What Are Architectural Landscape Photos?

There aren’t many but some of us take an interest in architectural landscape photos. With a view to giving some insight on this subject I have created this article to give a basic understanding and supply some facts about its origins. Some of us become interested in architectural landscape photos later in life, it doesn’t matter when you take an interest but when you do you’ll be hooked.

If taking architectural landscape photos is one of your hobbies, it might be interesting for you to read a brief history of architectural photography. Commercial portraiture was the main area of interest in the early years of photography. The ones who made architectural landscape photos were generally travelers, for different business reasons, not only especially for photography. At that time (the middle of the 19th century), photographers usually worked from a convenient window rather than at street level, as they do now.

WHF Talbot, one of the first photographers, used to take architectural landscape photos from his hotel window, in the cities he visited. Roger Fenton, the first war photographer was the first one to take fine architectural studies, using calotypes, both in Britain, his home country, and in Russia (in Kiev, Moscow and St. Petersburg). He learnt the waxed paper calotype process from Gustave Le Grey, its inventor, in his journeys to Paris.

Francis Frith was the first one to make the Middle East familiar to the civilized world, by the architectural landscape photos he took in his journeys. He beard with him very large cameras and used the collodion process, as he had to work in hot and dusty conditions.

Samuel Bourne is another British photographer that became famous for his work in India.

Most of the early architectural landscape photos give the subjects the impression of import and grandeur. The lenses needed for architecture were quite different from the ones used in portraiture. They had to give sharpness and linear drawing, but there was no need for high speed, as buildings sit still.

In the late 19th century, photographers were advised to keep the camera back vertical and to photograph buildings from the normal eye level, instead of using elevated viewpoints, in order to suggest the normal impression of height. The frontage and a side of the building had to be both included in the architectural landscape photo. Camera movements were also considered essential, and the most important movement was the rising front.

Frederick H. Evans is regarded as the finest architectural photographer of his era. He is famous for his images of the exteriors and interiors of English and French medieval cathedrals. He adopted the platinotype technique, which best suited his subject matter. His ideal regarding architectural landscape photos was the “perfect” photographic representation, unretouched and not modified at all.

The city growth at the end of the 19th century lead to the development of commercial architectural landscape photography. The most important companies that took advantage on this new opportunity, in New York, were the Byron Company and the company founded by Norman and Lionel Wurts.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the modern movement brought new standards, both in architecture and photography. Some of the new modernist photographers in 1920s were Berenice Abbott in New York, Ilse Bing in Frankfurt and Margaret Bourke-White, best known as a photojournalist. One of the best-regarded companies that made architectural landscape photos was Hedrich-Blessing. It was founded in Chicago in 1929 by Ken Hedrich and Henry Blessing. Today, Jim Hedrich, Ken’s son still runs the firm. The founder’s well-known quote “Don’t make photographs, think them.” suggests that their photos had something to say about the building, not only record an image of it.

Although he was an architect by profession, Ezra Stoller established himself as a leading architectural photographer. Some of his most important works are the architectural landscape photos of Le Corbusier’s Chapel Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp. The key elements in Stoller’s work are light and space. Esto, the company founded by Stoller still makes some of the best work in the field.

Julius Shulman took a revolutionary approach upon modernism, turning the modernist principle upside down. He was the first one to introduce people in the frame of the camera. He did not want to show abstract images of wall details or empty rooms. In his architectural landscape photos, he “humanized” the houses designed by architects such as Richard Neutra, Pierre Koenig or Rudolf Schindler. Shulman is best known for his photograph “Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, 1960. Pierre Koenig, Architect”. The end of modernism also represented the end of Shulman’s career, as his ideas of composition, the sensitive images and his ways of working were deeply modernistic.

Some of the most important contemporary architectural photographs are Gerald Zugmann, Mark Citret and Richard Margolis. You can take a look at their architectural landscape photos on their web sites.