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  • Writer's pictureEllen Fisch

The Art of Architectural Photography: Finding a New Focus

I love to take photographs. Even beyond looking through my lens, I love to look directly at things: study them, observe, look at how they are crafted and what makes them tick. In particular, I look at the same architecture again and again. It is my nature. As I walk through Manhattan, often on my way from Penn Station to Grand Central Station, I admire the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the New York Public library at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. I never tire of seeing these icons. At Grand Central Station, I appreciate the same murals, carved ornamentation, renowned clock with its opal faces, grill work that I've photographed so many times in the past. And to further that train of thought, on my recent trip to India, after getting my bearings in that exquisite and exciting architectural paradise, I noticed that I was searching for similar architectural motifs representative of India's architecture and its details at each place I focused my lens.

How to keep the work fresh.....or more to the point, how to keep myself passionate enough to keep photographing architecture again and again? I ask myself how others have kept their work alive as they repeat the same studies or use the same subjects repeatedly. There are, of course, many answers and examples from which to draw. Monet, for one, painted haystacks, waterlilies and the fields where he lived over and over again. Each painting is perhaps the same subject but infinitely different. The light, constantly changing, creates numerous alterations in each work. Color or values, perspective, composition each contribute to a completely different work. Ansel Adams' studies of natural landscape; Frank Lloyd Wright's furniture designs; Tiffany's stained glass masterpieces all attest to a similar theme, yet are marvelously different works.

There is another piece to the puzzle of creating art that is infused with the artist's passion and continued sense of discovery that is expressed to the viewer. The word create implies, paraphrased from the dictionary: the evolution of self thought through imagination as invention. I like to think of the question Einstein posed: What is more important, knowledge or imagination? Einstein's answer was imagination, for without it one cannot get to the next level of knowledge. Therefore, I use my creativity not to repeat while photographing but to expand; to look deeper; to go beyond what I've done before. To imagine the subject in its numerous possibilities.

At no other time in my personal experience was the repetition of subject and the imaginative perspective more relevant than while I looked at the magnificent mystical architecture in India. Always similar yet extensively diverse. Outside of Jaipur on the road to Agra and in the village of Abhaneri , I visited Chand Baori, a step well that is more than one thousand years old. In India step wells were used to conserve water and, after experiencing my first sight of a step well in Delhi, I became captivated by their beauty and functionality. These are not merely wells but entire environments, with religious monuments, small chambers, larger rooms, carvings, statuary, pillars. Abhaneri's step well, Chand Baori has many enchanting passages and chambers: small spaces complementing the vast well itself. One small hallway dotted with ruins fascinated me and I took about 80 shots of the corridor. The same space offered many images evoking different expressions of what I saw and felt there. The narrow place also offered shelter from the sweltering sun and its cool shadows of history claimed my attention and my desire to preserve these moments of my journey.

Chand Baori, Abhaneri India: Architectural Photography

Chand Baori, Abhaneri India: Black and White Architectural Photography

Chand Baori, Abhaneri India: Sepia Architectural Photography

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