Architectural photography, a discipline that elegantly bridges the realms of architecture and photography, stands as a testament to the intricate relationship between space and visual representation.
This genre, more than merely documenting structures, delves deep into the essence of architectural design, capturing the soul of buildings and the stories they tell.
Through the lens of architectural photographers, we are offered a unique perspective on the built environment, one that transforms static structures into dynamic narratives.
But the importance of architectural photography extends beyond its aesthetic appeal. It serves as a vital tool for architects, historians, and enthusiasts alike, offering a visual documentation that can inspire, educate, and provoke thought.
Through carefully composed shots, photographers highlight the interplay of light, texture, form, and function, revealing the architect’s vision and the context within which a structure exists.
This article aims to shed light on some of the most influential and famous architectural photographers. These individuals have not only mastered the art of capturing buildings but have also contributed significantly to the discourse on architecture, elevating the practice of photography to an interpretive and critical art form.
What is a famous architectural photographer?
Architectural photographers are some of architecture’s (and the art world’s), greatest unsung heroes. They represent the architects conceptualized and constructed ideologies, through the careful capturing and documentation of light, atmosphere, and emotion.
…Few famous architects’ would be where they are today without the photographs to showcase their work.
The true definition of a famous architectural photographer is apparent in the work they do. Generally, this specific type of photographer takes pictures of built structures, primarily buildings, professionally.
However, great architectural photographers breathe life and atmosphere into their images and through this evoke feeling much like an artist does with a painting.
Architectural photos are usually taken for a variety of reasons. Usually, the photographs are intended to be used for commercial purposes, such as being published in brochures, architectural websites or to feature in the project team’s portfolio.
Additionally, architectural photographers may do their work as freelance artists or they may be employed by architecture firms to get pictures of their work.
It is not set in stone that this type of photographer has to be trained as an architect or a photographer. Some may have a little background training in either of these fields, and others may have a lot.
Famous architectural photographers have risen to fame through the years for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the three main ones are:
- Some photographers owe their fame to their vast experience, and the fact that they have attained near-perfection after doing the same thing for many years.
- Others owe their claim to fame to the simple reason that they developed a unique style that catches the eye.
- Yet others have risen to fame due to the sheer volume of projects they have been involved in through the years.
Top 10 famous architecture photographers of all time
This list includes the best photographers from both early and contemporary periods. It highlights some of the top talents since the advent of architectural photography as an art form.
1. Berenice Abbott (July 17, 1898-December 9, 1991)
Berenice Abbott was an American photographer best known for her New York City photographs of architecture, science interpretations in the 1940s to 1960s.
She indulged in different kinds of photography like portrait photography during her early years and later took on architectural photography.
She worked in New York during her architectural photography tenure creating one of the greatest collections of photographs of New York City ever made.
2. Carol McKinney Highsmith (born Carol Louise McKinney on May 18, 1946)
She is an American photographer, author and publisher who has carried out her photography throughout all the states of the USA. She has photographed the entire American vista including landscapes, urban and rural lifestyle and architecture as a record of the 21st century.
In 2009, the Library of Congress acquired her work, ‘born digital’, which documents 21st century America. The work includes 1000 images taken across the country in digital format.
This library is expected to be the largest digital collection at the Library of Congress.
3. James Austin (born June 4 1940)
James is an Australian fine-art and architectural photographer. One of the highlights of his career was being made a Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photography from 1977 to 1991.
He is well traveled around the globe mainly in European countries like France and Italy as a freelance photographer. Over the years, he has built up a library of photographs which feature in numerous publications.
4. Julius Shulman (October 10, 1910- July 15, 2009)
Shulman was an American architectural photographer best known for his photograph of the Stahl House featured at the top of this article, and is considered to be one the most famous and influential architectural photographer of all time.
His works have been published all over the world and featured architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler. Through his work, architectural photography has been considered an independent art form.
5. Sergio Castiglione (born 1965)
Castiglione is an Argentine-born architect and architectural photographer who has participated in countless activities related to art and culture. He has an eye for the arts having worked as an assistant curator of the Palanza Award.
