60 seconds with architectural photographer Peter Landers

Antonia Dixon

Why did you decide to become an architectural photographer? Is it something you have always loved?

I trained as an architect and then spent seven years working in the architectural visualisation industry, which in effect is reverse engineering the architectural photo.  Photography, especially architectural photography, is something I have always loved but it was primarily a hobby. Five years ago I made my hobby my career. I spent eighteen months travelling and building my portfolio which enabled me to experience a range of architecture.

 

Who is your biggest influence? (Not necessarily a photographer, but in terms of your photography)

I wouldn’t say that there is one particular influence on my work. I spend a lot of my spare time keeping up to date on the progress of various architectural projects around the world. It’s inspiring to see buildings take shape and see an architect’s vision become reality. I also always keep an eye out for what other photographers are doing, it’s fascinating to see how different people cover spaces.

 

What is the most challenging project that you had to photograph?  (and briefly why)

Every project is a challenge for any number of reasons, small spaces, large area, scale, weather, people, obstructions, terrain or traffic. Therein lies the fun in the job, how am I going to get the shot that I think will work the best and truly capture the space.

001_PLP_ImageClockwise from top left: College Road – Russian For Fish. John Lewis Partnership Heritage Centre – FSP Architects. Narrow House  – Sanei Hopkins Architects. Calvin Street  – Chris Dyson Architects

 What would be your dream project to shoot? (and briefly why)

A commission to shoot the National Theatre is top of the list, it’s my favourite building in London. Brutalist architecture lends itself to dramatic architectural photos, the texture and juxtaposition between heaviness and light. I like a challenge so would enjoy capturing a performance space. It’s tricky trying to capture that atmosphere.

 

What separates an iconic image from the rest? i.e. angles, colour, composition, shock factor?

It nearly always has to be a combination of everything – composition, colour, tone, subject, light etc. Some of the most iconic architectural images convey the use of the building using people and their movement. A well placed set of characters and a subtle suggestion of movement or activity can tell you so much more about the building. Having said that a crisp clean empty standalone building highlights its form and materials. Shock factor isn’t really something associated with architectural photography but drama plays a big part and that can be captured through light, colour or characters.

 

What difference is the digital landscape making to the world of architectural photography – and even to architecture itself?

Whilst I still enjoy using film cameras the flexibility and the speed digital photography provides an unrivalled work-base for architectural photography. The ability to shoot so many images means each image can be continually honed and perfected. When you’re on site you want to nail the shot in one, but exterior elements often prevent this, instead you have to be thinking about what the image can become when you’re back in the office. I.e. what digital assets do you need to make the best photo? This could be traffic and people removal, bracketing for extreme exposures or extra photos to make a stitch. Particularly when it comes to people you might have to pose them on site, now you can grab people from the same composition at different times and use them together to enhance the photo. For each tripod position I like to have a rough plan of how the photo will be built and think about what the image could become.

 

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Clockwise from top left: Gasholders Marketing Suite – Wilkinson Eyre Architects. C-Space – Buckley Gray Yeoman Architects. New North Road – Cooke Fawcett Architects. Mast Brothers

If a client informed you of their desired publication before you shot their project, would that alter the way you photographed it and how? In other words, what qualities differentiate a Dezeen image, House & Garden image and an AJ image?

With a Dezeen or and AJ image you’re generally looking to capture the architecture and the activity within it, these images would be more in line with what you might refer to as a ‘classic architectural shot’. House & Garden on the other hand might lean a little more to the ‘lifestyle’ type image which is not only about the architecture and design but the things within it and a focus on the people that live there.

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St Martin’s Lofts  – Darling Architects

Do you prefer to see your images in print or online and why?

It’s always nice to see my images featured anywhere, but I do still have a soft spot for seeing them in print. There’s something appealing about having a physical record of your work, especially looking back to earlier projects.

 

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Wapping Pierhead – Chris Dyson Architects

And lastly, if you could have dinner with a stranger (celebrity or a professional role model) who would it be and what would you most like to ask them?

Had he still been alive I would have to pick Julius Shulman, a man who many consider to have defined architectural photography as its own art form. If nothing else the comparison of modern day and old techniques, approach and equipment would be fascinating.

IMG_5997-Edit-200516_Profile_PLP-Large (2)Peter Landers