I am not sure why but I have been looking forward to this assignment since I first read the course notes. As I have travelled with my camera I have taken pictures in many buildings with the idea that I might include them in this assignment. I must admit not all my attempts at capture the interaction of people and buildings were as successful as I would have liked and in many cases I felt I could do better on a second visit but often my schedule did not allow me this luxury. I have included a range of different types of buildings; some well-known, some less well-known and one that is not generally accessible.
The Guggenheim Museum – New York
The building that Frank Lloyd-Wright created for the Guggenheim museum in New York has become of that that city’s iconic landmarks. Many people know the exterior of the building on 5th Avenue across the road from Central Park and whatever exhibition is showing a visit is often on a tourist’s itinerary. Like all the buildings in the assignment I have not included pictures of the outside but instead have focused on the interior.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, to give it its full name, was conceived to be a “temple to the Spirit” a building that itself was a work of art and one that would inspire and perhaps provoke visitors. Externally the building has a circular shape that is larger at the top than the bottom giving a very organic appearance in contrast to the tall rectangular buildings that surround it. Internally the main gallery space is a continuous helical ramp from the top to bottom. In 1992 the building was extended through the construction of a rectangular tower that stands behind the main building and provides additional gallery space. However, in the pictures below I have focused on the interior of the original round structure. Frank Lloyd Wright’s original idea was that people would arrive, take the lift to the top floor and then walk slowly down the spiral viewing the exhibits. However, as the museum has become a very popular tourist destination exhibitions now start at the bottom of the building and visitors are thus encouraged to walk from bottom to top and avoid huge queues forming for the relatively small number of lifts.
The first picture is taken from the second or third floor looking up atrium of the building to the stunning domed roof light. With this picture, I wanted to capture the scale and beauty of the interior of the building while including people viewing the exhibition. I could have taken this from the ground floor capturing the vision people see as they enter the building but I didn’t think the shots I took of this worked so well because the first part of the spiral does not have any exhibition space next to it so the idea of people interactioning with the art works is not so visible.
The second picture shows part of three levels of the spiral to show people proceeding up and down the spiral as they view the exhibits.
One of the original goals of the design was to facilitate a new way of looking at the pieces in the Guggenheim collection by enabling people to look across the atrium and see several groups of work on different levels simultaneously. The next picture looks down one level in the spiral and captures a woman looking across at other work or perhaps even up to the domed sky light while other people just rush by. I would like to think that this illustrates the difference between visitors who are interested in the art and those who are just ticking off a site on their New York bucket list.
The final picture of the Guggenheim is looking down the atrium to the ground floor and captures the patterns formed by people who are waiting to enter the exhibition, queuing to buy tickets, standing in a group around a tour guide or just waiting for friends. I like the way the curves of the building contrast with the straight lines of the area to queue to buy tickets and it is also interesting how the groups of people tend to form up in circles echoing their surrondings.
I always think of the Guggenheim as a great gallery space although perhaps at times it can overpower works due to its spectacular architecture. The relatively low gallery bays off the spiral walkway which can also seem to hem in larger works. However, overall it is such a unique space that I am sure it attracts more visitors than would go to see the same exhibitions in a more conventional space.
The Tanks at the Tate Modern
I chose the Tank space at the Tate Modern in London as my second building because I wanted the opportunity to compare two buildings with similar functions but very different histories. The Guggenheim was conceived as a gallery whereas the Tate Modern shows how an industrial building can be repurposed. The Tate modern was originally the Bankside PowerStation, the first oil fired PowerStation in Britain which was built in 1948. When the Tate Modern was opened in 2000 the central turbine hall the area to the north of that which was originally the boiler house formed the gallery. The area to the Southside of the Turbine hall including the tanks continued to be used as an electrical substation. In 2006 the substation was decommissioned and plans to extend the Gallery into the space were developed. The first phase of the extension was the conversion of the three huge tanks into an exhibition space for installations and performance art. The tank space opened briefly in 2012 before being closed while the new switch house building was constructed above it. The tank space reopened in June 2016 when the new Switch house galleries above them were also opened. The Tank space remains an area for exhibiting performance art and installations but it is also now a major through way between the original and the new switch house galleries.
