Architecture Photography
An Interview with Lawrence Anderson.

Architecture photography interview with Lawrence Anderson who is based in Los Angeles.

Architectural Photography - Photo by Lawrence Anderson

Hello Lawrence, thank you for agreeing to take part in an interview for us here at urban-photography.com. Before I ask any questions I always like to give the interviewee an opportunity to briefly tell us a little about themselves?

Well, I come from a very long line of architects and contractors from one side, and social creative’s on the other side. After growing up around my family's construction company, I found myself in a photo class in high school and was driven towards buildings.

I studied photography at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA and focused everything towards shooting architecture and interiors. It was the one constant my entire time in college and remains the same today. I live in Venice, CA with my fiancée and wake up and photograph amazing spaces that are never the same. It’s a good life.

Architecture photography is one of my particular passions; can you tell us why you decided to go into this area of photography yourself?

Buildings always fascinated me. Something about them that really made sense to me and grabbed my eye. The patterns and geometric shapes maybe, there was just something about them.

When I picked up a camera, I explored shooting advertising, people, and product, but when I shot a building for the first time, I felt something. Maybe it has something to do with their size.

Often as a child, I was merely fascinated how much larger buildings were than I. The sheer scale of a pillar or how a space can be so much fun to explore. This is how architectural photographers see buildings. Our images are often our views of us at play.

I notice that you started your own architecture photography business when you were quite young. What were the biggest challenges for you in starting your photography business at such a young age?

Architectural Photography - Photo by Lawrence Anderson

The largest challenge for me was changing businesses. In college, I studied and built my career in towards working with an architectural photography firm. After I graduated, I decided to stay in my native California and grow my own business. After that huge change, I suppose the hardest part was getting my foot in the door with new clients.

Developing business relationships can be quite difficult at times and can be very discoraging Yes I suppose age was a challenge as well. Go to any networking or business even and here comes this 22 year old wanting to talk about architecture.

Mortgages and kid talk was quite difficult as I was stressed over getting a cat. But, you have to just hang in there and keep your chin up. Maintaining the right attitude towards starting an art business is key. Make a plan, follow the plan, and know when you need help

What special skills and equipment would you say are required for architecture photography?

In some form or another, an architectural photographer is at some point expected to correct for distortion when photographing buildings. From there, the sky is the limit. Although architectural photography is a specialized field, there are still many differences from one architectural photographer to another.

Personally, I use perspective correcting lenses and shoot on a DSLR Canon system. I use various types of supplemental lighting but my most important tool is my eye. I'm constantly looking for some unique perspectives that stimulate me and are far from the obvious view. This can be very difficult but gets easier as time goes by.

Architectural photographers also like to explore several different vantage points and are constantly dealing with unique terrain. For this, I use a tripod that stands about 11' at its tallest. I also shoot tethered to a laptop when convenient and use CF cards when in a tricky situation.

Of course photographers now use computers instead of labs, programs instead of chemicals, and beyond the camera, you now need a computer, several programs, and a great office chair. :)

What have been your most exciting and challenging architecture photography projects?

Architectural Photography - Photo by Lawrence Anderson

I recently had a shoot that was both challenging and exciting. The Fire Training Facility in Visalia, CA. In this building, there are several rooms to simulate live fire situations as well as propane running into most rooms creating live fire. There was a burning bed room, a stove fire, and even a long hallway with rollover fire across the ceiling. The weather outside was about 115 degrees and 200+ degrees in the fire rooms. That doesn't count the turnouts we had to wear. We wanted to use fire fighters as our models to show them training in the facility but they kept getting calls for all fire fighters available to come to the next city or forest fire.

This shoot was not only challenging physically, but staying on schedule was a nightmare and the fire props were experiencing technical issues the entire time. However, challenges aside, we had an extremely exciting shoot working around fire, repelling fire fighters, shooting them hacking up roof tops, and putting out various kinds of fire simulations. It was awesome and we got all our shots! There are more images from this shoot on my blog if you would like to have a look and read more about this awesome building. www.lawrenceanderson.net/blog 

One of my favourite images on your site www.lawrenceanderson.net is the Sundial Bridge. Can you give us some background to this image, did you have a brief and if so how did you go about interpreting that brief to produce such a stunning photograph?

Architectural Photography - Photo by Lawrence Anderson

No brief on this one. I found out about the stunning piece of architecture by architect Santiago Calatrava and decided to shoot it on a drive back from shooting in San Francisco. It was such a discovery.

When I first got there, I simply walked around it for a while, trying to truly understand the space and the experience. I drove around, sat around, and watched the light change. The next two day I spent shooting the bridge from various angles and spend a lot of time waiting for the right light.

For this particular shot, I needed it completely empty of people, at dusk. It took me two days as this is a heavily trafficked walking bridge shakes with a large crowd and that wouldn't have worked for my shot. In the end, I held of most of the people long enough to get this one. Thank goodness there wasn't another travel bus coming through!

Finally, what advice would you give someone who was interested in architecture photography?

I know arch shooters that have gone to college for their craft, have changed from professional architects to photographers, some that came from the school of Hard Knocks, and then those that simply fell into it. I would say, start with a good foundation.

If you want to become an architectural photographer, learn about who's doing it and who's done it well. Look at architectural magazines and see what turns you on. Better yet, take a walk down town, find a building you like, look up the address on Google, and go from there. Research both design and the historic architectural photographers to get a better idea of what people have done before you.

Give your self time to understand exactly what you are going after. Funny enough, this is how I approach every shoot. Architectural photography isn't simply knowing how to aim a camera; it is about understanding and interpreting an idea.