The Optical Truth Status of Architecture

Andrew C Diggle 040478610 Lincoln School of Architecture ARC3023 – Dissertation

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tvo da gloriam…

Figure 1: Untitled, Milan. Developed and Printed from 35mm Film. Photograph by Author

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Contents Page 1: Page 2: Page 3: Page 5: Page 8: Page 11: Page 15: Page 19: Page 22: Page 25: Page 26 : Page 27: Page 28: Acknowledgement and Frontispiece Contents Page List of Illustrations Chapter 1 – Introduction Chapter 2 – Optical Truth? Debates About the Optical Truth of Photography Chapter 3 – Bernd and Hilla Becher – Analogue Objectivity Chapter 4 – Thomas Demand – Constructed Realities Chapter 5 – Josef Schulz – Digital Subjectivity Chapter 6 – Optical Truth and Architecture Chapter 7 – Conclusion Recommendations for Further Research Appendix 1 Bibliography

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1999). Architectural Association. (London. USA. (London. Cleveland. Modern Architecture as Mass 1999). 2006). Reconstructing Space: Architecture in Recent German Photography. Milan.List of Illustrations Figure 1: Figure 2: Untitled. Ohio. (London. [Source: Michael Mack. [Source: William Ewing et al. Thomas Demand.htm . Industrial facades [Source: Michael Mack. Thames & Hudson. (Cambridge MA. 41] Figure 5: Bernd & Hilla Becher. http://www. (London. Online Portfolio. Neville Island. Reconstructing Space: Architecture in Recent German Photography. (London. reGeneration. 50 Photographers of Tomorrow 2005-2025. 2005) 173] Figure 9: Josef Schulz. 2005) 174] Figure 10: German Pavilion. 79] Figure 3: Bernd & Hilla Becher. 33] Figure 6: Thomas Demand – Draughting Room [Source: Colomina and Kluge. 2006). 1999). [Source: William Ewing et al. Thames & Hudson. 1980. Serpentine Gallery. reGeneration. 1646 [Source: Beatriz Colomina. 2003. Barcelona. Privacy and Publicity. Thomas Demand. Pennsylvania. 74] Figure 7: Thomas Demand’s 2006 exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery [Source: Colomina and Kluge. Brick. Architectural Association.stelljes-bau. 2004. 126] Figure 8: Josef Schulz. Reconstructing Space: Architecture in Recent German Photography. USA 1980. (London. Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe [Source: Stelljes Bau. 50 Photographers of Tomorrow 2005-2025. (London Serpentine Gallery. Form#10. [Source: Photograph By Andrew Diggle (2004)] The Camera Obscura. 1999). MIT Press.3 23 19 19 17 15 12 11 11 8 1 . 40] Figure 4: Bernd & Hilla Becher. Architectural Association. [Source: Michael Mack.

Accessed: 26. Online Portfolio. (Los Angeles.01. Corrected [Source: Julius Schulman. Balcony Press (2000) 56] 27 27 27 27 27 23 . California. (Los Angeles. Normal angle view. Photographing Architecture and Interiors.] Figure 11: German Pavilion.4 - . (Los Angeles. [Source: Julius Schulman. Balcony Press (2000) 57] Figure 15: First Methodist Church. Photographing Architecture and Interiors. California. [Source: Julius Schulman. Barcelona. California. Photographing Architecture and Interiors.14am. http://www. Narrow angle view. Wide angle view [Source: Julius Schulman. (Los Angeles. Photographing Architecture and Interiors.stelljes-bau.2007 01. Photographing Architecture and Interiors. California.2007 01. Uncorrected [Source: Julius Schulman.01.16am. Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe [Source: Stelljes Bau. (Los Angeles. Balcony Press (2000) 28] Figure 14: First Methodist Church. Balcony Press (2000) 57] Figure 16: First Methodist Church.htm Accessed: 26. Balcony Press (2000) 28] Figure 13: Administration Building.] Figure 12: Administration Building.

