brought out in my photos. She’s often been misunderstood.
Some people see her work as fashionable; I was never
interested in that.<p>   </p>
I shoot mostly in black-and-white. The way we experience
space is a complex thing, and color can compete with that experience.
I go in the other direction. I prefer silence. I shoot on film; I
don’t touch digital. I use a 4x5 camera called an Arca-Swiss—you
put a film plate in and put a blanket over your head. It’s expensive,
and it’s slow. Each image is a commitment. It’s like a
performance: you have to be very good in the moment; you don’t
get a chance to fix it later. I might make 20 images in a day, eight
or nine that I’m happy with. I do all the printing myself, choosing
everything: the paper, the contrast. The actual print is very
important to me. A reproduction of the work is not the work.
<br><h9>Tempelhof Airport by Ernst Sagebiel<br>Berlin, photo by Danica Kus, 2018</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>DANICA KUS</strong><br>
Photographer based in Ljubljana and Antwerp<p>   </p>I use a digital DSLR camera, a Canon EOS-
1D X; I can’t think of the last time I used
artificial lighting. I generally use a Canon
24–70 millimeter lens as well as Canon
tilt-shift lenses. I prefer to shoot in blackand-
white—you can express more of your
feelings—but for assignments, I have to
shoot in color. I started my career working
in a darkroom, and the black you get there
is very different from the black you get
digitally. But, either way, I try to capture
that atmosphere of the space and the character
of the building—it’s my task to show
how you feel in the building. I pay attention
to the play of light, the sound, smell,
temperature, structures, rhythm, materials,
etc. Sometimes I try to create an
imaginary and ambiguous space with my
camera.<p>   </p>
Recently I photographed a school in
Brussels. It was quite difficult, because the
architects wanted to show the space being
used, but the school wouldn’t let me show
the students’ faces. And I couldn’t stay
more than about 20 minutes, because I was
interrupting classes. Once an architect
asked me to shoot a new office building
during the guided tour, which lasted less
than an hour—it was the only way to get
access to some of the spaces. It was difficult
because there was not enough time and
there were too many people, but, despite
the stress and speed, in the end, I was
satisfied. In fact, it was such a great experience
that, last summer, I shot Berlin’s
Tempelhof Airport during the guided tour.<p>   </p>
Sometimes, when I see the work of a
great architect, I’m overwhelmed. But if
the building isn’t beautiful, I look for something
else—how the light touches the walls
and floors. I always find something.</h6>
<br><h9>42 Crosby Street by Selldorf Architects<br>New York, photo by Nicholas Venezia, 2017</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>ANNABELLE SELLDORF</strong><br>
Selldorf Architects, New York<p>   </p>We are very lucky to have a gifted photographer, Nicholas Venezia, working for us, shooting
for internal use as well as for publication. He is so familiar with our projects and our
process that his photography is practically an extension of our vision for the work. For our
most recent book, the majority of the photographs were taken by Todd Eberle. Todd is not
only a good friend but also an artist—he has a very different and truly proprietary way of
photographing architecture, which I appreciate a lot. He has known our work for a very
long time and picks up on certain similarities and strategies among different spaces and
typologies that sometimes I am not aware of until he points them out. I love having photos
taken as a project evolves and emerges during construction. Photos of empty buildings
and photos of buildings with people in them serve different purposes. In the end, architecture
is for people, and so I love seeing people use our buildings.</h6>
<br><h9>American Copper by SHoP<br>
New York, photo © Jeff Goldberg/ESTO
</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>JEFF GOLDBERG</strong><br>
Photographer based in New York<p>   </p>For the first 25 years of my career, I used a 4x5 camera and transparency film. The medium was very unforgiving. At the time of making the exposure, everything had to be perfect. To deal with subjects of high contrast, I used electronic flash or hot lights to balance tonalities. Now I use a small Canon DSLR camera, which lets me be more spontaneous. I only need a tripod for shots requiring long time exposures—otherwise, I prefer to hold the camera in my hand. And I don’t usually need an assistant (though I’m happy if someone from the architect’s office helps to organize things). And I rarely need lights—I can correct tonalities and color balance on the computer, using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. I also use the computer to correct perspective and to remove small pieces of garbage that I used to pick up by hand. As for the architecture, my job is not to judge but to interpret and explain the architecture in photographs. I always find something to enjoy in every project I photograph. </h6>
<br><h9>Alabama Silo<br>Greensboro, Alabama, photo by Timothy Hursley, 2008</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>TIMOTHY HURSLEY</strong><br>
Photographer based in Little Rock, Arkansas<p>   </p>I’ve shot intentional architecture
all over the world, but I also like to
shoot less-intentional architecture.
