Celebrating Brutalist Architecture in London. A personal creative project.
As a professional photographer I need to develop my creative skills in order to progress my art. Setting myself personal projects helps me to achieve this aim. A great area of interest for me is architectural photography and a project centred around brutalist architecture fulfils that need.
For me it is a very suitable project as many examples of this type of architecture can be found reasonably close to home. A trip along the South Bank and onwards though the City of London can be achieved in one session.
Brutalist Architecture – the answer in austere times?
The style known as brutalist originated during the 1940’s in France, although it did not make an appearance in the UK until the 1950’s. The first proposal for utilising the style was a house in Soho which was never built. The plan was put forward as a property with warehouse aesthetic of bare concrete and wood.
During the 1960’s the style developed with the predominant use of ‘Breton Brut’ or raw concrete. Patterns were created on the concrete giving the impression of wooden shuttering. Scale was important with the emphasis on mass. Large concrete slabs were employed with textured surfaces. Service ducts and ventilation towers were very much in evidence.
The style suited austere times as the materials were cheap, and blocks could be prefabricated. Construction time was minimised which was important as there was a great need for fast reconstruction after the war.
Notable examples in London.
The style was particularly popular in London where there are many fine examples such as the National Theatre and other buildings on the South Bank. These were built on or near the site of the 1951 Festival of Britain which showcased recovery of UK following WW2. The Royal Festival Hall is the only building to survive from the Festival of Britain.
Another fine example is the Barbican Centre built in the City of London. The centre was built in an area that was heavily bombed in WW2. The centre comprises around 2000 flats, a lake and garden. It also houses the Guildhall school of music and drama, a library, a girl’s school and the world-famous Barbican concert hall home to the London Symphony orchestra.
Logistics of the shoot
The beauty of working in a city such as London is that it is easily accessible and can be worked by foot in a relatively compact area.
A return trip into Waterloo and a brisk walk along the South Bank and through to the City of London across the millennium bridge opposite the Tate Modern covered the ground.
The shoot took place on a very sunny day which is very conducive for black and white photography although some of the shots were very contrasty and challenged the ability of a DSLR camera.
All the images were taken on a DSLR camera in raw mode and initially processed in Adobe Lightroom as black and white versions. The tonality was adjusted using the black and white mixer sliders.
The photos were then exported to Photoshop as colour versions and converted to black and white using the DXO Silver Effects Pro plug in. This is perhaps the best piece of software to produce excellent black and white images.
You have the option to mimic some of the classic black and white films of old. You can add texture to the image and use their excellent U point technology for local adjustments.
Observation is part of the creative process.
Of course, thinking in black and white is quite different to thinking in colour. You need to think about shape, form and texture within the image.
Observation is a very important creative process and here I find the juxtaposition of the concrete stairwell and metal fire escape interesting. They complement each other by introducing a similar curve into the composition. There is also added interest as they are constructed of different materials.
How can you be creative.
My inspiration for this shoot came from knowing that some photographic tuition providers advertise this as a day’s training. I thought that I would just go out and do it.
The secret is that there is no secret, and you just need to find something that interests you and plan the shoot. Then just pencil in a day and carry it out. It can be very rewarding, and you can share the results on Instagram or other social media platforms.
If you feel that you need extra help however you could always contact me to arrange a personal 121 tuition session or refer to my tuition page to learn more
© Andrew Boschier Photography 2022