) and this argument is of prime importance to this thesis. As my study progressed the notion of the optical truth status of photography started to play a larger role in the research I was conducting. to use photographs when speaking about buildings” (Zimmerman. one posited by Beatriz Colomina. I saw that ‘truth’ was something that had been discussed a great deal in literature.5 - . proposing .Chapter 1 Introduction This thesis commenced with my looking into the relationship between architecture and its photographic representation. Krauss. This is a key time for the photographic representation of architecture. This is primarily because of a fundamental paradox in photography between image and reality. She does note however that this is based upon an assumed distinction between architectural space and its representation in a photograph (ibid. think about and experience architecture since its involvement with the mass media. This creation of history coincided with the restructuring of knowledge commonly termed postmodernism and the subsequent admission of photography into art galleries and museums. The theory. examines the relationship between architecture and the media. whose history was only created less than three decades ago. 2004: 332). Clare Zimmerman suggests that architecture is dependent upon photography so much so that it has become an “internalised habit of the discipline. other than that in person. but more recently the debate has reemerged due to digital imaging technologies and the supposed threat they pose to the photographic ‘truth’. collectively known as the exhibition space (Crimp in Wells. 2004: 335). a distinction I feel whose boundary has become somewhat blurred of recent times. but Sarah Kember reasonably states that “like any other form of technology it has neither determined or been wholly determined by wider cultural forces. 2003: 424. particularly in relation to photography. The modern movement was the first movement in art history.). 1999: 14). it simultaneously gained a history. It could be said that as photography gained its licence as art. Zimmerman also states that photographs “are remarkably poor sources for information about their architectural subject…but only if we wish to understand them as conduits of architectural information” (Zimmerman. whose communication. relied primarily upon photographic evidence (Colomina. 2003: 206). It is important to note the extent to which the technology of photography has played a part in the development of society and culture since its inception. Previously architects had relied upon “personal experience. This is impossible to accurately describe. but it has had a part to play in the history of how societies and individuals represent and understand themselves and others” (Kember in Wells. 1989: 134). The importance of photography in relation to architecture is increasing and there has been a notable shift in the way that we learn. drawings or conventional books” to communicate their ideas and learn about architecture (ibid.

photographers who work in the field of art are free from these constraints. 2006: 21). Kim Dovey. secondly. Mitchell Schwarzer and Sarah Kember. Stuart Hall. rather the reliance now comes from the perceived requirement of architecture to interact with the media. new materials and new technologies” (Colomina & Kluge. William J Mitchell. Beatriz Colomina. Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright. which if heeded may have prevented its demise (Leach. architectural history and celebration of the status quo. books and journals that has established discursive spaces that place photographs into a heavily objectified context suggesting their reliability as ‘true’ representations of architecture. but nonetheless I feel that an examination of their work will provide significant results relevant to the practise of architecture today. In a historical context these works of architecture have become points of reference through which we understand the ‘ideas’ of modernity. which have become exemplars of modern thought. These practices in turn have established canonical works. The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies Van der Rohe and countless other buildings which have all been subject to a media construction. It is the reciprocation between certain modern architects and architectural publications. which could most readily be described as authoritative works of architecture. and to a large extent has been exacerbated by the introduction of the new discursive space of the internet. rather than the usual story about functionalism. This is for several reasons. In this context I would include photographs of Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier. and as I looked more deeply it was clear that there were constraints placed upon commissioned architectural photographers who were bound to communicating architectural intention. I see these photographs as internal critiques. beyond what many would consider to be relevant to architecture. This reliance has also been adopted by postmodern architects. Douglas Crimp. But the reliance is no longer used to prove the honesty or truth of the building.that “modern architecture is all about the mass-media image. and finally. in his introduction to his book ‘Rethinking Architecture’ Neil Leach talks of critiques internal to the modern project. These have since been compounded by modern practices of architectural representation. I have been informed particularly by the work of Rosalind Krauss. I decided to examine the work of three architectural photographers who place their work into the context of art. positivism and the enlightenment. The literature that has informed this thesis is broad ranging and starts with art-historical accounts of the origins of photography to the postmodern speculations and critiques about the implications of digital imaging. Some of these critics are specifically related to architecture and others are not. firstly I wanted to look for ways that photographers operate around the notion of optical truth to construct an argument. so it has been the aim of this . for reasons of commodification. It was important to me that I thoroughly understood the origins of the optical truth status in photography which are firmly embedded in a Cartesian conception of space.6 - . That’s what makes it modern. Susan Sontag. 1999: 4).

