Overexposed architecture

Offering an analytical and aesthetic gaze on the urban landscape as a whole, the 2015 edition of the “Arles Rencontres de la photographie” challenges the global vision of city and architecture as inexhaustible sources of inspiration for photography.

From the very beginning, the history of photography has coupled city and architecture as inexhaustible sources of inspiration, offering an analytical and aesthetic gaze on the urban landscape as a whole. “Les Rencontres de la photographie” in Arles is hosting several exhibitions that challenge the urban context with the theme “Résonances. La photographie en dialogue” (“Resonances. Photography in dialogue”).
Las Vegas Studio
Top and above: “Las Vegas Studio”, with archive photos by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Grande Halle
Following in the wake of the legendary Learning from Las Vegas and within the context of the 1968 Yale lectures of the Las Vegas Studio, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour used photography as a tool with which to analyse the landscape and expose the morphological, evolutional and cultural importance of commonplace architecture in terms of symbolic and objective value. Pictures gathered in series form the intellectual cornerstone of every architectural project and are not simply an end in themselves. They are the product of a theoretical reflection on the quality of and logic behind the landscape and they are the product of a construction based on close-ups and the approach to scale ­–­ whether for architecture or people – that determines a precise and orderly reading. Working to promote “social urban planning”, the photograph amplifies the reality and architecture of everyday life, far removed from “Modernist architecture”. This forms a new tool of thought for the projection – on a par with drawing – of theoretical essays and other graphic portrayals, unveiling the very nature of the urban condition. The city appears as an “overexposed” reality, amplified by the intensity of the light.
Toon Michiels
Toon Michiels, American neon signs by day and night, Eglise des Trinitaires. Courtesy of Luïscius
Toon Michiels’ visual universe is purely graphic. Driven by his dual training as a graphic artist and photographer, Michiels selected typical features of the 1970s’ American cityscape. His approach was front-on and showed little more than the subject. These cityscape portraits are all mounted in diptych form, presenting day and night views. The pictures remind us that their interpretation is subject to sensory perception and varies according to the quality and origin, natural or artificial, of the light.
Toon Michiels
Toon Michiels, American neon signs by day and night, Eglise des Trinitaires
American Neon Signs by Day & Night is not only a symbolic series, it also reveals a way of composing the cityscape and a procedure. The “urban sculptures” are set against a neutral day or night background and rise up along major thoroughfares as landmarks on the cityscape. The series is built around repetitive visual sequences, conjuring up a sense of never-ending urbanisation at the service of communication, an urban vision without perspective.
Markus Brunetti
Markus Brunetti, Facades, 2014, Grande Halle, parc des Ateliers
Out of scale! Entitled Facades, Markus Brunetti’s technical drawings express the monumental nature of great religious buildings. Although most are integrated into built-up urban spaces, the photographer manages to isolate them, carefully framed and given the 2D appearance of a drawing. The reading of a building is, therefore, brought down to a single plane, reducing the need to decipher the urban perspective of the surrounding streets to a minimum. His pictures raise the issue of points of view. The reality of urban perception does not allow a front-on reading, close to the building but, as seen here, the photographer’s eye seems to shift freely along a vertical axis, grasping all the details and materials, and with no apparent distortion. This photographic reading is made possible by the large-format view camera chosen to conserve the buildings’ proportions. The photographer’s travels in Europe have enabled him to compare styles and practical craft skills, as well as the compositional features typical of each religious building. The light is neutral, without shadows, diminishing all effects of relief. Presented in a very large format, his photoscenography challenges observers to find the point of view required to visually reconstruct the work in the tiniest detail.
Markus Brunetti
Markus Brunetti, Facades, 2014, Grande Halle, parc des Ateliers
At the same time, a major Stephen Shore retrospective also questions the identity of the American landscape. This photographer’s work defines a new aesthetic, founded on chromatic hyperrealism and the atypical gaze seen in Uncommon Places and American Surfaces. His references range from Land Art exponent Richard Long to the famous couple Bernd and Hilla Becher, who created type series on the German industrial landscape.
Stephen Shore
Stephen Shore at the Espace Van Gogh

Armed, like all good surveyors, with his maps for interpretation, Stephen Shore beat his path on a road trip, travelling on foot and by car, and lingered on the scenes that form the everyday environment. This enabled Shore to compile a report on the places of America, in contrast to the great iconic American landscapes.

Having emancipated himself from black and white abstraction, he homes in on materials, dwelling on special moods and the other constituent elements of urbanisation such as street junctions, drive-in car parks and advertising hoardings. These series are visual  cross-sections of the land, often empty spaces that look almost like theatre sets awaiting a performance or a use, thus reinforcing the instantaneous concept that allows observers to imagine a before and an afterwards.

Stephen Shore
Stephen Shore at the Espace Van Gogh. Courtesy of 303 Gallery NYC
Stephen Shore explores urban portrayals in a rereading of postcards collected over the years on his travels in which the buildings sometimes take on monumental valence. If “photographic writing” defines a new language here, its global vision of the landscape also questions the consistency and quality of the elements.
© all rights reserved

Latest on Architecture

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram