Amateur Architecture

I know almost nothing formal about architecture, though I know what I like. I’ve also never done commercial architectural photography. But especially when I travel I find both old and modern buildings to sometimes be fascinating subjects. Also graffiti. Usually I photograph both of these when I’m walking an unfamiliar city looking to dostreet photography, and when not finding any worthwhile subjects look for something else to explore photographically.

Here then are some shooting ideas and a few shots taken on a recent (April, 2004) visit to Montreal, Quebec.


Churches are out of time. When modern buildings wear out they are simply replaced. But churches often stand for hundreds of years, even in North America. This means that in an urban setting they are likely to be surrounded by modern buildings, and this can make photographing them in an interesting ways both fun and challenging.

Ste Catherine Street Church

Minolta A2 @ ISO 100

What interested my about this particular church was some of its angular detail and colour contrasts. The shot above captures these well, but I also wanted to show this church in the context of its environment, surrounded by modern office towers. Nothing worked, and so I simply walked away without giving it much more thought.

Hidden Spire

Minolta A2 @ ISO 100

I was a block or more away and as I was walking looked down a laneway and there was the shot. I hadn’t been looking for it, but I instantly saw that this perspective told the story. The church’s spire hemmed in between contemporary glass on one side, 1950’s brick on another, and the jumble of an early 20th century building’s fire-escape on a third. A 200mm (equivalent) focal length helped isolate just the elements that I wanted from the usual visual jumble.

In both cases I knew that a bit of vertical perspective correction would need to be done after the fact in Photoshop. I therefore framed a bit wider than I normally would so that the inevitable cropping that this would require meant that nothing important would be lost from the composition.



Minolta A2 @ ISO 100

Ever since the invention of photography people have been recording graffiti. (Graffiti. has been around since at least the time of the ancient Romans). Graffiti. seems to take two forms — wall art and random scrawlings. The above photograph shows both together, and also places it all in a context. The tree serves to give it scale and context. When shooting graffiti I try and include something of the surroundings so that the image isn’t simply a record of someone else’s creative effort.

I hope that this brief piece provides you with some food for thought for the next time that you’re wandering around an urban environment.