“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.
Rule Setter: W.G. Beecher, Don’t Take Pictures Managing Editor
Rule Breaker: Sean Perry
I never want to see another “epic” black and white architectural photograph. Buildings are cool, I get it. So are bridges, tunnels, and all the other marvels of modern poured concrete, glass, and steel. But when photographing these structures, too many photographers get caught up in zany camera angles, aggressive shadows, and overzealous post-processing. The buildings themselves are mostly lost to extremes of light and dark, or confusing semi-abstraction. Heavy vignetting and Photoshopped smoothness catches the eye, but does little to pique the curiosity. The resulting images are too often visually arresting but lacking in substance.
Sean Perry’s series, Monolith, stands above this crowd. The buildings he photographs are indeed marvelous, but he avoids the soaring beams and jumbled angularity of post-modern architecture in favor of clean lines against a clear or textured sky. To a New Yorker, many of his subjects are distinctly recognizable, and Perry makes no effort to distort or abstract them. His approach is to carefully compose each frame to isolate the building from its neighbors on the crowded New York City skyline. In comparison to the post-processed slickness that weighs down so many other architectural photographs, Perry’s warm-toned images seem downright humble. And it is exactly this honesty that makes his work so appealing. Unburdened by photographic tricks, Perry presents buildings as awesomely simple forms, meticulously photographed and beautifully rendered.