Note to Architectural Photographers


its all porn
i don't understand. how'd they get so much more wall in the 2nd photo?
Maybe you'd enjoy it more if you saw it at dusk.

Good photographs almost always capture a viewpoint that you can't ever really experience in person, even if you are there when the photographer takes the picture. That's what makes photography an art form.
dear annie leibowitz: please don't make britney spears look hot in a bathing suit by airbrushing her ass and legs.
Unless you are personally commissioning an image It's presumptuous and unreasonable of you to tell photographers to frame their vision of a space so that it matches your expectations.
It reflects negatively upon Ms. Graves that I initially saw this as a Mudede post.
@6 supergp, agreed. I even had to check my author filter to make sure mudede was still turned off.
You guys are cray-cray. Plenty of architectural photographs pretty fairly represent what you see when you go to the space. This one, not so much. Let's not get all carried away about the meaning of photography and truth and blah, blah, blah.
Whoa. Haha I used to walk by this building everyday to work when I was doing my internship.

Yeah, I was incredibly frustrated by all the models and photographs and renderings used to visualize this building that - when you walk by it on the street - is mostly just a blank wall of concrete.

I would have rathered a piece of architecture that, let's say, "fit in" with Bellingham's other public arts infrastructure - ie. the Mt. Baker Theatre or the grown-ups' Whatcom Museum.

Instead, they opted to take their architectural cues from the Bellingham Public Library. Which is unfortunate, because - like the Library is now - it's probably just going have to be torn down some forty years into its existence. And no one will protest because by then the windows will be scratched, the paint will be faded, the plastic will photo-degrade and the thing will just be a concrete street wall with a door on it.
This post made me roll my eyes pretty vigorously. Waaah, highly-skilled professional photographer, waiting patiently for just the right time of day and lighting/weather conditions, makes my lazy amateur photography look bad in comparison! It's not fair! It's dishonest!

Photography is an art form. Architecture is also an art form, and architects usually deliberately include features in their buildings that will look good in photographs because good photos are what get other people excited about good architecture.
"Let's not get all carried away about the meaning of photography and truth and blah, blah, blah"

blah, blah, blah? thanks for trivializing my chosen art form. And seriously isn't it the duty of an art critic to go on and on about the meaning of a piece of art? I guess photography isn't art to you.
Buildings, like people, are entitled to have the best lighting and angle featured when they are photographed for their glamour shot. But if we need a mug shot, we'll call you, Jen.
Wow. I hit some kind of nerve here. Architectural photography does not equal art photography. Those shots were used for PROMOTIONAL PURPOSES. Hence, they undermine themselves. It's a no-brainer.
In slowly scrolling down I thought the caption was for photo #2. I then spent too long trying to figure out why photo #2 was way better than #1.
It's like taking a picture of a house on Candy Cane Lane when it has its Xmas lights on.
The, uh . . . the second one looks more like a rendering to me.
Who's the photographer?

If he can make that boring building look that great, I want him/her to take my portrait!

Jen, I don't get your complaint. He/she did a great job doing exactly what he/she was hired to do.
@13: Haha, Jen, I dunno. I actually sorta agree with you. But probably not so much from the photos-are-misrepresenting-the-building angle as much as the-building-is-misrepresenting-itself-as-better-architecture-than-it-is angle.

Basically, I think the building is a poor addition to either the public street or the city's arts infrastructure. It could have been done better, but photos like these we used to make it seem like it was being done well enough.

In other words, the creativity and artistry of great photographers were allowed, in the minds of the building's financiers, to overwhelm the lack of creativity and artistry of bad architects. We see in photographers the power to sometimes discover art and beauty where, at first glance, there is not - in this case, they're discovering art and beauty in a piece of architecture that is not, save for the creativity of those who have the power to interpret it through another medium.

In other "other words," the photographers have to do artistic work to make up for the artistic work the architects mostly didn't do.
Jen is right. The purpose of these photographs is to lie to you for promotional purposes. Architects do this all the time, and it's bullshit. Same with the goddamn watercolors.
were* used
was* allowed

@8: Jen, it's the fault of the photographer that we see such as vaginal architecture, not the fault of the viewer. If art doesn't make its point of view clear, the problem lies in the art, not the viewer of the art.

At least, that's my opinion.
The building is dubbed the Light Catcher, so maybe viewing it from the angle you did, but at night might actually make it look better than you're shitty ass probably mobile phone taken photo.

Besides Jen, if we were calling things out for what they really were, than you wouldn't have a fucking job cause your lame excuse for an alt weekly would fold up and die.
These shots were taken to make their clients--presumably the makers of the building--happy. I bet they did. Jen, you're just not the target audience.
Whoa, you guys are dicks. The gorgeous photo #1 bears little resemblance to the street level reality at #3. I'm all about artfulness and prettifying, but that's just fucking dishonest.

Also, I think her point was that there is some good art at the Whatcom Museum.
See also: Every photo in a real estate listing ever.
It's all marketing and Lacanian desire.
The first two photos make me want to visit this place. Isn't that the point of PROMOTIONAL photos?

However, Jen's photos have pretty much guaranteed that I will never visit this place. Thanks, Jen!
@27: So convincing you to see a place you're going to be disappointed in, therefore assuring you don't return, is good museum policy? Oh, right, you're right.
It's just the architectural equivalent of the myspace angle shot.

