Works in Progress - Autumn 2013

How We See Our World

Photo © Joe Fletcher

By Allen Freeman

September 5, 2013



Photography alters the way we perceive our environment, social historians tell us, just as editors of architecture magazines argue that photographs change the way we build our houses and cities. Julius Shulman’s widely published black-and-white images of houses in Southern California influenced modernism in postwar homebuilding, for instance, and Ezra Stoller’s shots of crisp skyscrapers swayed executives in the Mad Men era to equate modern architecture with corporate success.

Today’s architectural photographers achieve striking results with digital cameras and images edited on computers, but digitization has its downsides. What role does the professional play “in a world where low-quality snapshots of architecture and design proliferate on the Web?” asks photographer and former Metropolis magazine photo editor Bilyana Dimitrova as she curates an exhibition of 10 of today’s leading American photographers.

Presented by the Julius Shulman Institute, “Beyond the Assignment” opens October 5 at the Woodbury University’s WUHO Gallery in Los Angeles. Dimitrova calls the exhibit “a long-overdue look at the way architectural photographers combine technical precision, visual storytelling, and their own points of view to interpret the built environment.”

Allen Freeman is the former advisory editor of the Scholar and editor of Works in Progress.

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