Thomas Demand. 1999) when they assert. I will argue that canonical works of modern architecture were reliant upon the optical truth status of photography to preserve the truth. I will then look more closely at the relationship between optical truth and architecture before concluding my argument. broke the perceived causal relation between object and representation. a discourse that is allowed certain privileges and primarily operates around aesthetic discourse. provide us with our definition of ‘modernity’. theories. “Whether public museum. In the subsequent chapters I will then discuss the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. 1985: 132). I agree with Hall and Gieben (Hall & Gieben. The photographs operate as representations of the gallery and the status afforded to them as Art. It carries a certain analytic and theoretical value. because it is related to a conceptual model” (ibid.dissertation to apply all of their thoughts into an architectural context and consider their relevance. In this context modernity is not only characterised by the canons of modern architecture – although this is an undeniable facet of modernity – but is also contained within the discursive spaces. “what we mean by modern is that each process led to the emergence of certain distinctive features or social characteristics and it is these features which.: 6). world’s fair or official showing. Matters of composition and technique are discussed. particularly the notions of uncertainty and digitisation. and Josef Schulz. who uphold the modern tradition of analogue objectivity.7 - . a postmodern photographer who opposes the notion of optical truth by photographing constructed realities. another postmodern photographer. . forcing upon the photograph and architecture the perception of subjectivity. the term ‘modern’ does not simply mean that the phenomenon is of recent origin. All photographers herein operate within the construction of contemporary critical art. the space of exhibition was constituted in part by the continuous surface of wall – a wall increasingly structured solely for the display of art” (Krauss. Moreover it has been a matter of tying together relevant information in an attempt to trace a relationship between the optical truth. architecture and its representation. who engages in digital image manipulation to prove the subjectivity of his images. precision and materiality of their buildings and to develop a growing relationship with emerging discourses. I will further argue that ‘postmodern’ thought. This more explicitly means that they create their work specifically to function within the gallery space. In the first chapter I will introduce the idea of optical truth. Through a continuum of representation that runs from analogue objectivity to digital subjectivity. taken together. and underlying structures that have been created for and as a side effect of modernity. official salon. This in turn created modern discursive spaces that are necessarily resistant to opposition. In this sense.

). Figure 2: The Camera Obscura. a model informed heavily by the laws of optics.8 - . Damisch is of course referring to the Cartesian conception of three-dimensional space and the sixteenth century ordering of vision known as perspectivalism.). humanist argument is that the photograph is a “transparent representation of a real scene” (Colomina. I will also consider the ramifications of digital imaging to optical truth and the possibility that photographic images maintain a control over us through the knowledge and understanding gain from them. 1646. through the chemical reaction on the filmic plane presents this process as objective and “without direct human intervention” (ibid. The classical. but states that this is not the only deception the photographic image contains (ibid. 1997: 85). looking at some of the key arguments that have been proposed.). the way that light produces an image. The debates around the optical truth of the photograph relate to the extent to which the photograph is an accurate representation of reality and are fed by the central paradox between reality and representation. That photographs conform to these conceptions is essential to . Damisch defines this as being a deceit inherent in the process of photography. This he states is a historical deceit which is “far more subtle and insidious” (ibid.).). 2003: 88). 1999: 77) and resides in the analogical paradigm of the camera obscura (ibid. Notably. “The camera is itself a box obeying perspectival and architectonic laws” (Haus. I will suggest that the perceived truth of a photograph is something that has been constructed through our conception of the photographic process as objective and the way that we see the photograph as a medium to prove event occurred. Damisch argues that the camera and the photographic lens were moulded to a conception of space that preceded photography and accordingly informed how the camera and lens should be constructed (ibid. the behaviour of light and a Cartesian conception of space (Damisch in Wells.Chapter 2 Optical Truth? Debates About the Truth of Photography In this chapter I aim to place the theory of optical truth into a historical and social context.

