I’ve had the distinct pleasure of recently working with RND Architects on a couple of projects in Durham, North Carolina including a parking deck located in downtown near the tobacco district. When initially describing the project to me, one of the things that stood out was a term I’m hearing more often as my client base expands, which is, “This project may be a bit of a challenge.” In the famous words of Barney Stinson, challenge ACCEPTED. Museum, house design, office, parking deck, gas station, whatever – no matter the building type or environmental situation, if you hire me I’ll give it my undivided attention and best effort. It’s all photography, all love.
As it turns out the real obstacle turned out to be the rainy weather – it was overcast and cloudy 5 out of the first 6 days after receiving the assignment. Fortunately the clouds dissipated for just enough favorable days.
I visited Durham often in a brief timespan, therefore became familiar with the timing of the passenger train. The Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) was kind enough to allow the lead designer and I onto their rooftop to shoot the garage in context of downtown as the train passed by. That was the moment I learned it’s a straight fall down, as DPAC has no roof parapet. The reflective roof membrane is sloped away and runs flush with the fascia, go figure!
I really enjoy working with architects on their projects because architectural photography in and of itself is a design process. Designers have specific items they want to ensure are conveyed and a photographer has the ability to see, select, and reveal the best informative views. Sometimes those two viewpoints align and other occasions you’ll witness situations where architectural photographers and their clients clash, as the architect desires to see their beautiful design and the photographer wants to see their beautiful photograph. In some aspects, it’s similar to the relationship that architects (the design) have with their clients (the building), but the essential difference is you have TWO creative crafts merging together. My responsibility as a photographer is to turn that element into a symbiotic advantage.
I think architectural photographers who have actually cut their teeth practicing architecture tend to be advantageous because we can immediately facilitate trusting collaborative relationships with our clients where it may take our peers a bit more time to bridge that gap. Because we’re visually bilingual and speak an architect’s vernacular, openly and honestly putting everything on the table is more viable. We’re on the same team – they give me their ideas, I put forth mine – and we continue to communicate back and forth in order to produce the best results possible to benefit their business.
In the end, that’s why you hire a photographer in the first place, right?
Woo! First photography of the year! Spare time will be sorely lacking in 2013 and opportunities for personal shooting rare so if able, I’ll do my best to make the most of it. Last weekend I visited the North Carolina States James B. Hunt Jr. library to take a first gander after its grand opening and take photos for fun. Of course, it was Saturday, the place just opened, and NCSU’s basketball team upset the then #1 team in the country, Duke.
It was hellacrowded.
There were a lot of people with cameras inside and outside the building. At that point the decision was made to do a quick survey and return at a later time this spring and summer when the library wasn’t so crowded with visitors. Shot for a couple hours on Saturday then returned the next day for a few minutes.
Okay, here goes, ready?
This is the library. Safe to say there’s nothing like it anywhere else on campus. The building is a technological beast and has all the signs and symptoms of being a highly sustainable piece of modern architecture.
I skipped the opportunity to take interior photos that I’ll attempt to capture later in the year. These are the ones I grabbed – the two-story public study/lounge is easily my favorite spot; it looks like an airport terminal in which a grade school child got to select the furniture.
I can see the conversation now.
“So which piece of furniture do you want to order?”
DESIGNER: “I LIKE ‘EM ALL!”
“You can’t order every furniture design that ever existed.”
DESIGNER: “I WANT IT ALL, BUY IT FOR ME NOW, I’LL BE GOOD FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR! PRETTY PWWEEEEEEEEASE?”
What NCSU really needs to do is treat the library furniture like the zoo. You know how ticket kiosks offer pamphlet guides and posted signs across the zoo describes all the animals you’re seeing? Similarly, the library should have a hand-out and signs posted inside the building describing the piece of furniture, when it was designed, and by who.
Sarcasm aside, don’t get me wrong – the space is fun. People really love spending time here.
As I hinted at earlier, this place is a playground for photographers. Eventually I’d like the time (and space) to have an entire day to really analyze the architecture.
Wrapped up with a few obligatory evening shots.
The next morning it was moody and cloudy so I took the opportunity to mimick the rear elevation shot I captured the evening before.
Finally, I took a picture I’ve been meaning to capture FOREVER – okay more like a decade, but still. One of the buildings on NCSU Centennial campus, near the library, has a sawtooth-pattern brick paved courtyard. I had this image in mind for quite some while and never took the opportunity to do so, but with it being overcast, it worked out splendidly.
