Since the city belongs to everyone, architecture provides an endless playground and source of inspiration for professional and amateur photographers alike. Architectural photography today documents urban renewal as vestiges of the past: it’s what you remember about a building that you may have never even seen in real life. Thus the photographer’s eye will often shape the collective imagination around a building. Here are four photographers whose common ground is the way they view color as an architectural material in its own right.
Tekla Evelina Severin, the most color-addicted
Tired of the linear white and beige monotony of Scandinavian design, Swedish interior designer Tekla Evelina Severin took a “colorist” turn, exploring materials and colors that contrast with Nordic aesthetics. In the process, she became an architectural photographer, traveling the world in search of constructions that play, as she does, with color. “Everything can inspire me (…). But if I would say one thing; sunlight! It is the main creator in my photography,” confides the artist, whose approach is multidisciplinary, at the crossroads of set design, styling, and photography.
The Instagram account of this “color addict,” as she likes to label herself, provides a plethora of vibrant and pastel exteriors, as well as colorful interiors in which she places herself in the shot. The quality and originality of her work played an important role in Tekla Evelina Severin’s professional journey. “Instagram has become a platform and has changed the game for me: I have received more and more orders, gradually passing from employee to 100% freelance in 2015.”
Her work reflects the influence of both the Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, whose “deconstructivist, sculptural and geometrical vision” she praises, as well as more emerging and playful architects, such as Portuguese artists from the Fala workshop.
Matthieu Venot, the most Californian
Matthieu Venot wasn’t always an architectural photographer. Previously a sound engineer in the music industry, he took up photography at the age of 35 when he returned to live in Brest, his hometown. “I reflected that I didn’t know it very much at all. So I began to walk the streets to get to know my city better. I used that experience to share my vision on social media.” He views the sky as his studio, a background for his photographs, which showcase polychrome architecture at different scales: a balcony detail, an angle, a building shown in multiple shots. “What matters to me most are the colors and the simple shapes,” he says.
His Instagram account is like a stroll through an optimistic and pastel urban landscape that can also be disorienting. Pink, yellow, and light blue shots of Brest or other cities in Brittany merge with others from Los Angeles or Miami, without the viewer being able to tell them apart. Matthieu Venot’s photos are now available in print, in a book just published by Éditions Autonomes titled La cité d’angles. Some 800 of his architectural photographs are also on view at the University Library of Brest through December 11, where they are arranged by color.
Roc Isern, the most urban
Roc Isern’s camera lens doesn’t spare any aspect of his native Barcelona. From Gothic monuments to Catalan modernism, from the streamlined urban planning of the Eixample district to contemporary landmarks such as Jean Nouvel’s Agbar tower, all of Barcelona’s architecture is brought under scrutiny–and displayed on his two very popular Instagram accounts, stoptheroc and barcelonafacades.
An architect by training, he roams the city while isolating himself from the world with headphones so he can focus on the facades and what is happening there: ripples of light, sheets hanging out of windows, dialogues between materials, color patterns, decors in turn kitsch and luxurious… His favorite building in Barcelona? Probably the MACBA, the contemporary art museum designed by Richard Meier in the 1990s. “I love his geometric designs [and his] prominent use of the color white,” he observes.
His success on social media has led to commissions for architectural photos. However, the current pandemic has had a big impact on his plans. “No great ongoing projects in these difficult times. Nowadays I am more focused on my job as an architect. I hope that next summer I can resume traveling and doing new commissions of architectural shoots.”
Jeanette Hägglund, the most minimalistic
Jeanette Hägglund snapped her first pictures at the age of eight. Now a professional photographer, she pays special attention to giving a minimalist rendering to her images. The purity of shapes, lines and colors prevails over any stylistic effect. While she doesn’t just specialize in architecture–portraiture is a field she loves just as much–it’s the field that takes up most of her Instagram posts. She is a great admirer of Zaha Hadid, whose “organic shapes and dynamic appearance of the buildings” she loves.
The photographer recently traveled to Doha to shoot two large buildings, the National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel and the Museum of Islamic Art designed by I.M. Pei. She shared with us her impressions of these two behemoths with opposite geometry: “The National Museum designed by Jean Nouvel: The building looks like a sand rose, really amazing. The Museum of Islamic Art designed by I.M. Pei has hard shapes and amazing geometry that gets highlighted differently during the day.”
By Charlotte Jean
Charlotte Jean is a journalist and author. A former contributor to Beaux Arts Magazine and the founder of Darwin Nutrition, she graduated from the École du Louvre, where she majored in in contemporary art.