Abstract of final thesis

Abstract

Many critics have highlighted the gulf between the experience of architecture and its representations via photography, suggesting a more humanistic and temporal portrayal. My research questions whether, in pursuing alternatives to conventional, commercial architectural photography, a more dynamic view can be revealed, one that is closer to the experience of encountering the built environment: episodic, transient and in flux.

I believe temporality and motion are indicative of the life of a building: both habitually omitted from traditional commercial representations. Practical and conceptual challenges directed me to techniques depicting ‘still’ and ‘moving’, that intersect with several of photography’s discourses: the evidential value of images constructed over time, the perception of movement in still photography and negotiations between description and creativity.

My methodology is an empirical investigation drawing on principles of the scientific analysis of motion (chronophotography): interpretive, yet with evidential rigour. This allies to Henri Bergson’s concept of duration, Futurism, Cubism and cinematic animation, whence I take the portrayal of motion and multi-point perspectives in still images.

By identifying examples from painting and illustration, my temporal approach builds up images over time, utilising observation, interpretation, editing and presentation. My subject matter is limited to what is found and what appears during each session; from this bricolage of serendipitous events selections are made throughout the practice’s reiterative process. I argue the case for appropriating the artist’s licence to interpret, producing an abbreviation of a longer period while remaining informative. I challenge Kracauer’s contention that the true ability to depict the city is exclusive to cinema, by using a static medium to represent ever-changing landscapes populated by transient characters in ephemeral scenes.

My practice bridges the gap between architectural photography and the ‘photography of architecture’. I identify two anomalies that inform the practice: firstly the difference between mainstream architectural photography during the inter-war period and concurrent, vibrant, animated representations of the city in film and painting. Secondly, my case studies illustrate differences between architectural photography and visual representations in other media (CAD-generated images, architectural models and sketches); the animated nature of the latter negating the notion of commercially-driven work being necessarily objectified, pristine and sterile.

 

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Source references with citations: paper presentation in Berlin 30/10/2014

And Yet Still, it Moves.

References for conference presentation Berlin 30th October 2014
Derek Trillo MA ARPS

‘[architectural photography]…the craven image, a lifeless piece of flattering deception foisted on an unsuspecting public by an unholy alliance of architect, photographer and art editor’ (Elwall 1991 quoting Tom Picton, p 63)

Reference to Tom Gunning’s ongoing dialogue with the ‘truth claim’ of photography:
To represent “truth”, it must resemble the object it represents, which is not an inevitable characteristic of an index. (Gunning 2004)

”…photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again,” (Bourdieu 1996, p 136, paraphrasing Henri Cartier-Bresson)

‘…in order to catch another layer of reality and not to render the real idealistic.’ (Meireis 2012).

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Fifth International Conference on the Image, Berlin 29-30 October 2014

I’ve just applied to present a paper at this conference – the abstract is below:

Yet Still, it Moves: How Can Still Images Represent a Temporal World? 

This paper challenges the notion that photography can best fulfil Gunning’s ‘Truth claim’ when produced by instantaneous capture. In our temporal world, experiences are not constrained to single moments in time, ‘decisive’ or otherwise. Continually evolving, multiple perceptions form experiences, modify memories and inspire imagination.

Henri Bergson’s philosophy was grounded in the idea that thinking dominated by spatial metaphors is a category error, because temporality is crucial to our understanding of lived experience.

The paper critiques conventional architectural photography, a profession in which images attempt to arrest time at a building’s completion, portraying them as pristine, lifeless shells. I contrast this with my own practice: multiple digital images, reconstituted into single frames. Intended to inform both architectural design and research, this practice builds on the lived experience of architecture, expressed as an accumulation of encounters.

I argue that, contrary to established opinion, constructed images using digital technologies present a credible alternative, albeit a mediated one. This methodology elaborates on Bergson’s understanding of temporality and Deleuze’s concepts of experiential time. Lying on the indistinct boundary between still and moving images, my practice is informed by Kracauer’s ‘flow of life’,referring to cinema’s ability, over stills, to capture the essence of life.