Photographing and filming architecture. A different way of writing architectural history
Servicio de Publicaciones Universidad de Navarra
Piccardo, E., (2016) ""Photographing and filming architecture. A different way of writing architectural history"" En: Alcolea, R.A, Tárrago-Mingo, J., (eds.), en Congreso internacional: Inter photo arch ""Intersecciones"", celebrado en Pamplona, los días 2 al 4 de Noviembre de 2016, (pp.246-255)
Without photography there can be no history of modern architecture. The role of the photographer is often marginal and consigned by architectural historians to documentarians lacking any interpretative skills. If we analyse the work of certain photographers, such as Lucien Hervé, Le Corbusier’s historic collaborator, we can reach beyond a superficial view of his work to establish the degree of interpretation during the construction phase and in the subsequent sequences, especially those not suggested and selected by Corbu to create the iconography of his work. Besides, it was after his visit to the Marseille Unité d’Habitation that Hervé took 650 photographs, which he posted to Corbu, who replied: “you have the soul of an architect and know how to look at architecture”. This knowing how to look at architecture inspired Julius Shulman from the very outset. With his photographs of Neutra’s Kaufman House he developed a new iconography, which introduced architectural photography for magazines as a new discipline. In the seventies, the reporter, Gianni Berengo Gardin, took a different approach and his portrayal of the works of Renzo Piano focused on people using spaces. At the opposite end of the scale, Guido Guidi felt empathy for the architecture of Carlo Scarpa by putting himself in the architect’s shoes and establishing a visual discourse with him. Thus, a contrast appears between the historical-critical vision of architecture, based exclusively on the relationship between the two-dimensional image and three-dimensional spaces, and a more relevant vision, which puts together a written critical text, photography and film. The latter method partly restores the complexity of architecture, even though the physical experience of crossing over is beyond compare. In the first case, we find the typical attitude of twentieth century historiography, which contrasts the documentary photographic vision at the service of historians and customer-architects with authorial photography, which interprets architecture according to different reasoning, languages and references, all typical of the field of photography. The aim of the paper is to demonstrate how the tools of investigation into architectural history can be reformulated with the use photography, which is finally considered as a critical visual text on a par with the written text. An analysis is made of the photographs of Hervé, Shulman, Guidi, Berengo Gardin and some contemporary photographers who, with their interpretative architectural photography contrast the neutral, documentary vision that architectural journals continue to publish today. At the same time, the paper also wishes to demonstrate how photography today can no longer suffice to render the complexity of architecture. On the contrary, it is just one of the essential media, such as films and documentaries. Thus, simply by using more than one of these, our understanding of the dynamics of architecture will improve.
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