These days, I’m doing one series on
the funeral homes of the South,
and another on decrepit industrial
buildings. If I’m on the road for a
job, I extend my time. Whenever I
can, I drive somewhere from Little
Rock. I prefer to be out on a cloudy
day. It makes things more photographable;
you’re not fighting the
sun. In one town, I saw a dog food
factory that was being taken
down; it looked like something
BIG would have designed. My
photo ended up in the Oxford
American magazine.<p>   </p>
I started out when I was 17, as
an apprentice to [Detroit-based
architecture, art, and landscape
photographer] Balthazar Korab; I
just sort of fell into it. I’ve been
shooting the Rural Studio [Auburn
University’s design-build program
out of Alabama] since day one, and
I shot things like the construction
of Yoshio Taniguchi’s MoMA from
2004 to 2008; they flew me up to
New York 14 times for that. I used
a view camera all my life. Now I
use a Phase One back (which enables
cameras designed to use film
to take digital photographs): you
put it on a technical camera, with
Rodenstock lenses. If I want to
shoot people in dimmer conditions,
I pull out a Sony DSLR.<p>   </p>
I recently found a funeral home
with eight abandoned caskets; it
was dark, so I used two iPhone
flashlights, and I got a really cool
shot. Not long ago, I bought a
broken silo near the Rural Studio
buildings in Alabama, and I put up
a surveillance camera, which I set
to shoot once every 12 seconds—I
was getting thousands of images a
day. It was great to find an interesting
object and not have to be
like Ansel Adams. Set it up and
walk away.</h6>
<br><h9>Prada Foundation by OMA<br>
Milan, photo by Roland Halbe, 2015
</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>ROLAND HALBE</strong><br>
Photographer based in Stuttgart<p>   </p>I bring a mix of documentation with
emotion to the assignment—I’m not as
dry as some photographers, nor as
glamorous as others. I have been photographing
for Odile Decq for about eight
years—we are a good team. I shot the
Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome
(2010) on spec, and she started using
me. She knows I am reliable, dedicated,
and I like being on a time schedule—it
triggers my creativity. I’ve also been
working with Jean Nouvel, who asked
his client to hire me for the Louvre Abu
Dhabi when it opened last year. For the
last 15 years I’ve been shooting almost
all Thom Mayne’s projects, and I have
recently photographed Richard Meier’s
newest work in Taipei, Bogotá, and
Mexico City. I started getting a lot of
work from Chilean architects through
Alejandro Aravena in 2002. (It helps
that I speak Spanish, along with
English, Italian, French—and, of course,
German.)<p>   </p>
Travel to photograph newly completed
buildings is hard in terms of timing:
press conferences require photos when
the building isn’t complete. I believe in
using natural light instead of killing
the atmosphere with flash lights—but
balancing light is hard. So the pressure
mounts if the weather is lousy, since I
just have to stay at the site, while my
family is home in Stuttgart. My architect
clients—who pay me—don’t often
have me return when the building is
totally finished and installed. I use a
large-format camera (ALPA, a Swiss
camera) with very good lenses and a
digital back. Basically, it is a similar
way of working to the predigital era
when I was using a 4x5 camera,
the perspective on-site, and
shooting with film. Now you correct
the perspective post-production with
Photoshop. The digital age has resulted
in photographers’ being faster, less
accurate, less profound. We all react to
striking, eye-catching photos, and lines
are blurred between professionals and
<br><h9>Meg Home by Olson Kundig,<br>Seattle, photo by Nic Lehoux, 2016</h9><p>   </p><h6><strong>TOM KUNDIG</strong><br>
Olson Kundig, Seattle<p>   </p>The reason I like working with photographer Nic Lehoux is that he looks at a building the
way an architect would—as line, plane, volume. His type of photography is crisp, clean, and
edited—for architecture, it’s spot-on. We work with a couple of other photographers, too,
because we’ve completed a lot of buildings recently. Different photographers have different
ways of looking at a building, which is a good thing, but, for publication, you don’t necessarily
want to mix them—if the shots are all by the same photographer, with the same
instincts, the story holds together.</h6>