That does it for my first trip to the Hunt library. Catch you next time!
I was recently hired by the Mohawk Group in late December to shoot recently installed carpet on the upper level of the UNC R.B. House Undergraduate Library. School was out so I had unrestricted freedom with setting my lights up without interruption. It was certainly an interesting challenge – a balancing act between showcasing the flooring without neglecting its surroundings and illustrating how the product is integrated without having the room and furnishings overshadow the carpet.
Thank you so much to everyone for making 2012 a fruitful, successful year. I’m truly blessed to have the best clients and supporters that I could ever hope for, to get to see, partake, and share everything I’ve been able to. These are my favorite photographic memories of the last year. Again, it’s been a thrilling ride, so thank you and see you in 2013!
So after going to Arkansas, Dallas, Arkansas again, and Memphis, it was time to get back to work (like how I pimped those blogs? You betcha). Wrapped up a house in the Copperleaf community in Cary for home builder J.P. Swain and shoot of the Courtyard apartments in Chapel Hill for Olive Design + Build. Didn’t have control over time of day like I would’ve preferred with Courtyard, so made the most of it with the windows.
Finally, the last blog from my road trip through Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. If my vegetarian and vegan followers will forgive the metaphor, but this is blog is 100% red meat – nothing but architecture, baby – no filler. Actually, you’ll also need to forgive me for the literal interpretation because that’s exactly what I ate a TON of while in Texas. Did I eat unholy fried foods at the Texas State Fair before Big Texas burned down? YES I DID. Did I have Texas barbecue, Freebirds, and Whataburger? You bet. Did I chase that all down with Shiner? Seems only proper.
The speed limit in Texas ROCKS. I don’t even know why they bother posting numbers anymore, they just need to have road signs that claim “SPEED LIMIT: LOL“.
Texas will always have a fond place in my heart. For a place in which I lived only six years, the majority of my close, long friendships are with people who currently reside or used to live in the state. I got to see a slew of them in Dallas, whether they lived in town or happened to be visiting at the same time, some for business and others to witness Texas obliterated by Oklahoma. So I actually didn’t shoot very much, I mostly saw the wonderful people I’ve been blessed with in my life.
Before I get too much further – if you’re reading this right now, you’ve likely been following my two-week long road trip. What? NOOOOOO? Well, the below links will catch you right up!
At the earliest opportunity, I went downtown to the Dallas’ art and museum district – it’s the first time I’ve been there since many of those buildings were under construction. What was the first thing I decided to see?
The Museum Tower condos. Not because it was some cathedral of architecture but the hilariously tragic circumstances of its construction. Adjacent to this middle-finger that resides in the heart of the museum district is the Nasher Sculpture Museum designed by one of my favorites, Renzo Piano. The museum is built into the sloped city block, with a glass roof above illuminating the displays below. Thanks to the glass skin of the Museum Tower, not only is the artwork inside endangered but surrounding landscape and trees.
As the sun began to lower, I experienced firsthand the brightness and heat reflecting of this building. It’s a veritable furnace. If you’re in the Dallas area, there’s no need for a tanning booth – just spend an hour in front of those condos on a nice day.
After cackling in commiseration how commercial developers can pretty much ruin anything if they set their minds to it, I checked out buildings that didn’t exist the last time I came here.
First stop was the Wyly Theatre, designed by another one of my favorites, Rem Koolhaus.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go inside as there were no showings and closed to the public. It’s a shame because I wanted to see the building transform into a robot. Further, the exterior wasn’t lit so I didn’t get to see the architecture and urban landscape to its full impact. Thankfully, Mother Nature saved the day.
Another place I didn’t photograph was across the street at the Winspear opera house, as a matter of bad timing. There were outdoor events, but nothing going inside the theater, so the lights never turned on. The day hours were either too cloudy, or there was too much activity going outside to get relatively clean shots.
One of my very good friends, an architect in Dallas recommended checking out the new Calatrava bridge and Perot Museum of Nature & Science by Morphosis. She was right about the Calatrava Bridge – you kind of wondered if he did the design himself or if he just had an intern do it; it would feel more exciting if I hadn’t seen all of his other work which is much more stunning. I may bother attempting to photograph it when I have more spare time.
The Perot building, under construction, is the first Morphosis design I’ve ever seen closeup. Next trip to Dallas, I’ll be interested in scoping the outside a bit more along with the exterior.
