BOOK CLUB: SHOOTING SPACE
As the curator of Archizines, the exhibition of independent architecture magazines that continues to travel the globe since 2011 and has shown in over 30 cities, Elias Redstone is used to dealing with architecture photography. And now he’s brought out a book on the subject (as well as currently having an ((unrelated)) architecture-photography exhibition at London’s Barbican). The beautifully designed result is far more than a 240-page compendium of an expected Who’s Who in contemporary architectural photography. Nor is it an attempt to establish a certain movement or school. Instead, Shooting Space features a diverse panorama of work by 50 artists who all have passionate but very different approaches to the built environment.
The book is divided into five sections: “Manufacturing Iconography,” “Cityscapes of Change,” Man-Altered Landscapes,” “Excavating Modernism,” and “After Architecture.” While the first of these includes heroic images by the likes of Iwan Baan, Hélène Binet, and Annie Leibovitz, the last features cutouts by Jose Dávila in which architectural icons disappear, and an anti-heroism (or perhaps a perverse form of heroism) is also present in Mathieu Pernot’s photographs of buildings imploding (in the iconography section). Nadav Kander’s Yangtze River landscapes also have a heroic (if slightly disturbing) quality to them, while Richard Wentworth captures the distinctly unheroic, “undesigned” actions to be found in our cities (a fire extinguisher used as a door wedge, for example). Globetrotter Wolfgang Tillmans, again in the cityscapes section, explores the heterogeneous messes to be found the world over, while Catherine Opie, a few pages before, aestheticizes the phenomenon in beautiful black and white. Indeed the sublime is the dominant aesthetic in many of the sections, especially “Man-Altered Landscapes,” with Andreas Gursky’s portentous shots of Dubai and Bahrain or Edward Burtynsky’s stunningly chromatic open-cast mines and oilfields. Two insightful essays (by Kate Bush and Pedro Gadanho) round out this anthology of contemporary architectural photography, which is an absolute must for your armchair. For, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin (whom Redstone quotes in his foreword), most buildings are better apprehended in photographs than in reality.
Shooting Space: Architecture in Contemporary Photography, by Elias Redstone (Phaidon Press, 2014).