No one's happy to meet that girl in real life and find that she cropped out the 300lb stomach that supported those boobs
Who visits a museum based solely upon exterior promo shots?
I don't see what's the matter with architectural photography highlighting special moments vs. the compromises as long as they're not fabricated. If a beauty shot encourages the public to visit the museum and find their own special moments, as you did in the interior, and discover the art collection it houses, is that such a bad thing? Isn't that really the point of snazzy museum architecture anyway- to get people in the door? You may have a point about "truth in advertising" but I still want to visit this museum even with the point-and-shoot street shot that shows more tarmac than building.
WOW! What an ignorant idiot. You said it yourself Jen - it's PROMOTIONAL!! Does a real Big Mac look like the one in the ads? Ever seen a movie that didn't live up to it's 30-second commercial? Ever eaten at a restaurant that didn't live up to it's rave review? You act like this is the first time you've seen such "misrepresentation." And you're talking about architectural photography!!! It's supposed to emphasize the dramatic elements of the building's design.

That's what promotion is all about. Dumb ass.
And you write a visual art review column?!! WTF?!!
Note to Jen Graves:

Do not publish your writing in any slick magazines or on any slick websites. It only makes me disappointed when I look inside and read your crap!
Hey Jane, your terrible photograph is also misleading, don't you think? That stop sign isn't really taller than the first level of the building, is it? And does that street light really tower over it?

@32: Yeah, but believe it or not, we once actually built predominately "good" architecture. It needed less help to sell itself.
Actually, the photos do quite accurately represent what the building looks like at dusk with the lights on. If you stand in both of those spots (which are both publicly accessible) at that time of the evening, that is how the building will look. Obviously, it will look quite different in the middle of the day. From across an intersection. Especially when shot by someone who knows nothing about photography. If you want to experience a site under certain conditions, then go at a time that allows for those conditions. So, yes, Jen - these photos do fairly represent what you see when you go to the space - you simply went at the wrong time to see the building under those conditions. The fact that you would refuse to visit a museum to see the artwork inside simply because you don't like what the building looks like on the outside shows your lack of integrity as an art critic. And, being that you claim architectural photography is not or cannot be art photography, you have no business criticizing it. You obviously have no understanding of the workings and intentions of the medium and its applications, so do yourself a favor and stick with what you know (whatever that may be). The only "no-brainer" here is you.

@36 - Architectural photography has been around as long as photography has, and architects have been using it as a tool in earnest since the early- to mid-twentieth century, both for commercial and educational purposes. To say that architectural photography is only around because architecture now is worse than it was in the past only serves to show your complete ignorance of both subjects. Additionally, architectural photography is predominantly commissioned by the architect for portfolio purposes to represent the project to potential clients - not to sell a completed building. In other words, nobody is trying to sell this building with these photographs.

And @19, no - the photos do not lie.

You people should really try to educate yourself on a subject before publishing criticism of it.

@28, my return to said museum would be based on whether or not I found the museum's contents interesting. But first they have to get me there. And as someone interested in architecture as well as art, yes, the building itself would be part of my interest in visiting. Your pics, however, make it look like a pathetic, provincial airport terminal, making me think it's not worth the time to go all the way up there. I could see something more interesting at SeaTac.

However, when I did actually go to the Whatcom Museum website, I don't see those photos you posted anywhere (if they are on the site, can you post the direct link?). The first one you posted is an exterior shot I guess, and I wouldn't call it "obscure". It's a beautiful image of the wall lit up at night, and since I've seen a few other photos of it, I assume that it's somewhere accessible to visitors. The second one actually looks more like a rendering than a photo, perhaps from the planning and design stage, but actually I've seen other photos from that angle, and they look very similar.

So acting like you were duped doesn't really make sense. Someone took a beautiful shot of the wall, and you're unhappy? Very often, when people take architecture shots, they take them from interesting angles or at certain times of day, because they're creating a beautiful image. They might not include the garbage dumpsters, stop signs or hobos hanging out in front, or take the photo from an unflattering angle. I'm not a professional photographer, or art critic, or architect, but I do appreciate architecture and enjoy taking photos, and have a pretty good eye (or so I've been told). I've taken loads of shots of buildings that are at interesting/unusual angles or in certain lighting conditions, or that show the most interesting part of the subject, because that's sort of the point to me of creating the image, which is what I'm assuming these photographers did. If someone was upset over that, because I didn't shoot the Louvre or Madrid's Palacio Real or Windsor Castle head-on from across the street (with the subject of my photo apparently being asphalt), I guess I'd be rather dumbfounded.

In summary, someone took a lovely shot of a building and it's on the Internet. The museum isn't (as far as I can see) pimping themselves with an impossible glamor shot. It's not doctored or photoshopped or used as deceptive marketing. So what's the problem? If you're disappointed, perhaps you have some issues to deal with. Let people take their beautiful photos. Many of us appreciate them.
Jen -

When I saw your little profile pic in the Stranger (the one taken at that obscure angle), I thought, "Hey - she looks like she might be kinda cute!". Imagine MY disappointment when I actually saw the real thing...!
Rest assured - I won't be returning to see you at any more of your speaking engagements ever again.
It's kind of like fashion photography, you have to use your bullshit detectors. You know the jeans are not going to fit you like that, and you know the sky, clouds and lights will not look like that on your visit to this museum, unless your eyes also have a filter on them.
Go to the museum at dusk and it will look like that - without filters.

Once again, do your research.
I was also duped.

@42 - no you weren't.