When photographing the tank space, I focused on the space as a through way rather than as exhibition. This focus allowed me to capture the industrial materials in the space and the way people moved through it. As an aside when I took these pictures the galleries in this area were showing large video installations which were very dark and it proved difficult to capture pictures of these exhibits I felt were strong enough to include.
The first picture below shows the staircase leading up from the tank space to the new switch house building above in this picture I want to capture the contrast between the straight edges of the original industrial building with the new curved staircase and show the idea of people moving through the space. I like the way the concreate walls and beams still show the marks of the wood formwork used for casting them while the floor is now highly polished. There is also a sense of scale from the small figures who are moving and slightly blurred against the large pillars. The depth in the image introduce by the brightly lit shop on the far side of the turbine hall which also adds to the sense of scale.
In the next picture, I wanted to again emphasise the size of the space and the contrast between the rough industrial materials and the new highly polished floor. On the pillar on the right-hand side you can also see where alterations have been made to the original structure where a horizontal beam appears to have been removed to make space for the new staircase. I also like the blue and red posters which provide interest in what might otherwise be a uniformly grey image.
The final picture in this group is looking into the old industrial space from the turbine hall showing the vertical and angles pillars that support the building above, the very dark exhibition spaces to the left and the lighter spaces on the right which form a through way to other areas of the building. I also liked the humour in this picture where the motion blur shows the idea of lots of people rushing around when perhaps they could be walking more calmly had they picked up a map.
London Waterloo Station or more correctly Waterloo Main is the London terminus for train services towards the south coast and south west of England. Compared to the other London terminuses Waterloo has a very high percentage of suburban services and every year sees more than 100 million passengers. Many of these passengers transfer from over ground services to the London Underground.
Waterloo station has been regularly extended and modified since it was opened in 1848 the last major changes having been made in 2012 when a new retail balcony was built overlooking most of the width of the concourse.
In the first picture below I wanted to capture the influx of people arriving at the station on an over ground train with most rushing towards the underground entrance on the right of the frame. Like all the other pictures in this section I used a slow an exposure as I dared to capture the movement of the people. I like the departure board in the background because it hints at the volume of people who will be passing through this space.
Meet me under the clock at Waterloo is a traditional phase used to setup assignations, I have a vague memory of this phrase being used in a film but perhaps that referred to the clock at Grand Central in New York? To me this picture captures the idea of the meeting or just waiting under the clock. In the background of the picture there are examples of other activities at the station namely buying tickets, stopping off at fast food joints or just doing some shopping.
The third picture is another view of the idea of meeting at the station, here there is a group of people carrying what looks like badminton equipment who are standing relatively still, perhaps waiting for other players while most of the rest of the people in the frame are rushing one way or another.
The pictures of Waterloo station were taken late of a Sunday Morning which I suspect is a relatively quiet. On a Sunday morning, the station seems to work very effectively, the signage is good and people appear to find their trains. There is also enough space so people trying to meet each other can relatively easily see each other. However, I wonder if it works so well and the height of the morning or evening rush hours.
This set of pictures stretches the definition of this assignment, I started off with the idea of taking a set of picture of people waiting for trains and moving through underground stations and although I collected a reasonable set of potential pictures to use I could help but think that the pictures I took of people on the trains as I travelled between stations were much better. In my mind a train carriage is really the same as a room in a building the only real difference is that it moves.
The London Underground often referred to as simply the underground or the tube has its roots in the world’s oldest underground railway which now forms part of the circle line. The tube is the world’s eleventh busiest metro system carrying approximately 1.34 billion passengers a year or about 5 million a day. I remember years ago, when I commuted into the west end every day during the peak rush hour I complained, like most other regular commuters, that the system was not fit for purpose. Despite the overcrowding at peak hours the system generally works well considering the number of people who move around London every day. However, this does not stop many passengers regarding riding the tube as a simply miserable experience. To me the picture below captures the essence of a tube journey as I usually stand or sit in the train wondering how they can be some many miserable people in London.
