Architecture in lightand shadow

Australian lensman Richard Glover lends a sense of vibrancy to city buildings

With good photographers, pictures speak. And with all good architectural photographers, immobile buildings seem to come alive.

Last month the Australian embassy hosted "Capturing the City", a lecture and workshop by renowned Australian architectural photographer Richard Glover, who took part in Bangkok Design Festival 2012.

For over 15 years, Glover has been working in the architectural, design and editorial fields with high-profile clients and art galleries in Australia and Britain. His private and commissioned works have been exhibited at London galleries including the Architectural Association, the Barbican Centre, the Association of Photographers Gallery and the Royal Institute of British Architects Gallery.

Richard Glover.

Currently the 54-year-old Glover also works as director of photography at Outcast Editions _ an independent publishing company developing interactive digital books on architecture and design.

Prior to the workshop, Life spoke to him about his career path and the architecture scene.

When did you become interested in architectural photography?

I have always been interested in architecture, since I was in school. After I left school, I trained in graphic design and later worked in advertising. I took up photography as an interest along the way. But once I decided to work as a photographer, I actually gravitated _ to photograph architecture. However, I also photographed all sorts of objects. You do that, especially when you are getting started, you do everything.

I moved to London in the early 1990s, and it was immediately apparent that I had to focus on what I did best. I had to cut out the weaker works and present my best side, and settled for architecture and related subjects. There on I became an architectural photographer. But it was driven by the market. The market in London is big and very competitive. It forces, not just me, but most photographers and all other design practitioners to do as well as possible; you can't just be a generalist, you have to be a specialist.

Why London?

I wanted to advance my career. I come from Sydney, it is a big city. But in real terms, particularly in the creative field, there are only two cities that really matter: New York and London.

How do you balance between artistic and commercial works?

Enterprise One, Australia (Bates Smart Architects).

Photography was once my hobby, but now it is my profession. It is also my art and my creative outlet. So, I work to earn enough money and when I have time and opportunity I make my own work.

Is there any difference between architectural photography and other photography genres?

You have to understand the subject and be aware of how architects work, how they design, how they conceptualise and, to some degree, the building process. It is also the subject itself, which by nature is quite technical, particularly with regard to how architects imagine their works to be presented. There is certain photographic technicality that must be dealt with, so that means you have to be very clear-minded to know the technicality and be able to use specific equipment in order to produce very high quality photographs.

Does it necessarily require background study in architecture?

No, you don't have to. I didn't. Certainly I know architectural photographers who did train in architecture, no doubt that's a big help. Like any creative field, you don't have to have a formal training, because the truth is that it's in the product. You can either produce the work or you can't.

What is the architecture scene like in Australia?

Australian architecture is world class. I think the rest of the world is more aware of it now, particularly with Glenn Murcutt winning the Pritzker Prize in 2002. It is the equivalent of a Noble Prize in architecture. And, there are a number of architects who followed Glenn onto the world stage.

Australian architecture is in a very healthy state. It's strong, educational structure is good for emerging talents. There is good flexibility and opportunity for young artists to practice in Australia as well as overseas.

What is the most challenging or memorable subject you have ever handled?

Royal Newcastle, Australia (Tzannes Associates).

Bad architecture, that's really hard work! Of course, I do photograph poor architecture, but you won't be hearing about that. That's harder than good architecture. However, having said that, good architecture with good conditions are challenging too, because it's going to be so much to it. Sometimes, when I look at it and it's overwhelming, I don't know where to begin. Then, I'll be worried whether I would do this work justice. That's also hard.

But, in terms of my most notable projects, there are two that stand out. One is following the transition of the bankside power station into what is now the Tate Modern, one of the world's most famous art galleries in London. I followed that for six years, so it's become a special place for me and I developed a special relationship with the gallery. The other one is my work with John Pawson. He is a very well regarded minimalist British designer, and I have a long relationship with him. Certainly, during my early career, he was a great patron of mine.

What if you can choose an architect to work on your own home, who would that be?

It will depend on my budget, right? (laugh).

Let's say if you are given unlimited budget. I'll certainly take the elements of John Pawson's works. In Australia, there are many good architects but I think I'll choose Peter Stutchbury. He's a very good architect.

How do you find buildings and architecture in Bangkok?

I am not familiar with contemporary Thai architects. However, I visited the Royal Palace the first time I came here. I think that is very magical place, and also Wat Arun. I guess, the architecture in general is more traditional _ like in places like Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.

Hilton Hotel, Sydney (JPW Architects).

Bronte House, Sydney (Virginia Kerridge Architect).

About the author

Writer: Yanapon Musiket
Position: Life Writer