I was recently looking for a few pictures to enter in an architectural photography competition and came across the picture above. The building in the background is French architect Christian de Prozampac's new Manhattan headquarters for luxury goods maker LVMH. It's an elegant building, housing the company's New York flagship Dior store at street level and offices above.
The red and black shape in the foreground is a section of Alexander Calder's stabile Saurien, located across the street under a corner of the elegant Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed 590 Madison Avenue, also known as the IBM Building.
A lot of times when I photograph buildings I like to have something in the foreground to frame the view. But as I looked at this photograph I realized the as much as I might like it as a composition, it probably isn't right for an architectural photography competition because it doesn't really show off the building very well or even, to be honest, establish its size (23 stories) or context (E. 57th Street, just off Madison), things that if you were trying to document a building with photography you probably wouldn't want to leave out.
And that’s probably what architectural photography’s all about; that is, showing the building in way that showcases not only the architect’s overall design scheme, but also provides a sense of its structure and relationship to its surrounding.
I did submit three photographs for the competition, though, that are a little better about presenting the relationship between three different buildings and the people who use them. I won’t hear whether they were accepted until late December. None of them shows the whole building, either. So let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.