Behind the Lens looks at architectural photographers both professional and amateur, examining how they got their start, stories from their portfolios, and tricks to capturing great design. Have a lensman in mind? Send link to portfolios (no photo files) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born in the outdoors—his family has a photo of him as a baby when they were camping, resting in a crib in the middle of the wilderness—Arizona photographer Andrew Pielage got his start in nature photography, capturing landscapes with whatever camera he had at hand. He feels his obsession with nature led him to admire, and eventually photograph, the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Currently a freelance photographer who teaches at Taliesin West, Pielage was drawn to the organic aspect of Wright's designs, the way his work found harmony with and referenced the surrounding environment. After a friend helped him get an in at Taliesin West he began shooting other Wright properties, and has done official shoots for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Curbed spoke to Pielage about capturing Wright's work, getting your work in front of the right people, and the value of doing your homework.
What have you learned about Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture after spending so much time behind the lens?
"He was a genius, and not just on the big scale. He designed the furniture, and every small detail. At the David and Gladys Wright House, he designed a small, oddly shaped trash can that just fits in one specific area of the home. When I go through his homes, I look for intimate views and tiny details that people often miss when they look at the whole picture. Touring these properties, where the floor is as exciting as the ceiling, has changed how I do my photography. I often switch to landscape mode and capture the floor and furniture in one shot, then take a photo of the ceiling, then stack them up in Photoshop to provide the entire view."
Which of his homes and projects is your favorite?
"I like the David and Gladys Wright home in Phoenix. It's his solution for living in the desert. He elevated the structure to catch the breeze and cool the house. The curved shape appeals to me because he makes you look away from his building as you enter and pushes your view out toward nature. Then, when you go around the curve, you come back to his architecture. I think it's one of the coolest approaches to architecture that I've ever seen."
Any advice or tricks for improving architectural photographs?
"I always do my homework on the home. There is a lot of literature out there, especially for Frank Lloyd Wright. There are usually lots of drawings, renderings, and photos. To capture all of Frank Lloyd Wright, and other architects, you need to know all those aspects. You can read a lot about why he designed certain parts of the home. You can start to see it the way that he designed it. He was such a genius, and there weren't many people at his level, so you can't really just walk into a building and say, 'well, here's why he did everything.' Look at the work of Pedro Guerrero, a photographer who spent lots of intimate time with Frank Lloyd Wright's work. His insight into those buildings and his photos show the power of getting that information."
Any tips for shooting buildings on Instagram?
"I'm a huge fan of Instagram and the iPhone. One of my favorite shots, taken right outside of Taliesin West, was chosen for the Apple Shot on iPhone 6 campaign. I think with Frank Lloyd Wright's connection to nature, any time that you can capture his work along with the natural environment in the shot, it's always going to be a good. Whether it's outside looking in, or the exterior and landscape, those are the shots to take. They tend to come out really well."
What advice do you have about getting ahead in the industry for people who want to become professional photographers?"
"Access is valuable. That's the toughest part about this whole thing. When it comes to architecture, especially Frank Lloyd Wright, my advice would be to go take a tour of the house and take your best shot. Then, send it to the PR or marketing person who works with that building. Get your work in front of their faces. That may be your way in for a private shoot. They're highly sought-after properties, so you have to show them what you got before they give you anything. Set yourself up and take the tour right at sunrise or sunset. Go when there's a dramatic sky. Be strategic so those images are great."
Tell me about the story behind one of your favorite photos.
"There's a shot of Taliesin that's in my Instagram that's inside Frank Lloyd Wright's studio. It's the same shot that Pedro Guerrero took, one of the first shots I ever saw of Wright's work. I was at nearly the same angle as Guerrero. That was very important to me."
· How a 22-Year-Old Became Wright's Trusted Photographer [Curbed]
· Frank Lloyd Wright archives [Curbed]
· Photography archives [Curbed]