a process of building an image or representation with pencil lines or brush strokes. which is like what’s in the picture” (Sontag. to have a photograph of something. We automatically check images against what we know to be true and in doing so refer to our knowledge of the referent. The debate about optical truth in photography can also be associated with the notion of proof. 1979: 5). Any deviation away from these conceptions would cause us to question the reality of the photograph. delegating the role of truthful representation to secondary. then firstly that thing must have existed (Sontag. This is an automatic process of understanding and testing the credibility of the information contained in a photographic image. but both modes of representation are inherently different. With emphasis being placed on composition and aesthetics. 29). 1977: 8). The picture may distort. 1990. 1979: 5). or did exist. The pictorial frame resembles both the photograph and the painting. “A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. light passes through a lens to focus on the filmic plane. then it can be proven. Ritchin. Rosler. Much of this presumed innocence stems from the parallels between the camera and the eye. a chemical reaction or the changing of data. that of the constructed surface of a drawing or painting is viewed to be inherently subjective and will at best be selectively truthful. 1998: 30) constructed over a period of time and with no guarantee that the referent existed (ibid. 1999: 222229. Photographs would no longer be images that arrive by the causal relationship between the depicted and the depictions through . 6). In a similar vein. but there is always a presumption that something exists. Photography on the other hand is an act that takes place in an instant that involves a change of states. 1998.. ‘true’. Sontag goes on to state that “a photograph – any photograph – seems to have an innocent and therefore more accurate. With photography though there is “a causal relationship between a depiction and the object [referent] to which it refers” (ibid.).). The process of digitisation appears to threaten the truth status of photography (Grundberg. Kember. Although they both lead to a representation. or more fundamentally. As Susan Sontag comments in her book ‘On Photography’. relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects (ibid. This causal relationship is another reason why we consider photographic images to be true.our understanding of these images as ‘correct’. just as light passes through the lens to focus on the retina.9 - . if something is true. Mitchell. This filmic plane is inherently different in definition to the planar constructed surface of the drawing or painting (Berger. when we look at photographic images we refer to an “ideological framework and an existing knowledge structure” to establish if the image is plausible (Mitchell. 1998. 2004: 259-317. Painting is a constructive act. In other words. 1998: 37).. Through this constructive act there results an image that is highly personal in character (Mitchell.

1998: 17) opposed to bringing about a new concern or a ‘revolution’ (Ritchin. socially and historically not only through the people we meet and the places we visit. Mitchell. But would become tarnished by a process whose function we perceive in relation to digital imaging technologies could be to distort and misrepresent (Mitchell.). I have stated that the notion of optical truth lies in the analogical paradigm of the camera obscura.). 2).10 - . In his critique of the implications of new digital imaging technology ‘In Our Own Image’ where he predicts a “Coming Revolution in Photography” Fred Ritchin argues that “the photographic attraction resides in a visceral sense that the image mirrors realities” (Ritchin: 1990: 2). He later posits that if the truth status of the photograph were to become “suddenly tenuous” then we would have to reconsider it as a “system of representation” (ibid.the mechanical. seemingly objective characteristics of light. I have also discussed the relation of proof to the photograph and have established that photography exerts a control over us in the way we learn about and understand our position in the world around us. and the conceptions of Cartesian space and perspectivalism. but through the photographs we see. 1998. you may have never been to Sydney. thus involvement in the digitisation of photographic images results in a lack of credibility on the terms of the image (ibid. Rosler. possibly even its situation within the harbour. 1990: 3). 1999: 7). But the photographic real is so ingrained in our culture. 1998. 2004) – a critical re-evaluation of the truth status of the photograph is now required in the light of digital imaging technologies. but the likelihood is that you will be able to describe how the Opera House looks. I will now go on to discuss the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher who use the optical truth status of photography in a manner so as to preserve their buildings in a neutral and objective manner. There is no doubt that digital imaging technologies have brought about new methods of manipulating photographs. Mitchell argues “the essential characteristic of digital information is that it can be manipulated easily and very rapidly by the computer” (ibid. . Kember. but see the digital imaging technologies merely as an exacerbation of existing concerns over the photographic real (Rosler. We build up an image of the world and our situation in it. For example. Kember posits that this amounts to a control over us – in relating to us knowledge and our social relations. Talking in contrast to the emulsion coated surface of the negative. Both Rosler and Kember agree with this proposed re-evaluation. 2004: 259. so invested in socially and psychologically that it continues to maintain a control over us “in the terms of power and knowledge and in the terms of desire and subjectivity” (Kember. 1998: 18). thus posing a threat to the photographic real. Kember is referring to the way photography has become part of the way we learn about the world around us. He was of course stating that this was indeed the case and that – alongside many others (Kember.