He is well travelled, having visited over 200 cities around the globe taking his work along with him, documenting constructions and city landmarks. He currently works as an architect and photographer in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
6. Iwan Baan (born 1975)
He is a Dutch photographer who has an unconventional take on architecture and how it is perceived. He believes that it should not be isolated and rigid. He implements this philosophy by showing people and the building’s environment in his photos.
His bold style and candid polysemic shots have made him one of the most published photographers in the world today, with his work being compared to some of the most famous and influential photographers of our time.
During his short career, he has won awards like the Julius Shulman Photography Award.
7. Wayne Thom (born 1933)
Thom is a Shanghai-born international photographer. His career spans over five decades during which he has won a number of awards for his works. He has worked in North America and Asia as well.
He has also published his highly decorated works in collaboration with renowned colleagues such as the late Julius Shulman.
8. Wolfgang Georg Sievers (18 September 1913 – 7 August 2007)
Wolfgang Georg Sievers was a German born Australian photographer who specialized in architectural and industrial photography. He worked in countries such as Portugal and Australia.
He also participated in World War ll as an aerial photographer for Germany’s Luftwaffe. When he moved to Australia, he also volunteered for the Australian Army from 1942 to 1946 before establishing his photography studio at Grosvenor Chambers.
9. Andrew Prokos (born 1971)
Greek in origin, he is an American architectural and fine-art photographer. His work has taken him around the world, earning numerous awards.
In Brazil 2012 and 2013, he produced his award-winning series, the Niemeyer’s Brasilia, which earned him nation-wide and international acclaim. This work was later published in twelve countries.
10. Frederick H. Evans (26 June 1853 – 24 June 1943)
He was a British photographer who mastered the platinotype technique for his works.
He is best known for his images of French and English cathedrals. He often wrote about his works when he wasn’t exhibiting them. His love for his work alongside his perfectionist tendencies earned him international respect.
Top 5 renowned famous architectural photographers right now
Arnemann is a German photographer living on the small island of Malta. She is a lover of fine art and mainly does long exposure photography. Her work mainly comes in monochrome which helps her to expresses the power of form and light.
2. Mihai Florea
Florea is an Australian photographer from Melbourne. Through his works, he places an emphasis on composition, balance and lighting which are all important aspects of architectural photography.
His minimalist, monochrome photos push beyond the expected to create a sense of depth when he uses the exposure techniques.
Julia is an award-winning architectural photographer for her black and white fine art photography. She is also an Athens-based architect with a deep passion for her work.
Her works emphasize almost abstract details of a structure without completely removing it from context by preserving the factor of scale and the building’s form.
4. Iwan Baan
As an award-winning Dutch architectural photographer, Iwan, who photos narrate the interactions and life that occur within architecture, has worked with some of the world’s biggest names in architecture like Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and is the recipient of the inaugural Julius Shulman award for photography.
Having no formal training in architecture, his photos are taken from the perspectives of everyday individuals who give meaning and context to the architecture and spaces that surround them.
Arnaud is a self-taught photographer who has traced his way through the field. Having only started recently, this artist has managed to accomplish a lot by way of quality and recognition among his peers.
He mainly uses digital photography methods for his work. He is a quiet man who lets his imagination speak for itself through the images he produces.
Top five all-time US famous architecture photographers
1. Jack Boucher (September 4, 1931 – September 2, 2012)
Boucher was an American photographer who dedicated his life to American public service, having served for more than five decades as the chief photographer for Historic American Buildings Survey(HABS).
His work took him to 49 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. He traveled around with over 900 pounds of photographic equipment.
2. Ezra Stoller (16 May 1915 – 29 October 2004)
The Chicago-born architectural photographer whose work featured landmarks of modern architecture like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Alvar Aalto’s Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
He is often said to have aided the spread of modern movement or modernism as it is commonly known. He was the first recipient of a Gold Medal for Photography from the American Institute of Architects.
Shulman was so famous he got himself a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, dedicated to him in 2006. Shulman’s works have featured countless exhibitions through the years, earning him praise and honors.
Andrew is an architectural photographer with a background in political science from the University of Florida. He spent his early years travelling through Europe before returning to New York City in 1996 to start off his career in photography as an advertising photographer.
