Construction/Deconstruction: Defining Architectural Photography
In the 19th century, the built environment served as one of the best subjects for early photographers—one that could remain motionless for the required lengthy exposures. Architecture as a recurring subject was well-suited to the capacity of photography to document facts and capture pure form, shape, and shadow. In addition, architectural imagery highlights the intimate human experience of buildings—their creation, use, and decline—making manifest our shared histories and the photographic pathos of a still life meant to stand beyond our lifetime.
Coinciding with Modern Architecture in L.A., a city-wide exhibition program organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, this exhibition turns our focus to architecture in transition, in either the nascent stages of construction or deconstruction. Structures once viewed as solid and impassive read here as more abstract entities, with layers and complexities writ by photography. The exhibition includes work by Thomas J. Annan, Eugène Atget, Lewis Baltz, Richard Barnes, Manuel Carrillo, Lois Conner, Stéphane Couturier, William Current, Andrew Freeman, Simryn Gill, Grant Mudford, Simon Norfolk, and James Welling.
Image: James Welling, West Los Angeles Apartments, 2003, gelatin silver print, 5 ¼ x 9 in., Gift of the artist. © James Welling.
Stéphane Couturier’s photograph of a building site (or is it a demolition zone?) embraces the historical layers that are part of the DNA of a city such as Paris. It’s intriguing because the subtle hues of the image seem to embody the tonal light that is characteristic of the City of Light. What if the identifying title, Rue Chateadun, Paris, was stripped from this image? Would the light read as Parisian? Would this photograph have less of an impact…