employ an oblique view of the referent for compositional and . Schwarzer. Figure 3: Neville Island. cooling towers. the objective ‘front-on’ position gives their photographs an artificiality like the buildings are posing form the picture (Robinson & Herschman. Though this is the case. Finally I will consider the photograph as a form of art. I will discuss how their work is arranged and the way that could be seen to be analogous to the way architectural discourses are formed and begin to rely upon the photograph as a representation. The photographs of the Bechers are categorically modern and operate within the rhetoric of objective and truthful photography. water towers. and grain elevators” (Schwarzer. USA 1980. blast furnaces. which. They are an example of photographers who uphold the modern tradition of objectivity. They consciously employ the use of rigorous. 1988: introduction. Figure 4: Cleveland. Ohio. The Bechers’ photographs are pictures of “vernacular industrial structures. 2004: 175). 1980. I will draw relation between their work and the seventeenth century encyclopaedic project suggesting that this is one inspiration for their prolific body of work. USA. more often than not.Chapter 3 Bernd and Hilla Becher – Analogue Objectivity In this chapter I will discuss the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher in relation to the ideas of objectivity and their technique. 1998: 8) inherited from the encyclopaedic tradition. near scientific technique to capture their photographs. 2004: 175) and contain a feeling of nostalgia for these remnants of the industrial era. gas tanks.11 - . Pennsylvania. which is a modern characteristic (Mitchell. The Bechers’ photography emanates from a position opposed to the openly subjective representations of architecture.

). which due to its precision manufacture and large negative size can be adjusted to eliminate any distortion through the lens (Mack. 1979: 156). Their work harks back to the tradition of the encyclopaedic project (Marcoci. they will select the correct focal length lens for distance between the camera and the building to eliminate any curvature of the image. 2005: 45). analogue camera. Namely. they are both “expressive devices” (Robinson & Herschman. Emphasis here was upon the documentation of never seen before referents for originality. rather than the recent pre-occupation with technique to make a critical statement (Robinson & Herschman. “Through being photographed. Industrial facades. Any corrections that they make are to keep the resulting image in direct relation to the ideas of Cartesian space and orthographic draughting techniques. 2004: 175). To help achieve clarity in their photographs. 1988: introduction) and as such are both valid ways of making critical statements about architecture (ibid. Figure 5: Bernhard and Hilla Becher.12 - . That the Bechers employ the use of the front-on position is no surprise. 1999: 20). Photography displaces architecture from its original setting into an image-idea that can be transported (Schwarzer. each 18” x 22” framed. They work from a slightly raised position to enable them to organise the picture around a central point of perspective (Mack. and they will also tilt the back plate so that ‘straight’ lines remain parallel to each other and to the edge of the picture plane.“aesthetic effect” (Mack. Consequently buildings from different places and periods could be placed side-by-side and compared with each other (ibid. section and elevation (Lenman. We are reminded that although the front-on method of photography is associated with objectivity and the oblique view with a subjective representation. fitted into schemes of classification and storage” (Sontag. 1988: introduction). This link between the Bechers’ work and the encyclopaedic project does not end here though. 1999: 20) and the back plate which holds the negative can also be tilted to ‘correct’ the effects of perspective (Schulman. something becomes part of a system of information. 1999: 20). Bernd and Hilla Becher use a large format.: . 2000: 23). 2005: 12) which used a similar but less controlled method of representation informed by the architectural draughting standards of the plan.

It took until the re-organisation of knowledge referred to as postmodernism (Lyotard. In her critique of ‘Photography’s Discursive Spaces’ Krauss states that the “gallery wall became the signifier of inclusion” with everything that was excluded being “marginalized with regard to its status as Art” (ibid. I have also considered the way modern architectural photography built . to a comparison of features within certain groupings (ibid. This is very much representative of modern objective thought which implied that meaning was inherent in the image. This comparison is primarily intended to take place within the context of the gallery which has established for itself a discursive framework which centres around aesthetic discourse. 2004: 172). helping advance its arguments on both connoisseurship and stylistic succession” (ibid. The photographs of the Bechers attempt a ‘closure’ of meaning which could be interpreted as a final act of publication in which the ultimate signification is enclosed (Mitchell. Their work is an example of a high level of attempted control over the representation of architecture. This changes our reception of the images from focusing on the relationship between composition of the façade. rather than something that is socially constructed – a thought which was posited by Barthes in 1977 (Schwarzer. Rosalind Krauss argues that photographs assume a certain expectation in the user of the image through the knowledge they communicate (Krauss.). It follows that architectural photography has not always been considered an art. which extends to the way that the photograph can be interpreted after its final closure. 175). 2002: 524).). 1997) for the photograph to be accepted onto the gallery wall and by this time architectural discourses were heavily reliant upon photography as a system of representation (Crimp in Wells. 1999: 51).13 - . This displaced the idea that photography could be thought of as an art. The Bechers usually show the buildings they photograph as types. But the depictions of buildings. which had as a consequence of photography been pushed to be more experimental and less representative (Gombrich. 1988: introduction). and what constitutes the status of ‘Art’. 2003: 423). 1985: 132).176). I have considered the Bechers as modern architectural photographers. “Thus the development of photography during the second half of the nineteenth century may have contributed to the emerging field of architectural history. There had always been a strong link between the architecture and its photographic representation and had quickly been established as a ‘classic’ subject matter for photographers (Robinson & Herschman. structures and cityscapes had been adopted by publishers of books and journals who employed photographs as a reference or as proof of something built or event occurred. who use objectifying techniques as a means of preserving the buildings they photograph and entering them into history.). arraying “typologically similar features from different complexes” (ibid. I have considered the role of the gallery in their work and the way that they use it to discuss photography as a means of objective representation.