What I particularly like about the picture above is the woman about a third into the frame from the right-hand side who has an amazingly infectious smile that is completely at odds with the other people around her.
My second picture again concentrates on the theme of miserable people, I don’t know what this woman is seeing on her phone but it doesn’t seem to be making her happy.
This picture also shows how people try to establish a private space around themselves, it was taken mid-morning when there were plenty of empty seats but this person apparently just wanted space. It is a shame that I couldn’t get a picture of her standing like this with empty seats in the background.
People are not always unhappy on the tube; this woman may be hanging onto the pole for dear life but at the same time she is gazing longingly at her boyfriend who is just out of shot lounging against a glass partition.
These tube pictures were taken with a mobile phone which has a different image shape than the SLR I used for the other subjects in this assignment. This is perhaps a little jarring as you read through assignment. I did try to crop these to the same shape but to me they didn’t work so well so I decided to keep the original shape.
The Business Centre
This Business Centre hires out office space, meeting and conference rooms by the day or half day. It is housed in a Victorian building that in living memory has been a school, bank and solicitors’ office before it current role as a business centre. Being such an old building it does not have as good an internal layout as a modern office block but it tries attract business by creating rooms with character.
The brief for this assignment states that “You can choose to include people in the images, or not” so in these pictures I wanted to show the rooms set up ready for lets to give the viewer the ability to visualise how they might interact with the space.
The first picture is a large meeting room setup in boardroom style with the table dressed ready for a meeting. Like many pictures of interiors, the wide-angle lens makes this room look larger than it is. There would not usually be flowers in a room let for a meeting but I wanted something to add interest and I think the vase of flowers worked better than just having a person standing at the end of the table.
The second picture is taken from a user’s view point in a smaller, six people, meeting room and captures the facilities in a room without making it look larger than it really is. Indeed, this picture makes the room look more cramped than it is. Again, the flowers are there to add interest to what otherwise would be a much blander image.
Overall I think the pictures should help viewers imagine themselves working in one of these rooms and I hope they capture the space in a way that is different than pictures that would be included in an estate agent’s brochure.
Reflections on Assignment 3
Looking back through my work after writing up this assignment I must admit I have mixed feelings about some of the work. I am very happy with the pictures of the Guggenheim because I believe they capture the style of the architecture and really show people interacting with the space. The exhibition that was showing when I took these pictures was predominantly sculpture and in some area the pieces were small. I think my second picture would have been stronger if there had been larger colourful work to emphasis the different levels.
I found the tank space at the Tate a challenging subject and perhaps I should have not had such a narrow focus when photographing this building. I selected this space because I believe it is the area where the industrial heritage is most obvious. Looking back at the pictures I wonder if they are a little too dark and perhaps too samey. Maybe I should have only included two of them?
I really like the Waterloo station pictures and I do believe they capture the way people interact with the monumental scale of the building and. I took all these pictures standing on the retail balcony looking down onto the concourse and while I think this view works well perhaps I should have taken some from the concourse level which might have enabled me to create more of a sense of the crowding in some areas?
I think the tube pictures are good and they do show people interacting with a man-made space but perhaps the subject matter is stretching the definition of the assignment too far. Looking through the pictures I still cannot decide which is my favourite, I think the first picture of the crowded carriage is made by the woman smiling in the background. I also like the picture of the girl hanging on to the pole gazing at someone out of the frame.
The business centre pictures were in many ways the most challenging to take because I was trying to capture the essence of how people could interact with the space without any people in the frame. In retrospect, I think these are the least successful of the pictures but I wanted to include the idea that it was possible to illustrate how people interact with space without including people. Perhaps it would have been more successful to shoot the debris in these rooms after a let but I haven’t had that opportunity.