I also returned to a design of another one of my favorite architects (yes, you’re noticing a trend here), Tadao Ando – the Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth. I first visited this building in 2006 in the early throes of pursuing photography as a hobby while still grappling with my Canon 10D, so wanted to see how I’d capture the building today.
Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth (2012)
While on this trip, I got to meet Jason Witherspoon, a Dallas fine-art and architectural photographer. We’re both self-taught, entered photography from different professions, and experienced early success in fine-art; he did it in less than a year and I’m interested in observing how he progresses and grows over the years. We talked shop – business, equipment, prints, digital processing, and of course – the capture. It’s a super-interesting and fun educational experience talking with someone who captures similar subject matter but with a drastically different style and approach to your own. It’s even more fun to shoot with ‘em. He told me about the Irving Convention center which I did not know about. HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BUILDING? It’s a photographer’s playground, so he took me out there.
The above image was captured with my Canon 5D Mark II and 17mm tilt-shift lens. The below image was captured with Jason’s Nikon D800 and 24mm tilt-shift. Now – I do think Canon maintains an advantage over Nikon with their tilt-shifts, but they’re losing ground with their camera bodies. Right now, not only are Nikon’s latest bodies cheaper – they’re straight-up better. Hey, CANON – if you can make a $3200 camera that good, I will buy it, you’ve given me zero reason to upgrade to 5D Mark III, I’d rather just jump to one of your 1D series.
Inside the Frame (2012)
Okay, no more bitching at Canon – this piece of architecture was a great opportunity to do what I love most – manipulate the heck out of presenting a building with wide angles and tight crops.
Heaven’s Gate (2012)
Split Level (2012)
Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup, that was as much fun as it looked like. Maybe next time around I’ll spend more time in the area to some greater detailed exploration for these and other sites.
When I planned this latest trip, I knew I’d hit Memphis and Dallas, but noticed there was this state in-between: Arkansas. What in the world is in THAT state? So I asked my Facebook. After several people suggested driving through without stopping, many friends stepped in to make recommendations, which launched my planning for visiting the northwest part of the state.
After spending a combined 8 days in the region, I traveled enough of northwest Arkansas to fill two blogs worth. I highly recommend checking out this gorgeous state, excepting the town of Harrison and some other outliers – I’ll get to that in the second part. However, to everyone who suggested I simply skip the state, I present you with this very mature response:
Moving on – if you’re a die-hard American conservative or Republican, I realize you’re feeling a bit sensitive post-election, so you may want to skip the first few photographs.
To everyone else, man, the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas is pretty sweet. There’s simply no other presidential library like it, and sustainable at that. I can’t wait to see what the Obama one will eventually look like.
DISCLAIMER: I accept no responsibility if you have to go to the emergency room after reading that – it’s your own fault.
Okay, the rest of you can rejoin the blog narrative now. Usually I’m able to pick out something to document in any city, but Little Rock didn’t inspire me at all. In fact I didn’t take many pictures during the first five days of my trip, so I don’t know if I was just too exhausted, weary of taking photographs, or what; sometimes you just need a break. I also checked out Hot Springs, Arkansas, a city that is an ode to Art Deco. Again, didn’t really take any shots here except these apartments (below) that don’t even fit into the city. I mainly just wanted to see it as a tourist. There’s a nationally historic row of bath houses, most active, that shows how Hot Springs really lived up to its name. I’d love to see this area have some sort of economic revival it could use it.
Got to see the architectural wonder Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs and its metallic knockoff the Cooper Memorial Chapel in Bella Vista. Couldn’t really take pictures at Thorncrown since they have rules about where you can go – though that would’ve been awesome – but at least got to see it in person, which is the important part.
Wal-Mart is headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas and lemme tell you – there are Wal-Marts EVERYWHERE in Arkansas. Driving through Fayetteville, I easily drove past six different Wal-Marts in about 15 minutes; all different types too – it was the first time I had seen Wally World grocery stores. The Walton family fully funded the Crystal Bridges American Art Museum in Bentonville. Pretty neat structures. I’m on vacation, one of the few times I really shoot for leisure, so was a bit bummed out with the poor weather, overall dry conditions that affected the waterfalls, and not being able to capture Thorncrown, particularly at night. At least I had Crystal Bridges, right? During my first visit, security was cool and initially allowed me to take pictures of the outside of the building, but during my second visit security was not so cool (boo, hiss). However, it’s their house, their rules and you have to respect that even if it they seem to be making it up as they go along. So before getting too in the dumps about it, I called it a night – there was no need feeling further frustrated. These are the few captures I managed there though.