. who opposes the modern notion of photographic proof. I will now consider the work of Thomas Demand.14 - .discursive spaces upon its assertion of truth and reliability within systems of information.

5 x 285cm. on the relationship between modern architecture and architectural photography. With a camera angle in mind. so that the final photograph is formally perfect and as intended apart from small imperfections which are a clue to the fabricated nature of these photographs. the irrefutable proof of existence of the photographic referent is no longer valid here.Draughting Room – C-print/Diasec 183. consigning to the viewer the same tools with which it begins to become legitimate to be suspicious of any image. which are built at life-size. The camera makes an imprint upon these models. but start to become more apparent the more closely we study Demand’s photographs. each encounter with an image by Demand seems to renew our fascination with images. I will finally place Demand’s work in the context of postmodern thought. light reflects from the matte surfaces of the paper and card in an unsettlingly consistent way.15 - . these are usually sites of political and social significance.Chapter 4 Thomas Demand – Constructed Realities In this chapter I will examine the work of Thomas Demand who opposes the staged nature of modern photography. These incongruous imperfections are not initially easy to find. He then recreates these images in three-dimensional form from paper and card. I will discuss his photographic technique and the way his criticism functions through the use of incongruous imperfections in his otherwise perfect models. . 2002: 28) Thomas Demand’s photographic technique starts by culling images from the media. Besides. The “That has been” of Barthes. and simultaneously our desire to question them” (Beccaria. I will consider her assertion that much modern architecture was constructed for exhibition and the camera. Demand creates sculpture that in reality is deformed by the camera and constructed around the lens. I will then discuss the thoughts of Beatriz Colomina in greater depth. there is an unusual flatness to all of his images. Figure 6: Thomas Demand . Demand constructs with his works. And yet.

: 8). were developed intentionally and controlled by the artist. 1999: 80). With the photographs that Thomas Demand produces for the context of the gallery he follows in a line of photographers who opt to use very large Diasec photographs. Each of these lenses will have unique characteristics. The Sinar large format camera which Demand uses for his work allows maximum control over the resultant image and renders an extremely sharp image with subtle gradients from light to dark and from hue to hue. 1998: 17). the configuration and number of the converging and diverging elements and the particular type of effect the lens designer wanted to achieve with his design (Langford.16 - . who designed each model with the point of view from which he would photograph it in mind” (ibid. in order to render a second version with proportions intended solely for the photographic lens” (Beccaria: 2002: 8). In many ways these photographs with their bold colours. exactly controlled statements and size could be considered to be more than real. Demand originally photographed his work as a means of documenting his sculptures before they fell apart. too clean and too consistent but this is all resisted by the thought that it must be representing something that is real. he noticed certain optical distortions were occurring “altering the formal relationships of the initial sculptures…He [then] began to duplicate each of his sculptures. which will depend upon the type of optical glass used in the lens. By creating something that is so real in mediation with the camera. When he photographed them though. The photographs are too perfect. they could be considered to be hyper-real. “The spatial distortions. Producing a new reality within the confines of the frame (Colomina. With Demand’s work this apparent hyper-reality which exudes from the photograph serves to emphasise the way we perceive photography as a ‘truth’. This maximum control results from the way the lens can be angled or tilted to ‘correct’ distortions caused by the lens and the proximity of the camera to the photographed subject. .which immediately causes one to think that the image is ‘wrong’. such as Andreas Gursky. Thomas Demand’s photographs work against the notion of the real in photography. he forces us to discover that these are a constructed reality. initially unforeseen. This kind of large format camera also has precision interchangeable lenses allowing different focal length lenses to be attached which would be decided upon by the operator to best suit the project. So much greater is the re-vision once we realise that what is represented is not a tangible reality – as our initial perception asserts – but that what is represented is actually a fabrication.

