The photographs in these portfolios, Austin Middle School, San Juan School and Harlingen Aquatic Center, were produced for an architectural firm in Corpus Christy, TX that needed photos to enter in a special competition. The deadline for submission was the end of June, and they needed the photos of all three before the middle of June — but they didn’t contact me until around the 1st of that month!
The short timeline made for a lot of nervousness on my part because at that time we were having a lot of nasty weather; cloudy everyday, grey, overcast and a lot of rain. The three buildings were about 70 miles from my home base, so trying to guess what the weather was like on site from where I was was challenging.
I may not have been able to predict weather conditions, but having over 30 years’ experience as a professional architectural photographer I knew to expect certain kinds of problems. First, working with school districts is always laden with bureaucratic nightmares. It’s not as if the client provides you with all the permissions and access you need — they give me the name of a contact person at each location and list of what they’d like to see in the finished photos, and that’s the extent of their involvement.
Generally, the school contact person has a lot of other stuff to deal with and doesn’t need the additional bother of dealing with a pesky photographer! They often have to collect all sorts of government-required paperwork that you have to work through. This can eat up a lot of time before you even get to take a single picture. Nowadays there also the issue of schools and other public buildings requiring complete background checks, which tool another several days.
Another predictable (but no less challenging) aspect of architectural photography projects is that not all bulidings were completely finished. In order to deliver the shots the client needs, you need to work from what are not always the best views of the property. One of the main shots at the Austin Middle School was a night shot to show off the exterior lighting, which are programmed to go on automatically. This isn’t always a workable situation for a photographer because many times the lights come on too late in the day. Luckily, the lights were scheduled to come on at 6 pm so it still gave me plenty of time to get every thing ready to capture the natural sunlight transitioning into the outdoor lighting.
There were other issues. I never call them obstacles, because I pride myself on being able to work around whatever stands in the way of capturing the best images. The construction of the Harlingen Aquatic Center was a year behind schedule and one thing I found I could not fix was that the name wasn’t yet on the building.
Most the physical problems can be overcome with planning and a little cooperation from the building management, which is usually given cheerfully. In any case, I think I did a pretty good job. What do you think?