What are we trying to say when we get our buildings photographed?

Image of Binet RA exhibition_c_Daniel Elsea 2

Source: Daniel Elsea

Fine art or photojournalism: architects have a choice that cuts to the heart of the profession when they commission photography, says Daniel Elsea

Architecture has long had an intimate relationship with photography. It is through photography that many of us first encounter great architecture. And for any practice, large or small, it is vital: we all rely on this one art form to portray the art form we’ve been crafting.

As with fashion photography (another art-on-art double-take), the architectural photographer has become something of a niche cultural figure, with a few so revered that their images are as fêted as the architecture they capture.

Perhaps the ultimate deity to reach this pantheon is Hélène Binet, the Swiss-born, London-based photographer who is the subject of a retrospective currently on at the Royal Academy until January 23.

Entitled Light Lines: The Architectural Photographs of Hélène Binet, the exhibition features works from across her career. It explores her collaborations with different architects over a period of more than 35 years with mostly photographs of buildings by the great and the good, some still practising and many who have passed away: from Peter Zumthor and Zaha Hadid to Le Corbusier, Sverre Fehn and Gottfried Böhm.

The exhibition seems to imply she chooses her architects rather than the other way round. I know this first-hand.

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