UK architectural photographer Aaron Yeoman talks to us about his love of London Underground, spiral staircases, and getting a commendation in Sony World Photography Awards.
How did you get into architectural photography?
I’ve had a fascination with buildings and how they are made from a young age. So when I got my first DSLR camera about 6 years ago I decided to start taking images of buildings and their architectural features. Fortunately, at the time I lived just outside of London, so there was no lack of buildings to photograph.
What appeals to you about architecture? And what compels you to photograph it?
I always found architecture fascinating, as it’s almost a snapshot from the past, a record in a nation’s history. It’s interesting to see what was going through the architect’s mind when he/she was building their masterpiece. I like to try and capture their architectural influence in my own way.
One of the features that I am attracted to photographing is symmetry within buildings (you will see a lot of this in my photography). I like the perfectionism of symmetry and almost clinical nature of some architects’ vision. I also find spirals and geometric shapes within buildings a joy to photograph, and it makes me wonder how someone can think of something so beautiful.
My main driving force to keep photographing architecture is that as a society we often take our architecture and buildings for granted. With our busy lives we don't just stop for a few minutes to appreciate the wonderful architecture around us. I like to stop and take my time to photograph this architecture that is often unnoticed by most.
What are the main challenges for architectural photographer?
Some museums or public buildings don't allow photography or use of equipment like tripods due to health and safety issues, so sometimes getting the photo you planned can be a challenge. Often a polite word or email before visiting the place can generally help and you can get the photo you wanted with no issues. Another problem is not always being able to use tripods, which means that you have to bump up the ISO on your camera if the building is a little on the dark side. Sometimes this adds to the photo and sometimes it doesn't work.
I also find timing can be an issue as a lot of the buildings I photograph are public. As expected, public spaces can get rather busy and that doesn’t really complement your photo very well. So sometimes you have to come back at different times to find what works and what doesn't. Research is the key to success here!
Do you have a favourite building or a type of building to photograph?
When I first started out in photography I was obsessed - and still am - with the London Underground. I find it such a fascinating place with an eclectic mix of architecture from different times in London's history. Each time I go down there I never know what I am going to find or photograph - that’s what really appeals to me.
More recently I have done a mini photography project on spiral staircases. I think they are great! It’s almost like they have their own personalities and each one is unique with its own styles and colours. I find some more difficult to photograph than others, but that’s all part of the fun. This project is still ongoing and I am always on the lookout for new spiral staircases to photograph.
Is there any equipment you would consider essential?
It really does depend on what you want to photograph. If I am doing a long exposure photograph of an exterior of a building then a tripod is a must. But generally if I am photographing an interior of a building I have my camera, Black-Rapid camera strap for speedy use and my 16-35mm lens. I find this setup quite unrestrictive in most situations and it allows me to get the photos I want. Of course, if I can use a tripod inside a building I will, as this allows me more time to compose the image, but sometimes that’s just not possible.
Is there a photo you’re particularly proud of?
One photo that I am proud of is called 'Where Two Worlds Collide'. It’s a black and white image of the escalators at Bermondsey Underground station on the Jubilee Line in London. What makes me proud of this image is that it received a Commended Award in the Sony World Photography Awards in the architecture category. This is something I never expected at all and it came as a big surprise. I was very happy and proud of this achievement.
I particularly like your photo called ‘Two Generations (Redux)’. How was it created?
I am glad you like this photo, this was one of my favourite photos I took during a trip to Edinburgh last year. I have always wanted to photograph these bridges since seeing them online, so I took the short train ride to them and set up my tripod and camera. I planned on doing a long exposure with a 10 stop.
The weather was perfect (something that doesn't always happen) with clouds moving quite rapidly and the water was quite calm due to the low tide. I had to move quite quickly as the light was starting to fade. I took a camera exposure reading without the filter in-place and then put the 10-stop filter on the front of the lens. I worked out the exposure time from an app on my phone and pressed the shutter button on my remote attached to the camera. 483 seconds later this was the result! Luckily, I didn't need to take the photo again as I was happy with the result I got.
I really enjoyed photographing the Forth Road and Rail Bridges and can't wait to revisit the location soon when the new Road Bridge is built.
Do you take inspiration from other photographers or books?
I take more inspiration from other photographers rather than books. The first photographer that got me really interested in architectural photography and whose work I find amazing is Vulture Labs. He is able to capture the magic of any city and urban setting. He is also great with long exposure photography, and I find it fascinating that he is always able to find fresh and original point of views of commonly photographed buildings or city scenes. I feel very privileged to have gone on a photo-walk with Vulture Labs and I felt I learnt a lot from his experience and tips he gave me.
Another photographer I have found recently and find very inspirational is Joe Plasmatico. His work is amazing, especially his work on the Munich Metro and his spiral staircases within Munich. They are amazing and simply stunning. His attention to detail is spot-on and his creativity is amazing, very original! I think the reason why I am attracted to his work is that he is almost mirror image of myself - we have very similar photographic interests, but he takes his photos mainly in Munich and I in London.
Where does Photocrowd fit in your practice of photography?
I really enjoy the Photocrowd experience and think it’s a great way to share your photos with other people who enjoy photography. I also like the fact that there’s a photo competition for every photographer out there, be it a wildlife, landscape or an architectural photographer. I enjoy entering my photographs into the competitions and always look forward to seeing which images the public and the judges pick!
You can find more of Aaron's work on his website.
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