AI8_3_2018_11_49_02_AM_SebastianImage_MainImage.jpg
Indospace Industrial & Logistics Park, Pataudi, Haryana (Image and caption from PHX Facebook)

"While on assignment, we focus on what the client needs. Many a times, some interesting scenes surround us or pass by unnoticed and there are times that we realise that there is something special in what we see. We quickly dish out our trusted iPhones (or the camera, if it is handy) and capture the moments. We are happy to share what happens behind the scenes (or right in the middle of a shot) as it tells a story of the day we spent on location or the happenings that remind us of the shoot in general."

Debates and discussions (Image from @sabz_phxindia - Instagram, caption by Author)

Architects and architectural photographers have similar aesthetic values but the architect is more invested in the project. At times they get emotional about a detail that photographers see in a different light.

Sunlight and Sun-path (Image and Caption from @sabz_phxindia Instagram)

"One of the key learning in our profession is the passage of light (mostly referring to sunlight). Knowing the sunpath and anticipating where the shadows will move next, and preparing yourself for that frame in advance... makes you a better professional than the ‘spot and shoot’ variety. Some call it experience.... I owe them all to the lost frames! @ira_phxindia is gaining the much coveted experience #onsite at a #privateresidence project."

(Image and caption from @sabz_phxindia Instagram)

"Opinions fly thick and fast on a photo shoot and I believe the designers should always win the argument as it is their work and vision that we try to capture. But the visual aesthetics as seen through the lens is slightly different (compressed) from the free flowing 3D experience while on site. In some case we get it almost 80% right to begin with and in some case it is less than 50% on the ball. This was our lucky day!!"

Weather conditions (Image and caption from @sabz_phxindia Instagram)

"When the light glares too much and we needed a helping hand, Shefali Balwani and Shreya from Architectureb Brio were more than ready to do what’s needed. More often than not, this is a typical #behindthescene action, where we need help to screen of the excess light to ensure the picture turns out better. #gratitude to everybody who has ever had to lend a #helpinghand to better the photographs!! #onassignmentphx #privateresidence #interiorphotography"

AI8_3_2018_11_49_02_AM_SebastianImage_MainImage.jpg
Showcase 03 Aug 2018

“You are not a photographer by virtue of an expensive camera,” Sebastian Zachariah on architectural photography

Sebastian Zachariah, who started off as a fashion photographer, is one of India’s leading architectural photographers. He initiates CQ into the world of architectural photography – the craft, stimulating debates, challenges and even misconceptions that shroud the profession.

What are some common misconceptions about your work?

That we are magicians, a photographer can beautify buildings and deliver mind-blowing pictures always. While some buildings don’t appear as aesthetic as the previous one, who must shoulder the blame? The medium or the content? Some architects get it, some don’t. It is a struggle because I don’t do photo-modifications and a large majority still expects me to, ‘do something’.

How does your vision clash with an architect’s vision? 

The architect thinks in 3d while we capture their thoughts in 2d. Architects and photographers have similar aesthetic values but the architect is more invested in the project. At times they get emotional about a detail or certain aspects, which we see differently. As a third party, we experience [these structures] first-hand. A sensitive photographer would pay attention to the architect’s emotional journey as well.

For example, once an architect encountered a massive rock on site. He didn’t blast it or build through it, but designed the structure to incorporate a part of the rock in the bathroom. For me, it was just another feature, like an open-to-sky bathroom or indoor landscape etc. The picture that I envisaged was away from the rock which dismayed the architect as he felt that I didn’t see the ‘magic’ he’d created, the challenges that he overcame or found it important to be captured and weaved into the narrative.

Debates and discussions (Image from @sabz_phxindia - Instagram, caption by Author)

Architects and architectural photographers have similar aesthetic values but the architect is more invested in the project. At times they get emotional about a detail that photographers see in a different light.

(Image and caption from @sabz_phxindia Instagram)

"Opinions fly thick and fast on a photo shoot and I believe the designers should always win the argument as it is their work and vision that we try to capture. But the visual aesthetics as seen through the lens is slightly different (compressed) from the free flowing 3D experience while on site. In some case we get it almost 80% right to begin with and in some case it is less than 50% on the ball. This was our lucky day!!"

We are nobody to judge their sense of aesthetics. We deliver the best shot. And it is important to document all buildings. Only then one can engage in proper discussions over architecture and what it stands for today. 

What are the technical challenges of photographing architecture?

Vantage points, weather, light conditions and sunlight. 

Every structure has a locus which endows the building its optimal image and experience. Though very few buildings have a 360-degree view-point, most buildings have a face, a façade or a best feature. If I don’t have a vantage or cannot access it, my ‘hero shot’ is lost and the narrative feels compromised. This happens in urban scenarios where buildings are constructed in close proximity to one another. You work with whatever you have as opposed to capturing the best shots. 