particularly that which is commissioned shows buildings as “new and pristine. This re-appraisal constituted a re-reading of these ‘historical’ .17 - . Much architectural photography. It became a trait of many modern architectural photographers such as Ezra Stoller. Julius Schulman and Bill Heidrich to re-discover the original intention of the architect through photography. Colomina argues that much of the modern architecture that we are now familiar with was built in the exhibition context and thus was dissembled after several months of display. 2006: 22). Even though this is the case. We could consider that Demand’s work is the consequence of a re-appraisal of architectural photography as an art and as a cultural record. With these examples of modern architecture we have to rely upon the photographs as evidence of the built experience and also the narrative constructed by the photographer. photography can establish canonical works such as the German Pavilion. before occupation and use” (Schwarzer. The German Pavilion – or Barcelona Pavilion as it is more commonly termed – is a prime example of what Colomina refers to as being architecture as a media construction and has coincidentally now been re-built.Figure 7: Thomas Demand’s 2006 exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery – Photographs could be considered hyper-real. This is significant because of the way that we learn about many modern buildings – which may have been destroyed or dismantled . 1999: 114).solely through photography rather than experience. Significantly all that remained were the photographs that had been taken which were then disseminated in a variety of contexts (Colomina in Colomina and Kluge. And yet it is significant that when this same built architectural piece enters the twodimensional space of the printed page it returns to the realm of ideas” (Colomina. Thomas Demand’s work hints to and criticises the modern tendency to photograph buildings un-inhabited. 2004: 171). This mode of working drew heavily from the position that “architecture is a conceptual matter to be resolved in the realm of ideas. un-used and literally staged. Barcelona 1929 by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. that when architecture is built it gets mixed with the world of phenomena and necessarily looses its purity.

in an attempt to legitimate them” (ibid. Integral to this redistribution of knowledge was the construction of a specialised history of architectural photography. I have linked his work to the theories of Beatriz Colomina and have placed his work in the arena of the postmodern. 1985: 134) and particularly comments upon the transposition photographic material from the discursive space of literature and their consequent reconstruction in the wall of exhibition (ibid. This redistribution is associated with the term postmodernism” (ibid. the objects can be read according to a logic that insists on their representational character within the discursive space of art.). Crimp states that this re-appraisal or new aesthetic understanding is “part of a much more complex re-distribution of knowledge taking place throughout our culture.: 424).photographic representations of architecture in a new context. In the next chapter I will go on to consider the work of Josef Schulz who challenges the truth status of photography in a less constructivist and more deconstructivist manner. “If the principal conditions for establishing such a history were access to large bodies of original and published work. .: 424). “the composition of a false history” (Krauss. He argues that as a modernist practice photography could not function as art because it was “too constrained by the world that was photographed. other ways of photography must be dismantled and destroyed” (Crimp in Wells: 2003: 423). I have argued that Thomas Demand opposes the truth status of photography through the construction and photographing of models and the way that his photographs act as a criticism of staged photography.18 - . “We must realise that in order for this new aesthetic understanding to occur. “Decorously isolated on the wall of the exhibition. and a theoretical framework within which to organise material and to situate representative and seminal bodies of work.). too dependant upon the discursive structures in which it was embedded” (ibid. then these conditions did not exist before the early 1980’s” (Lenman: 2005: 44). Krauss questions if this retrospective construction of history is not illegitimate.