Crystal Bridges (2012)
I did much exploring the natural Arkansas landscape and hiking while I was there. While driving between two locations, I stumbled across a sight I’d never seen before at an industrial plant in Russellville. At first glance, I thought it was a slew of palettes, but instead it was an immense field of stacked railroad ties. I was so enthralled with it, I attained permission from the company to shoot photographs there and had conversations with a couple of the men who worked this particular area. At first I thought they’d treat me kinda weird, but I think they could clearly tell I was interested in what they were saying and was more than happy to talk about their jobs. Lemme tell you something, the workers I talked to at this plant LOVE their jobs, LOVE who they worked for, and took obvious immense pride in their work. It turns out this plant is the largest railroad tie manufacturer in the nation. They explained to me how they cut, stacked, and allow the wood to cure before shipping these ties throughout North America. As a railroad fanatic, the kid in me found it to be fascinating.
These are a few more scenes I stumbled across on the many long drives through the Ozarks. There’ll be a few more like this in Part 2!
Arkansas was pretty cool. Most folks very warm, friendly, and accommodating towards me. Had a few quizzical looks at the Yankee hat and camera gear, but whatever. I met a bunch of people, some through Couchsurfing, others while hiking, and had a good conversation with a fellow photog while at Haw Falls. One of those I met tagged along during a morning drive checking out some waterfalls which I’ll get to in the next blog. I ate a ton of great food, but probably not a single vegetable the entire time I was in state.
Of course, there are some cultural oddities that this Jersey boy will never get used to. This safely qualifies as one of them.
The above billboard may not seem weird to anyone in rural areas, but I guarantee you a bunch of people RIGHT NOW are thinking, “REALLLLLLLLLLLLY?” See you in Part 2!
So I recently took a two-week road trip that I will completely present out of order. The first stop is Memphis, TN in which I stopped briefly on the way in and stayed for a weekend on the way back to Carolina. My friend, Jerry Coleman graciously hosted me and it was great to catch up with him and meet his family. Jerry was my TA during my first design studio in architecture school and though we’ve kept in touch, I hadn’t seen him in at least 15 years. He’s been making it with his design firm for the past several years and might I add, doing quite well!
This is Memphis. There’s much about the city I still have to explore, areas I’d like to revisit and some sites I didn’t get to photograph that I hope to in the future when I visit there again. The night life alone Beale street is a little touristy, I’d eventually like to catch it on an “off” night.
Of course, I shot some of the local landmarks such as the Peabody Hotel and Orpheum Theatre. Though photographing the Orpheum wasn’t quite catching lighting-in-a-bottle such as when I took the Chicago Theater, I was geeked with the final result.
The Orpheum (2012)
The industrial vernacular permeates both traditional manufacturing and shipping structures as well as contemporary office buildings. You can see some of that in the alphabet-block design of MIFA and the Bridges Center near downtown (gee, I wonder what the inspiration for BRIDGES was?)
United Equipment (2012)
One of the places I absolutely had to see was the National Civil Rights Museum, in which I had mixed feelings. Having been so directly impacted by the movement to revisit the circumstances in which Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and what it means, to see exactly where it happened, how it’s been preserved/reconstructed, was an emotional experience. On the other hand, I’m going to have to say – it’s a little touristy and the interior of the main museum could use an upgrade. It’s just weird seeing people take family pictures in front of the wreathe, you know? Anyways, this was one shot I took with my cell phone as I was leaving.
The introductory movie in the theater is well worth seeing all 32:44 – it’s interesting how many things have changed, and how much hasn’t. Incredible how many buzzwords and concepts linger strongly in the majority American mindset to this very day.
That’s about it. Just like most of the road trip, I saw more than I actually photographed, which I think is the point of having a real break! It’s just great getting out to see new places, people, and things. Of course, it’s also nice to revisit old favorites, like White Castle.
Woohoo, my 101st blog post! When I began this blog I was purely an amateur fine art photographer who practiced architecture as my full-time job. Four years later I’m a professional photographer who does a bit of architecture on the side. The bittersweet part of becoming professional is that I rarely get to shoot all the things I purely shoot for fun. So on the occasion I have that chance, I certainly savor the moment. It’s been a busy summer with many jobs and a lot of travel on the behalf of my clients. These are a few photos I’ve managed to capture in between.
