by Elias Redstone. Phaidon, October 2014. 240 p. ill. ISBN 9780714867427 (cl.), $79.95.
Reviewed January 2015
Barbara Opar, Architecture Librarian, Syracuse University Libraries, firstname.lastname@example.org
The text in the inside jacket of Shooting Space: Architecture in Contemporary Photography begins: "Since the invention of photography, architecture has proved a worthy subject for photographers and, in turn, photography has played an important role in how architecture is communicated." Elias Redstone certainly proves the point in this well-illustrated and highly readable book. The book critically examines the relationship between the two, showing how images help us interpret our built environment.
Architectural photography as a study has grown significantly in the past two decades. Initially, books on the subject tended to focus on techniques and how to photograph a building. The Canadian Centre for Architecture published an exhibition catalog Photography and Architecture, 1839-1939 which included iconic images, with photographs by well-known artists like Charles Sheeler and pioneering photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. Other books in this vein followed. Claire Zimmerman's 2014 Photographic Architecture in the Twentieth Century provides further insight into understanding the development of architectural photography with penetrating chapters on the evolution of the photograph into "image" as it is now often viewed.
The architectural photographer remained almost anonymous for many years. Early on, books on modernist architects would credit the photographer if they were the likes of a Lucien Hervé or Julius Shulman. Lately books have been published on significant architectural photographers, including the two aforementioned names. These books have discussed the role the photographer played in promoting the architect's work, often adding background information about the working relationship between the architect and photographer.
The latest development in books focusing on architectural photography is the presentation of a different approach whereby photography and architecture intersect, interact, and collaborate to show the built environment in a new light. This is the crux of Redstone's book. Divided into five chapters, Shooting Space begins by showing how the right photographer can and has created iconic images of buildings. The book then investigates various responses to the urban condition from photographs of Hong Kong's density to decaying Detroit. This is followed by examining the impact of the built environment on nature, with evocative images of infrastructure.
In a later chapter, photographers revisit iconic works and try to present new interpretations of modern architecture through various light and color techniques as well as vantage points. Alex Hartley, for instance, shows the Eames House swallowed up by undergrowth. The book concludes with photographers who manipulate their images without concern for an accurate depiction of the building, with the goal of the chapter, and indeed the book, showing how architecture can see itself as well as represent itself in new ways.
Through the many beautiful photographs and engaging text, Elias Redstone succeeds in showing us the contribution contemporary photography can make to architecture by looking at the built environment in new and different ways. Brief biographies of the photographers are included. This added to the quality of the images make the book a very good value and worth adding to library collections.