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.
I just love working with new interior design clients. Perhaps it is down to how much I can help them with their marketing images. My latest project is for Alessandra Garcia of Orsetto Interiors. She hails from El Salvador and now has established a practice in SW London.
Background to the interiors shoot
I met Alessandra through the power of business networking. This was a chance meeting. All because a networking colleague persuaded me to visit another group. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and she just happened to be searching for a specialist interiors photographer.
Alessandra has been developing her website for a while. Her problem was that not having completed a project meant that she had nothing to show the world.
Now that she has a finished project, it was full steam ahead for the photography. The day was set and Alessandra arrived early to dress the property. This is so important for the designer as they wish to show the interior as it was intended. You do not want so much everyday clutter on display.
Of course, the property needs to look lived in too.
Fortunately, Alessandra loved my style of interior design photography and the brief reflected this. Alessandra wanted the look of the property to be bright and airy. This was easy to achieve here because there were skylights installed, bringing an abundance of natural light into the space.
The interiors shoot
Arriving at the location, the first thing to do is to gain an overview of the property. It is important to be clear about what is required and which rooms to shoot.
This forms the basis of the shot list and gives the order of shooting. Alessandra also wanted some shots of herself in the property too.
As the light levels were so good in the property the photography was easier for this shoot. I still went through my usual routine of taking a number of exposures with the aim of blending in post-production.
This gives the opportunity to fine-tune the ambience for the property, just as the designer intended. As usual, I bring some emphasis to the details so that the client has plenty of choice of images.
It is really important to provide a whole set of images for the client. Some wider shots to be used as hero images, some closeup for detail and others with space for the copy too.
am always aware of the multifunctional nature of the images as they may be used for social media as well as the website. Some even wish to produce brochures as well.
Thoughts about post-production
While on-site you need to think about post-production later. You need a good range of images with varying exposures so that everything is captured. The skill is then to form a perfect blend to give the effect required. This has to look natural too as there are many images around that look completely false, often with garish colours.
Of course, post-production is completely necessary as you need to compensate for the limitations of the camera to capture everything. Our brains are remarkable in how they process information. This is something that even in these technological times still remains elusive for the camera manufacturers.
Alessandra was so excited about this shoot as this was to key to unlocking her interior design business. She was delighted with the results. So much so, She has already recommended me to another designer who will require a similar shoot too.
With climate change at the top of everybody’s minds now, I thought that I would share some behind the scenes of a recent PR photography shoot.
A PR agency commissioned me to conduct a PR photography shoot for Ionity, a company that operates high powered electric vehicle charging stations.
IONITY is a joint venture of BMW Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes Benz AG and Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche. Their goal is to build a high-power charging network for electric vehicles along major highways in Europe with plans for up to 400 sites.
Their stations can charge at 350 kW which means at maximum capacity, the charge can be completed in around 15 – 20 minutes. They also automatically sense the power capacity of the car, so if you are not lucky to own a prestige car your car will still be charged at its optimum rate.
The brief and shoot.
This shoot was organised in conjunction with Porsche. They had arranged for a film crew to video one of their Tayan cars at Cobham services, near to where I live.
The brief was to capture stills once the film crew had finished their first takes. This meant a reasonable amount of waiting around. It did give me the opportunity to be a little more creative with my photography. It helped that I had a prestigious subject at my disposal.
They wanted some interesting angles and if possible, some action shots too. I decided to take some shots of the car being driven around and arriving at the charging station.
The advantage of working alongside a film crew is that they usually use multiple takes to cover every angle. This gives me more opportunities to get the shots I need.
I did ask if I could borrow the model so that I could get some shots with her using the equipment to bring some extra interest. The answer was obvious because the model politely declined as she had been contracted by Porsche for the day. The moral here is if you do not ask you will never get.
I do have a reputation for being cheeky occasionally, as I like to capture something different. Examples include the local mayor on a Segway and our local MP sporting a stainless-steel bra.
This gave me an advantage as the sample shots sent were of rather more mundane vehicles and the sun was shining too.
To see more of my PR and Events photography work or are looking for professional photography work to promote or capture your events, visit my PR Photography Page!
There is an adage when it comes to the retail environment. “Retail is detail”, which was attributed to James Gulliver, the head of Fine Fare/ Safeway in the ’70s. This was very important when I was recently asked to help with some marketing photography for an upgraded farm shop within a local garden centre.
This is very true when my client took advantage of the recent lockdowns. Their circumstances changed when Edinburgh Woollen Mill closed their outlet within the building. The extra space allowed them to relocate their successful farm shop into the main premises.
This gave me the chance to help them with their marketing photography. They needed to inform their clients of this change.
Kat, the marketing lady, wanted to emphasise that the farm shop had nearly doubled in size. She was excited to announce that their popular ‘cook’ range of frozen dinners had been expanded to eight freezers from the original four.
The brief was therefore aimed at showing the overview of the space. They wanted to show the context of its position within the rest of the shop.
There was a definite need to show the details such as the vegetable displays, the refillable cereal containers and the expanded range of wines. They particularly wanted to emphasise the range of locally sourced produce, as clients are more aware of reducing food miles.
Kat was also very keen to show that they were operating in a more sustainable manner. Kat wanted to show that they were serious about a reduction in the use of packaging and that this packaging was environmentally friendly.
Of course, when it comes to this kind of marketing photography you need to allow time to capture everything. The shop was open and the staff were still stocking up. Patience was the order of the day.
The premises were well lit so it was possible to get a lot of the shots in one take. However, some shots with differing exposures were merged later to create the appropriate ambience.
Kat was delighted with the results, and this allowed her to take out a full-page advertisement in a local magazine.
If you have updated your offering I would love to be able to help you to publicise this for your valued clients.
Please contact me to arrange a consultation regarding marketing photography or to book a shoot.
During the COVID-19 pandemic whole areas of our lives have changed. An amazing statistic recently revealed that there has been a 750% increase in searches for take-away afternoon teas.
What has changed in your business? How have you pivoted in these challenging times?
So many have now made the shift to online sales. This has become their norm. Others have no option but to remain in physical premises where takeaway is the solution during the latest national lockdown.
A client’s story.
I recently helped a garden centre to produce fab images of their lovely take-away afternoon teas. They can remain open however the café must remain closed for seated customers. To create some cash flow they have decided to offer take-aways and included are afternoon teas.
To be environmentally friendly they ordered in some great packaging which is completely recyclable. It is ingeniously designed to make sure that the tea is perfect after its journey home.
Overcoming the photographic challenges
On arrival for the shoot, I was directed to a dark corner of the cafe which was out of the way of any customers. Looking at the scene, I decided that the way to go was to introduce some artificial lighting. I often use a Lastolite highlight panel which is designed to be a pure white background for portrait shoots. This is a fantastic large source of soft light, which resembles that produced from a window. I always want the images to look as natural as possible and will mostly steer away from using flash.
It was obvious after the first few test shots that this was not going to work. The light was too harsh and with a dull day outside, the images had a very dark background. This is where it is best to admit defeat to your client and suggest something else.
On my way in I spotted that the first part of the seating area was more like a greenhouse as it was totally glass. I suggested that it would be best to set up there a I was confident that the whole shoot could be carried out using natural light which is always my first choice. The cafe was quiet so this would not cause any issues.
This turned out to be a brilliant move as I was soon up and running producing lovely bright images which is my general style.
The shoot was a huge success, and the client is delighted with the images which they can now use to promote themselves on their website and social media.
Can I help you?
If your business needs marketing images of your take-away offering in SE England, then I may be able to help you too. Just contact me or else use the chat function on the site.