Who said you can’t teach on old dog new tricks?

When I signed up for an elective with a visiting US academic on ‘Architecture After Dark-Night Photography & Architecture’, I had no idea it would take me somewhere completely unexpected.

Erieta Attali is an Adjunct Professor of Architectural Photography in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at New York’s Columbia University ,and she presented what was billed as an ‘intensive’ elective as a Visiting Research Fellow at RMIT. A highly respected photographer, her website is well worth a visit.


To call Erieta’s elective ‘intensive’ was an understatement. I don’t think we students who attended had been pushed quite so hard in our studies to date, and we benefited greatly as a result.

The briefs for the photography required were actually quite broad. Erieta was, above all, very keen for us to find our own ‘voices’ but did set strict criteria for how we went about it. Wide-angle lenses only, but strictly no low angles looking up! We were told that this seemed to be common practice with architectural photographers but was not, we were told, how architects themselves actually want their buildings represented. They also prefer to see their work in context and not as isolated objects.

Of course, I have been guilty of this many times myself . . . !

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If I had to identify in one word my most important learning from this course it would be ‘context’. I had been mildly aware, and had it mentioned to me by others, that I often frame my photographs a little too tightly. On reflection, I think that comes from trying too hard to draw the viewer’s attention to what I see as interesting.

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I know which of these I prefer.

As I already had an ongoing project photographing my neighbourhood of Richmond by night, it was interesting to go out and take images with the critiques, feedback and encouragement I received from Erieta in mind. I now approach landscape and architectural photography in a markedly different way. To find myself learning something new and profound, at this stage of my life and career as a photographer, is energising and very exciting.

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