People and architecture


I am often asked why there are not people depicted in my architectural photographs and I have sometimes also even been criticized for this. 

There are mainly two reasons why people are represented in an architectural photograph, the first of which to explain what the relative scale of a building or a space about a human figure is, and the second to report a function that is specific or unique on the architectural design and that a photograph has to document.

In either of these cases, a person who is represented in the frame always does it as just an element of the composition that occupies a size and a position that has to harmoniously work with the rest of the elements in the photograph considering them as the plastic content they are: as lines, shapes, colors and textures.

Never the position and the action that a human figure portrayed in an architectural photograph performs is casual –and specially the direction of that action and where this person is looking–, to never go against the real sense of the composition and the message that the picture is conveying and actually proposing to its viewers.

Most of the people who only owns a camera exclusively sees photographs as documents and is not as aware of their huge potential if they think of them as images created with the intention of generating a communication that goes far beyond the simple will to just certify reality and therefore tend to think that the photographic process is a simple sum of lucky coincidences: the whole truth is that photographers work in a completely opposite way.

Fòrum Photovoltaic Panel  |  Elías Torres  |  Barcelona

Architecture is the central subject that dominates the composition of an architecture photograph and to which any other element in the image is subordinated, also the people that may or may not appear in the frame.  

That’s why including people in the images of an architectural photography professional assignment is one of the decisions that both the authors of the architecture project and the photographer must consciously take together: some architects require a purely bare representation oftheir designs –and this is probably where my style as a photographer feels more comfortable– while many others prefer to see their works in relation to people who are actually using them.

In any case, this is a decision that clearly affects how we communicate an architecture project and that has to be implemented in a consistent and effective way in the photographs that represent it as one of the client’s requirements in a professional assignment. 

A series of four of my photographs exploring the close relation between people and architecture was featured as finalist of the 1995 European Architectural Photography Prize Architekturbild: many years later in 2014, I think that today we have to fully investigate the huge potential of timelapse photography and HDSLR video to successfully portray this connection.

David Cardelús