These were the start of his successful years. As an advertiser, his works were published in many magazines and newspapers before going into mainstream architectural photography where he has continued to shine.
Berenice Abbott is best known for her project, ‘changing New York’, making one of the greatest collection of New York photographs.
She was also involved in scientific work, taking marvelous science pictures she was known for. Her style of straight photography enabled her to make important contributions to scientific photography.
Top 5 UK famous architectural photographers of all time.
1. Tim Rawle
This photographer from Kent is well known for his photographs in Cambridge, England. He studied both Fine Art and Architecture and was Caldicott Scholar. He has been involved in many major projects over the years.
He did the photography and design for the official guide to the King’s College Chapel which was published in seven different languages. He has continued his work as a scholar and is currently the managing and creative director for the Oxbridge portfolio.
Evans was an English photographer born in London. His photographic works on English and French cathedrals have turned out to be one of the finest studies of religious architecture in the history of photography.
His works were in their original untampered state and he believed that proper photographic practice did not need any modification. During his time, he set standards that his peers were unable to live up to. He was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in 1928.
3. Eric de Mare (born 1910, London – January 2002)
Eric de Mare is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most influential architectural photographers. De Mare’s works forced British architects to rethink the idea of modernism offering them the ‘shock of the old’, this is according to The Telegraph.
He was predominantly an industrial photographer whose experience earned him many publications with a unique outlook to architecture.
4. Janie Airey
She is a London-based photographer who has been in the commercial photography business for a decade and a half. Some of her famous commissions include the documenting of the 2012 London Olympic venues.
5. Richard Pare (born 20 February 1948, Portsmouth, England)
Pare is an English photographer known for his work documenting Soviet modernist architecture. He has worked with some of the world’s famous architects like Tadao Ando. He has also earned awards like the AIA monograph award for his work, The Colours of Light.
FAQ’s about famous architectural photographers
Who is the most influential architectural photographer?
There have been many influential architectural photographers over the years, but one of the most highly regarded and influential photographers in this field is Julius Shulman.
Shulman is known for his iconic images of mid-century modern architecture in California, and his work has had a significant impact on how architecture is viewed and understood by the public.
Other notable architectural photographers include Ezra Stoller, Iwan Baan, and Andreas Gursky.
Who was the first famous architectural photographer?
The first famous architectural photographer is generally considered to be Julius Shulman. Shulman gained recognition in the 1940s and 1950s for his iconic images of mid-century modern architecture in California, including works by architects such as Richard Neutra, John Lautner, and Pierre Koenig.
His photographs were widely published in magazines such as Life, Time, and Architectural Digest, and helped to popularize the modernist architectural movement in the United States.
Shulman’s work also had a significant impact on the field of architectural photography, establishing it as a distinct genre within the broader field of photography.
However, Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, born on October 21, 1804, is widely recognized as the pioneer of architectural photography.
Starting in early 1841, he began capturing photographs using the daguerreotype technique, focusing on important locations in cities like Paris, as well as countries such as Egypt, Greece, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey.
Who are the pioneers of architectural photography?
The pioneers of architectural photography include Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce, who is credited with creating the first photograph in 1826, and William Henry Fox Talbot, who developed the calotype process for producing photographic negatives in 1839.
However, the first photographer to specialize in architectural photography was Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, who began taking photographs of buildings and monuments using the daguerreotype process in the early 1840s.
Other important figures in the development of architectural photography include Edouard Baldus, Francis Frith, and Charles Marville. These photographers played a significant role in popularizing the medium and developing techniques for capturing the built environment.
Is there money in architectural photography?
Yes, there can be money in architectural photography, particularly for photographers who establish themselves as experts in the field and are able to build a strong reputation and client base.
Many architectural photographers work on a freelance basis and are hired by architects, designers, and real estate developers to photograph buildings and interiors for a variety of purposes, such as marketing materials, publications, and exhibitions.
Depending on the project and the photographer’s level of experience, fees for architectural photography can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per assignment.
However, like with any creative profession, success in architectural photography often requires a combination of talent, hard work, and business savvy.