The next is weather. If it is cloudy, it affects contrast and buildings don’t stand out as the natural colours don’t emerge. Sunlight does wonders to achieve a great architectural picture. However, the sun-path in India usually dictates that buildings be north-facing as the south receives direct glare. But for the photographer, often, the south is better lit than the rest of the structure. We manage by shooting in twilight but it is a compromise.

Sunlight and Sun-path (Image and Caption from @sabz_phxindia Instagram)

"One of the key learning in our profession is the passage of light (mostly referring to sunlight). Knowing the sunpath and anticipating where the shadows will move next, and preparing yourself for that frame in advance... makes you a better professional than the ‘spot and shoot’ variety. Some call it experience.... I owe them all to the lost frames! @ira_phxindia is gaining the much coveted experience #onsite at a #privateresidence project."

Weather conditions (Image and caption from @sabz_phxindia Instagram)

"When the light glares too much and we needed a helping hand, Shefali Balwani and Shreya from Architectureb Brio were more than ready to do what’s needed. More often than not, this is a typical #behindthescene action, where we need help to screen of the excess light to ensure the picture turns out better. #gratitude to everybody who has ever had to lend a #helpinghand to better the photographs!! #onassignmentphx #privateresidence #interiorphotography"

Were you ever asked to shoot a space that you could not connect with or appreciate? How do you then go about the job?

Liking or disliking a building is subjective. If a structure has a characteristic I like, I’ll dwell on it more, perhaps. But it does not mean I cannot shoot buildings that I dislike. The endeavour will remain to find the best possible vantage, ideal light conditions, etc. to capture the best frames. 

What is perceived as mediocre could also be a result of low budgets, incessant client interference and factors that are beyond the architect’s control. We are nobody to judge their sense of aesthetics. We deliver the best shot. 

And it is important to document all buildings. Only then one can engage in proper discussions over architecture and what it stands for today. 

“A majority of the younger generation and the industry itself seeks a false image out of photographers. And there are many who satisfy them because advertising especially thrives on constructed imageries.”

What is your take on manipulating or doctoring images? 

Photographs stand for the truth. When I say that this is a photograph of what happened, it means that it is the truth, not a modified version of the truth. A modified photograph is a render, a digital image. Many photographers have lost awards for modifying their photographs. But having said that, if there is a wire hanging at the site that will be removed; correcting that is not a major modification. If a structure is jutting out and that has been removed, trees have been added where there are none, etc. [that’s different]. 

We only colour-correct our images. But a majority of the younger generation and the industry itself seeks a false image out of photographers. And there are many who satisfy them because advertising especially thrives on constructed imageries.

“A large part of my Instagram account are pictures from the mobile, the tool that most people use. Then why is my account better looking than the next guy?”

How should aspiring architectural photographers go about honing their craft?

Photography is a welcoming and non-judgemental artform. You pick up a camera and become a photographer. If you have 5 beautiful pictures to your credit, chances are, that you have arrived. But there’s a big distinction between a photograph and a snapshot. Everyone snapshots; when they click a moment that is happening. If things fall in place, it becomes a great picture, but not a photograph, though they are still good at mapping. A photographer will know why the picture is good, despite the tool.

A large part of my Instagram account are pictures from the mobile, the tool that most people use. Then why is my account better looking than the next guy? It’s because I think like a photographer; why am I taking the picture, what is the subject and so on. If you think on these lines, you become a photographer. But other people may be amateurs and I do it for my bread and butter. 

And amateurs have done some amazing work because while we professional photographers are delivering for an objective, to someone who has hired us, amateurs can break rules. It’s a nice space to operate from.

“A large part of the art-form is not the tool. You are not a photographer by virtue of an expensive camera, but how you perceive a space, story or subject and capture it.”

My Instagram page has larger pictures of the site because maybe I am trying to communicate to a larger audience. But Ira Gosalia, my partner, her account has beautiful pictures depicting how she sees things. And our company account has pictures that we click for our clients. 

Lastly, go ahead and click pictures but also be connected and invested in other art-forms. If you eventually think singing is better than photography, please go ahead!

Indospace Industrial & Logistics Park, Pataudi, Haryana (Image and caption from PHX Facebook)

"While on assignment, we focus on what the client needs. Many a times, some interesting scenes surround us or pass by unnoticed and there are times that we realise that there is something special in what we see. We quickly dish out our trusted iPhones (or the camera, if it is handy) and capture the moments. We are happy to share what happens behind the scenes (or right in the middle of a shot) as it tells a story of the day we spent on location or the happenings that remind us of the shoot in general."

Head here to see more of Sebastian’s work!