Architects are themselves artists. They are artists with a very special responsibility. They create their multi-dimensional space sensitive to the needs of human beings who will populate that space. These home designs must function technically of course, but the best of architects will have great concern for the visual; for the impact on the eye inside and outside a home. These two goals, functionality and artistry, can often strain against each other. The successful architect will have blended these two efforts in a positive way, one in which a project well performs its function and at the same time presents an artistic, well-balanced, three dimensional composition of mass and space. It’s a serious goal for the architect. And the photographer’s duty is to capture the interaction of these oft competing drives. Dan Forer has worked for over four decades of his photographic career to do this: render a three dimensional story in the two dimensional confines of photographs.
When an architect contacts a photographer for a residential assignment, the first step is a conversation about the architect’s original goals; what were his conversations with the homeowners like? What did they express as their wishes and special needs? The photographer needs to place himself back into the moments when those conversations began to become design solutions. Finally, he learns how the architect translated these into a concrete plan that satisfied the homeowners and left room for the architect to express his own design philosophy, his artistry. By placing himself back at the beginning stages, the photographer can better understand the reasons the design took the shape that it did. Then, his goal is to create a list of shots that tells the story but that can be executed within a time-table that the economics of the assignment requires.
The more prepared he is, the better he’s able to complete an assignment that tells the whole story with a minimum number of shots. He stays within his budget and the architect’s message, his artistry is made publishable and accessible to a wide viewing audience.
I work closely with designers and architects of commercial and institutional interiors to capture and represent the strongest design features of their projects. Commercial photo-shoots are quite complicated to plan and execute. Since most of these projects are “working spaces”, places that must continue to operate even though photography is taking place, this presents scheduling challenges that have to be surmounted if the shoot is to succeed. Frequently I have to work during the “wee hours” of the day when the sites are unoccupied. And with restaurant shoots, since unrestricted access to the entire space is required, my crew and I have to wait until the last customer has left. Only then, often after midnight, can tables be reset and I can start the shoot. Built-in lighting in commercial spaces is usually controlled from behind-the-scenes panels that have to be located and many levels adjusted for each shot. When it comes to additional lighting that we provide, my crew and I have to be careful not to overload the circuit-breakers. So a review of and access to all breaker box locations is a necessity on the shoot. Years of experience in this kind of assignment have caused me to insist on a pre-shoot walk-through with my client and operating personnel to help me answer the many technical questions regarding the site.
I’ve worked with many of today’s premier interior designers and architects. Their goal is to communicate their artistry and skill to a viewer who may not have the ability to visit a site in-person. Using the medium of a photograph, I bring the viewer into a home allowing him to feel as though he’s actually there. My skills in composition and lighting help me succeed in this. My own college background was in the study of theatre and especially, the study of theatrical lighting. Lighting is a critical element in the success of any theatrical production and an elemental device that moves the emotions of the playgoer. True to this dictum, I’ve painted my photographic compositions with a light which must seem natural to the scene yet augments and dramatizes. Using these techniques, I steer the viewer to personally engage in the scene and feel as though he were actually there. No photograph of mine is a casual effort. Always conscious of the responsibility to tell a story, I create shots for each project which will help build a successful magazine story. My goal is to see every one of my assignments published and I work through my association with magazine editors and writers to achieve that end.
What is it about the “magic hour” that’s so engaging to the photographer of architecture and interiors? That special time just after the sun has set when the sky starts gathering those velvet tones of deep purple and indigo and the sharp edges of exterior architectural features become muted. The eye no longer sees surface details as they had appeared before in the bright tropical sunlight. But now, elements within a structure become visible; the eye’s not blinded by the intensity of sunlight which makes any interior view impossibly dark and invisible. “What’s going on inside that space”, one wonders? And slowly, bit-by-bit as the sky darkens, a balance is achieved, and you’re answered. You can see both the exterior and interior with almost equal clarity.
The effect is dramatic. Especially now, the tonality of the two areas, the exterior and interior is radically different. That’s natural. The cool tone (high color temperature) of the exterior which is lighted by the purple/indigo sky sets itself apart from the interior which in days past was lighted by “warm” incandescent fixtures. Note: today’s LED sources can mimic that “incandescent” inviting warm tone. The warm (low color temperature) light that emanates from the interior is dramatically different from the cool exterior light. Except for that color difference, the light intensity of the two areas gradually becomes equal. That now allows us to see detail in both realms. But the tension, the dramatic effect between the two areas is the product of the great difference in color temperature between them. That’s what the photographer captures in creating this dramatic scene.
In my title to this blog, I called our favored time “dusk”. But it can as easily be pre-dawn. The same conditions prevail. You just have to get set up early enough to be there when it happens. So basically the photographer gets two chances in each day to take advantage of that special light. In the typical shoot schedule, especially in the tropical summer when days are long and nights short, the shoot day can end late with an 8:30PM sunset; and can start early with a 6:30AM sunrise. It can make a photographer’s day very long indeed with very little sleep (especially if he’s got some night shots planned).
But it’s well worth it. The resulting views are inimitable and cannot be done any other way. Here are a few examples of that kind of shot.
Well, it’s high time I started blogging again. And now I’ve got a topic to deal with that’s been on my mind for some time. It’s my old and stale website. Things have changed radically since the time I first engaged an expert to build a website for me.
So many new devices out there that folks use to research and investigate resources for their photography needs. So I’m looking through my portfolio to find fresh examples to show off my skills. As I look over my recent digital work and compare it with my years of film, I’m impressed by the fact that it’s not the medium you work with but the imagination you bring to the assignment. I bring an eye for composition and I capture the importance of light in a scene. That’s where all the years working to perfect my craft really paid off. That most unforgiving medium of film wasn’t for the faint-of-heart. I had to make each image perfect without the crutch of Photoshop to help me. A keen sense of color and of shadows and highlights, that sensitivity was the hallmark of the work I produced in those film years.
And now I move it all to the digital world. What a different experience. It no longer takes hours to set up and execute a shot. Many hours at the computer is the new reality. It’s not easier because of Photoshop. On the contrary, much more is expected. Now, in post-production I’m able to make the adjustments which bring an image to new heights of excellence.
This brings me back to the re-build of my website. With the help of my IT guru, Henry VandenBosche of Start On Technology, we’re pulling my film-work together with my digital-work and we’re building a site I can be proud to display. I regret not starting this process sooner. No matter. It’s never too late to advance, be it shooting techniques or computer skills. The result, a portfolio I’m proud of.
But be it film or digital; either way, my photographs are there to convey the imagination and skill of the designers who create these wonderful places.
Here’s an example of a shot on film which had to be complete IN THE CAMERA! No cheating – all lighting had to be perfect there and then.
And here’s an example of a digital shot which had to be completed later IN PHOTOSHOP!
But let’s not be concerned with the tools. Let’s recognize the photographer who wields them. In the end, that’s my point.