Wojtek Gurak is a contemporary architecture photographer based in Europe, working on assignments for architecture offices, building developers, editorial and commercial clients. He keeps a particular focus on re-selling his images, and actively encourages sharing of low-resolution copies of his work. Read more below in our Q&A.
Statoil HQ, Oslo, Norway, designed by A-Lab
Santa Monica Church, Madrid, Spain, designed by Vicens & Ramos
MIK MAK House, Wroclaw, Poland, designed by ArC2 Fabryka Projektowa
Luckenwalde Town Library, Germany, designed by FF Architekten & Martina Wronna
Tietgenkollegiet Student Housing, Copenhagen, Denmark, designed by Lundgaard & Tranberg
P&A: What do you love about photographing buildings?
WG: The common opinion, which I also share, is that architectural photography is free from all the behind the scene necessities. You don’t need a perfect model, hair and make-up stylist, location producer and complex lighting support. It can’t be said that architecture is easier, but it sure gives a direct connection between you and the object in the shot as it is. Photography of buildings is more about documenting than producing for me. An architecture photographer has to be very well organised himself, to arrange and manage the shoot on location, where not everything is always in control.
I have always appreciated good project and architecture design, so I may have been inclined to follow my passion into shooting contemporary buildings. These are, in my belief, what will remain of our times and will be cherished in the future as we now appreciate historic heritage buildings.
I often take photos of large public buildings and I tend to focus on the architecture that stands out from the crowd, is a significant point in its surrounding. Not many people are able or willing to visit so many distant locations to explore great buildings, so I try to share this experience in my photographs with viewers all around the world. I rarely photograph such intimate environments as detached homes, avoiding to enter their inhabitants’ privacy.
P&A: How does working directly with architects differ from other types of clients?
WG: My usual approach is quite different than with most architectural photographers. I don’t only rely on work commissioned by architecture offices or magazines. I still have huge passion for it and find the job very satisfying myself, so I often plan an architecture journey ahead of commercial orders. This gives me a sense of freedom in selecting my most desired locations and a chance to expand my experience at the same time.
I [am concerned with] earning from the shots later, when a more tangible “product” is ready. With good promotion and networking my archived photos are purchased even months after the actual shoot. This solution allows me to focus on effects that will bring recurring commercial interest.
Working with an architect often gives a valuable insight into the story behind decisions that have been made while working on a particular project. That is why I like to hear their story and get a tour of the site with them. However, because architects have often spent a number of years on a project before its completion, I prefer to shoot on location alone with a fresh perspective.
P&A: What is your favorite kind of shoot and why?
WG: I always take photos in natural light of buildings in busy surroundings, which means you have to be very precise with having the weather conditions on your side, allowing for best sun position, time of days etc.. Whenever possible I prefer to shoot hand-held, since some angles and views can be impossible to obtain from a tripod in that perfect moment.
Suffice to say, I began my architecture photography experience while living in the United Kingdom, where you can imagine the clouds and famous rainy weather aren’t most rewarding. It made me realise how planning ahead is important in this line of work.
P&A: Aside from your great website and being active on social media, how do you promote your work to new clients?
WG: In spite of many architectural photographers, I have not studied either photography or architecture. However, as a graduate of Public Relations and Communication degrees I have been equipped with knowledge and skills to better promote and publicise my work. This also allows me to better understand the value of visual communication in the process of promoting architects’ work and commercial property interests. I try to maintain presence in architectural media both in print and online as well as contribute in numerous books on architecture and visit industry conferences.
I strongly believe in sharing good architecture with the largest non-architectural-related audiences, in order to popularise contemporary buildings around the world. Therefore, I publish my limited low-res work under Creative Commons license, for others to reblog, share, retweet as long as they keep it signed and linked to the original. Not only allows it to see where my audience comes from and avoid digital images to be stolen without copyright, but also to expand the network of publications where my work was not yet introduced before.
I share clippings of all my publications with my Facebook fanpage viewers, learn and grow with other photographers on Flickr, connect with captured institutions and industry colleagues on Twitter. Social media are a tool that takes down certain borders slowing down improvement in earlier decades.
P&A: How much time do you spend on post-production? Do you do that in-house?
WG: If I took analogue photos, I would have to master the chemistry behind developing each picture. Since the convenient times of digital photography, every photographer has to familiarise with graphic design to some extent, in order to be able to best develop these raw images. I do it in-house on my own and it’s a time consuming process. I am not the best at editing as I wish I was, especially since I put most of my efforts into getting out there on location and exploring architecture on site, but I grow with every project. I avoid any tricks related to so-called air-brushing or retouching elements of the non-ideal surrounding out of my shots. I aim to represent best conditions of that day and for the final result to be my photographer’s interpretation.
P&A: Any advice for aspiring architecture photographers?
WG: As an architectural photographer you have to be patient and tireless due to long distances between projects. Set your dreams high and reach them step by step.
Remember that it is impossible for customers to purchase anything without a price-tag. Don’t be afraid to put a price on your work, it’s the time, workshop and experience that you put in – value that.