This morning scene with dissipating fog was captured a few hundred feet away from a commercial shoot I had about 30 minutes outside of Winston-Salem. As I waited for the sun to rise and light the east face of my building, I turned and saw this sight down the road. I realize the ‘tree in a field’ is cliche, but I still consider it beautiful to see in person. So I snatched up my other camera, swapped a lens, and jogged over to capture this scene – then jogged right back to start my architectural shoot.
Sunrise over East Bend (2012)
I had an evening architectural shoot that had to be cancelled, so since I was in a photography mood and had a full moon, used it as an excuse to go downtown. That night I took a different view of the former Progress Energy (now Redhat) building than I did last year.
Raleigh Lights (2012)
A few weeks later I traveled near downtown in the morning to take a tilted photo of an old auto sales building.
Dew Motors (2012)
In late July, I took a rare stab at portraiture at the request of one of my friends, Kestrel.
I had obligations for three different clients between Winston-Salem and west North Carolina. On my most recent work-related trip, I took an extra day or so to visit places I didn’t get to see during my last trip to the mountains. I stayed near downtown Asheville where I captured a long-exposure on Tunnel Road.
Okay, so let me tell you what happened AFTER taking this photograph. It’s near 11pm. It’s a dimly lit area and I’m heading back to my car which I left at the hospital complex. I’m dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, Yankees cap, and bulky backpack with tripod strapped to it, slightly sticking out. It’s dark, it’s late, and I have a lot of expensive equipment on my back so I’m especially cautious.
As I returned towards the hospital campus, a car sides along next to me, the window rolls allllll the way down, and a white man, seemingly in his 60s is trying to get my attention. The area is well-lit but totally empty on the weekend. Drawing on all of my previous experiences walking around urban areas at night, I’m thinking to myself, Oh crap maybe it’s a doctor and he’s wondering what I’m doing in the area, immediately proceeded by Holy cow, what’s he doing rolling his window down like that, is he nuts?!
In a guarded manner I asked, “Yes, can I help you?” which for my followers outside of the southern USA, roughly translates into, “What you looking at?”
That’s when I notice what I presume to be his wife in the passenger seat, with an unfurled paper map as he inquired, “Yeah, uh – do you know where Patton Avenue is?”
Chalk that up as something that’s never happened to me before. To put this in proper perspective – since the age of 18, my experiences walking to destinations at night have been radically different, treated with much suspicion, no matter how safe or unsafe the area may be. It’s happened with police in major metro areas, it’s even happened repeatedly on my own college campus walking back to my dorm room from the architecture building at 3 a.m – wondering what I’m doing. When I was an amateur photog city patrol drew weapons on me in broad daylight only to be relieved I was just holding a camera (good story, laughs had by all). As a photographer, particularly one who captures the isolated urban and rural settings I prefer to shoot, you’re accustomed to attracting suspicious eyes. However, as a black photographer often mistaken for younger than my age, I’ve come to expect being interrupted with double the frequency – with or without a camera in hand. So I’m accustomed to getting stopped by SOMEBODY in public or semi-public areas. The last thing I’m anticipating is being asked for directions.
Already taken aback (which is no easy feat) and having helped them out, the couple then went out of the way to offer me a ride – which by then must’ve made my jaw DROP. I politely declined, partially because I was almost at my destination but also I didn’t want this nice couple to begin thinking that offering strangers a ride at 11pm was a good idea – even if it was only Asheville. I’d hate for it to become habit forming and have to see their kind, unassuming faces plastered on the 10 o’clock news, you know? In the current American sociopolitical climate, it was a refreshing relief and certainly provided me a bit more faith in humanity, even if as a temporary respite.
The next day I had the time to take two easy to moderate hikes that I didn’t get to take last fall, one to Linville Falls and the other to Crabtree Falls.
Linville Falls (2012)
Lastly, this was at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway or a highway close to it. Think it was Highway 221. All I remember is I got asked for directions here too.
This is the West End Village in Winston-Salem. The biggest challenge with existing multi-family residential buildings is well – they’re lived in. In this particular case, all of the residents kept their blinds and shades closed all day. Even when arriving a few days earlier with a letter, knocking on tenant doors, it was still impossible to get the unobstructed windows that I desired. So I waited until after sunset with sunlight still reflecting from the windows to capture the two buildings that form West End.
This is looking down to a building addition at the Higgins Lodge, a Christian camp run by the Moravian church in Laurel Springs.