Reality is distorted, and photographs correct it.

When you look up, the parallel sides of tall buildings seem to converge into the distance due to perspective.

A large format camera, as used to take this picture, can correct the verticals back to parallel for a more stable-looking architectural picture.

But in shots such as this, the camera is too close to the buildings to completely correct the lines. As a remedy, the image has been scanned and a second correction is made digitally to finish the effect.

Digital and film are working hand in hand here because the camera wasn’t able to complete the correction, and a digital correction alone would have degraded the image quality dramatically.

An interesting paradox of architecture photographs is now uncovered – what we call ‘corrected’ is actually a highly processed and distorted view that never existed in reality.

Below are a few examples from my series of Houston architecture images ‘Dueling Towers’. Fine-art pigment prints using high quality metallic paper are available for collectors - contact me for more information.

Fine art photos of Houston' s Skyscrapers

Is a picture of a building to the credit of the photographer, or the architect?

I’ve struggled with this question. It’s the same problem I have with taking pictures of a sculpture or fountain.Should I get the credit for a creative photo, , or should the creator of the photo’s subject be the hero? Can I claim credit for someone else’s art?

If someone took a picture of one of my pictures, is it my art or theirs?

There are ways to avoid this problem of pure documentation, all of which involve some added input from the photographer. Dramatic weather, unique light and shadows, creative composition or additional composition elements to name a few.

So during the winter of 2018/2019 I explored Houston’s architecture with an aim of avoiding pure documentation of any single structure. The images juxtapose two or more buildings while at the same time avoiding street-level noise of people, cars and lamp posts. I also tend to avoid the tops of buildings. This simplifies city-scapes into their simplest shaped and lines. Perspective becomes illusive as it is sometimes difficult to tell which building faces which direction. Sometimes the buildings are lined up in such a way that they almost look like a new single structure.

Even in a city as large as Houston, there are finite pairs of buildings that can be photographed in this way. Even so, I don’t think I am anywhere near a complete set.

Below are a few examples from this series of images ‘Dueling Towers’. Fine-art pigment prints using high quality metallic paper are available for collectors - contact me for more information.

New York on black and white film

There must be a million photos taken in New York city every day, but there seems to always be room for more. I spent a weekend walking around Manhattan with a Pen FT and a Stereo Realist loaded with Ilford HP5. I think that, when taking photos in a new city, it is nice to warm up by taking the famous and perhaps cliched shots you've seen before, and then dig a little deeper to get shots with your own experience dissolved in. 

The trip was centered around art and architecture. The MET had an exhibit on David Hockney who is an artist who grew up near my hometown in Yorkshire and spent most of his life in California (where I spent some of my favorite years, too). He manages to capture the vibrancy of California in his paintings, and his double portraits are full of the metaphor and symbolism you'd expect from a renaissance master. 

The buildings of New York, new and old, are engraved in our brains whether we have visited the city or not. One of the newer constructions is the Oculus - a subway hub that seems, to me, to invoke both life and death. Depending on your perspective or even mood, it may look like a rising phoenix or the white-washed rib cage of a giant being. It was the surprise highlight of my trip. 

I made sure to point my camera at some of the more cliched sites, too - the Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo, some subway stations, the high line, street portraits of some guys smoking pipes. But you have seen all those before. I can't wait to be there again.

Exploring downtown Houston

Houston doesn't hand out great images freely, but with some work, there are some gems to discover.

A little background

I've taken snapshots of Houston ever since we moved here in 2011. It is not an obviously photogenic city. There are no internationally recognizable landmarks - we are equidistant from the Golden Gate and the Statue of Liberty. But over time I've started to think my lack of great city photographs are my own fault, not the city's. Time to work on that.

Downtown Houston

Houston is a sprawling city with different neighborhoods for different functions. More so than other cities, Houston's downtown is not the sole focus of activity. There is no ground floor commerce, so the bustling streets of a lively city are absent. All that foot traffic is in malls, parks, museums or underground in the tunnels. All that remain are grand entrance lobbies, some very elaborate and interesting, but only staff and corporate guests are likely to see them. Open parking lots are common sights between skyscrapers. Pedestrians also miss out on tree- or awning-shaded sidewalks or arcades that are a given in many cities that suffer hot summers.

This put me off exploring downtown for years, but it turns out that was a mistake. I purposefully spent time one winter walking the streets (and tunnels) and began to appreciate aspects of the city hidden from view. There are no longer any high-elevation viewing decks available to the public downtown, so most pictures have to be found at street level.  There is some truly impressive architecture here. The Bank of America building and Pennzoil Tower are the first to come to mind, but once the eye is on the hunt, there are a wealth of interesting places to see. The backstreets near the Dynamo stadium has some industrial charm and great views of downtown, for instance.

And the area is being improved all the time. The George R Brown conference center / Discovery Green area has recently been redeveloped encouraging crowds of people to spend time outside. The bayous are also in redevelopment. I think the downtown segments have a lot of untapped potential for leisure or even tourism.

Houston's landscapes

There are plenty of other photogenic parts of the city, each with a different style. The industrial landscapes east of downtown, the cottages of the inner suburbs, wildlife on the bayous and in the parks, sculptures, highways, people. I'll post images from these places as I explore, especially over the cooler months.