Berenice Abbott recognised in Eugene Atget’s images of Paris his ability to fill ‘inhuman architectural photography with human experience’.
This set the tone for my recent visit to the Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London.
18 photographers, 250 images.
The works are shown in chronological order: Starting with Berenice Abbott who documented the rise of skyscrapers in New York during the interwar years of 1930s and ending with Iwan Baan who recorded the daily life of people who lived in Torre David, an abandoned incomplete tower in Venezuela.
The following passage in the introduction by Alona Pardo and Elias Redstone in the accompany book sums up what the Construction Worlds exhibition is about:
The understanding that photography which takes architecture as its subject matter has the ability to communicate wider truths about society is fundamental to the works presented… However diverse their aesthetics, each artist or photographer challenges the orthodoxy of architectural photography, by not simply interpreting the intentions of the architects, but by revealing through the photographic medium the lived experience and symbolic value of our built world.
Some of the pictures are in colour, others in monochrome. Some are presented as 8×10 prints, others in grand format. Irregardless of the size, colour or style, there are many that made me pause for thought while some captivated me.
Constructing Worlds is an excellent exhibition that inspires, informs and intrigues.
I could have lost myself for hours amongst the sublime and poignant images on show. It was fascinating to see the details of how society functions within and interacts with various built environments across different times.
Looking at these images, I was reminded of some of my favourite pictures that I took in Hong Kong:
As mentioned in a previous post about voyeurism, there were several details that I had not spotted when I was taking this photograph from an opposite building. Click on the image above to see it in a larger format and you’ll see what I mean.
If you are in London between now and 11 January 2015, I’d strongly recommend a visit to the Barbican Centre to see the Constructing Worlds exhibition.
If you don’t get the chance, you can see a selection of the photographs on the website.
The book is also on sale on the online shop. However it doesn’t contain all the photographs that are on show.
There were some pictures that I wish were included in the book. But since they aren’t, I went looking for them on the Internet and am making a note of them here.
I hope you get to see in person the images created by these excellent photographers: Berenice Abbott, Iwan Baan, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Hélène Binet, Walker Evans, Luigi Ghirri, Andreas Gursky, Lucien Hervé, Nadav Kander, Luisa Lambri, Simon Norfolk, Bas Princen, Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Julius Shulman, Thomas Struth, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Guy Tillim.
On a final note, tell me, how does photography shape the way you view the urban world around you?