Looking Up

Or: How I Came to Love Architecture Photography

25th March, 2015

A portion of the Ross School of Business building

My fascination with architecture probably began the first time I visited a big city. We once lived in Michigan's capital of Lansing, but that's an order of magnitude smaller than the kind of place I mean. It wasn't until the fifth grade, living in a small town tucked away in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, that our class field trip took me to Chicago. The Windy City which was, at the time, the only city I really knew much about.

I remember distinctly the moment when the skyline with all its jagged markers became visible from the dusty windows of our charter bus. We'd been watching an eclectic assortment of movies on the six hour drive and the sight was a refreshing change from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Something about the buildings emerging from the haze on the slow approach was calming, and the sudden upward growth to their looming size was exhilarating.

The Chicago skyline reflect on Cloud Gate, or The Bean

Over the next several years my exposure to cities and their beautifully constructed constituents would grow. I visited Washington, D.C. and noted its classical architecture hidden in what is a relatively flat city. I hopped the pond to Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, and Berlin, each with a diverse yet unique style. Only after traveling so far did I make it to New York City!

It's funny how we customarily put off things we could do any time simply because we know we can.

I'd done this with New York City, and to some extent I'd done it with the very place I'd been living for the last several years. Ann Arbor has quite a few gems if one seeks them at the right moment. It may depend strongly on the time of year, the time of day, the weather, or one's own mood, but there are always wonderful details waiting to be noticed. That's why I encourage you to be ever-receptive in your creativity.

Washington Monument in reflecting pool
Tower Plaza Ann Arbor during sunset

I have so much love for the scene of Tower Plaza presented above. It's a preserved moment where several key details synthesize a complex harmony. The sun is setting. I'm at the perfect vantage across the street from the building. A single window is open in the summer heat. How often could these things possibly align? The truth is that it's irrelevant — they'd never aligned for me before. This opportunity to catch buildings in the act of dynamism contrary to their usual static tendencies is what I love about architecture photography.

I hope you've gleaned something about my nature from this and are able to use it to find out something new about yourself! I encourage you once again to remain alert and receptive for those fleeting moments when everything is perfect about a place. Always be looking up.

Spiral fire escape staircase
Thick vine growth on the side of a building