Photographing Architecture and the Everyday at Legatirriff HousePosted: June 3, 2013
This is Legatirriff House, in rural County Antrim. It’s the house I grew up in, and the setting of my first built work – the oak-framed sunroom to its rear, which I designed while still training to be an architect (more on the project here). I spent an enjoyable afternoon at the house last week with my photographer-friend Aly McLoughlin-Harte who was snapping some sun-drenched shots of the project for me.
Aly is not an ‘official’ architectural photographer. She’s an artist who, in her own words, ‘does scribbles and takes pictures’. Her ‘scribbles’ are delightful, expressive, vibrant vignettes in charcoal or oil block (of architecture among other things). And her ‘pictures’ include weddings, christenings, family occasions, new babies, pregnancies and all things ‘life lived’. She can be booked or contacted about commissions via her website. Philosophically, Aly is all about celebrating the everyday in her art – capturing those transient moments, well-worn objects and habitual routines that we sometimes take for granted in the busy lives we lead. This might include a photograph of her toddler drenched from jumping in puddles, a sketch of a snow-topped wintery letterbox, a photo of a bride kissing her granny’s cheek on her wedding day, or the faded old signpost from her late father’s petrol station, lovingly restored and hanging as a feature light in her kitchen at home.
Maybe Aly doesn’t seem the obvious choice to photograph a piece of architecture. Architectural photography is so often clean, stripped down, stark and unblemished by signs of life and the everyday to the point of being sterile (except for the occasional colour-coordinated bunch of flowers or carefully-choreographed child on a window seat). But Aly’s art and photos, whatever the subject matter, have a warmth and vitality and that to me seem much more appropriate for photographing a well-loved and lived-in home. And I don’t know about you, but I think she did a beautiful job of capturing the character of the house and its gardens, and the personality of my parents who live there (but were away at the time and therefore unavailable to feature as ‘props’ in the photos!).
I have to admit that the ‘self-hating architect’ in me (see previous post) did rear its head from time to time, in my conflicting internal dialogue between the part of me that thinks that since architecture is for living in, photographs of it should reflect that life in all its messiness, and the part of me that I caught red-handed from time to time scooting laundry out of view (in the utility room, of all places!), or removing torches from a shelf because they just weren’t that pretty. I’m a sucker for an uncluttered photo, just as much as the next architect!
I drew consolation from the fact that Aly, lover of the everyday, was doing this too – removing a rug here, asking me to move a car forward-and-backward-and-forward-again there. After some deliberation, I’ve come to think of it a little like fixing your hair in the mirror, checking you have no lipstick on your teeth, or sucking in your tummy just that wee bit for the camera – you want to look your best, and not be left cringing to discover your eyes closed and sweat patches under your armpits in the photos of that wedding you made such an effort to get dressed up for! And that’s just what we were doing for the sunroom…simply straightening its tie and helping it to put on its best smile for the camera.
Well, Aly and I got together on Friday morning and whittled her 250-odd photos down to a few favourites, which wasn’t easy at all…and these are they, warm and full of life in all its finery. We hope you like them!
[Visit Aly’s website if you would like to see/buy her work, read her blog or commission/hire her. Likewise Noel Sweeney at Plotscape for the incredible landsape design, which I’ll blog about when it has matured a little.]