But if this is indeed a deconstruction. 2004. The resultant images. Schulz accepts the subjectivity of the photograph. but this does not lead to a complete negation of the truth status of the photograph. time or environment” (ibid. In terms of perspective representation.Chapter 5 Josef Schulz – Digitised Subjectivity In this chapter I will discuss the work of Josef Schulz. C-Print 120 x 170 cm. . masquerading as photographs are highly subjective and uniquely his own. He does this by digitally manipulating the analogue photographs he takes on a 5x4 medium format camera (Ewing: 2005: 172). His aim is to remove any visual clues that could specifically link to “a particular place. it is a deconstruction of the conceived ideas about photography. Figure 9: Josef Schulz. particularly in the age of digitisation. These result in a more expressive and spatial mode of description than the front-on view (Robinson & Herschman.). I will investigate how Schulz makes his images subjective and link this to the uncertainties of science and digitisation. instead of rendering the picture plane flat. 1988: Introduction). in contrast to the Bechers employs the use of the oblique view to construct his photographs. Figure 8: Josef Schulz. his quest is to show us just how subjective photographs can be. this spatial description is achieved by using the camera to construct a two-point perspective by means of orientation with the referent of the picture. I will argue that digitisation leads to a perception of a loss of credibility in the photograph. “But others will see the emergence of digital imaging as a welcome opportunity to expose the aporias in photography’s construction of the world. then Josef Schulz’s work constitutes a deconstruction of the photograph and a heavily analytic method of achieving a final image. particularly in the context of postmodern digital imaging. C-Print 100 x 130 cm. of convention and the way architecture is projected onto a plane.19 - . opens up the plane which inherits spatial characteristics. and to resist what has become an increasingly sclerotic pictorial tradition” (Mitchell: 1998: 8) If Thomas Demand’s photographs constitute a constructed reality playing on the truth status of the photograph. Josef Schulz. to deconstruct the very ideas of photographic objectivity and closure. Form#10. This. Brick 2003.

and mutant versions proliferate rapidly and endlessly” (Mitchell. Schulz starts to remove information from the photograph.: 5). Mitchell links the postmodern era to digital images. The optical truth of the image hence becomes depleted and questionable (ibid. As soon as the image is captured onto digital media. What is significant in this procedure is that once again a conception of Cartesian space is imposed on the image and that this enables quick and easy manipulation by computer (ibid. 1999: 191).: 7) but more importantly that this intervention could be ‘invisible’ or undetectable.). “By eliminating site he makes architecture into an object relatively independent of place” (ibid. It is highly significant that Schulz should use the technique of digitising the image as this transposes the photograph into another mode of representation whose “difference is grounded in fundamental physical characteristics that have logical and cultural consequences” (ibid. The photograph becomes digital image. finished works” (ibid: 52) to one which acknowledges the possibility of continual change. 1999: 51). computer files are open to modification at any time.). any hints at place.: 4). That we know they are manipulated causes us to look for incongruities. The once analogue photograph is transposed into a raster grid which is a “two-dimensional array of integers” (ibid. The photographs are anonymous and consequently become filled with our character. Even without the knowledge of alteration there is something that does .). stating that “we can assume the tools of digital imaging are more felicitously adapted to the diverse projects of our postmodern era” (ibid. enduring. to try and place the photographs somewhere and to construct an identity. Each integer is linked to a cell based upon a finite Cartesian sub-division known as a pixel (ibid. 2003: 43) is superseded by the age of digital replication (Mitchell.). But Schulz does not visualise an ideal world. Benjamin’s age of mechanical reproduction (Benjamin in Wells. their ubiquity lends itself to his intentions of subjectivity and digital intervention (ibid.20 - . This change of information is done to isolate the images from any context that may be inherent. This technique is not unlike the method that Le Corbusier used to decontextualise and impose a purist aesthetic upon the published images of Villa Schwob (Colomina. 1999: 107). His photographs are of modern pre-fabricated buildings.These images become like Alberti’s finestra aperta or Benjamin’s window. 1999: 52).: 8). The loss of information in Schulz’s photographs when considered in analogue terms is rather a change of information in digital terms. The involvement in digital media also has ramifications for the closure of the image “In general. nor does he show us a place that we would want to be – his photographs are like a computer screen “where facts seem indistinguishable from falsehoods and fictions and where immanent paradox continually threatens to undermine established certainties” (Mitchell. This causes a change in our conception of art as “stable.

there is something intrinsic to the image that shouts ‘photoshop’ but it is hard if not impossible to pin down or identify exactly where or how it has been done. that in a similar way to Demand causes us to question the reality and the authenticity of the photographic image.not make sense. looking particularly at the way modern architecture utilised optical truth to preserve its buildings and the architectural consequences of a postmodern break with objectivity. I will now go on to consider the relation between the optical truth of photography and architecture. and also from the lack of information regarding place and environment. but this amounts to more a change of information rather than a physical deconstruction and thus is really a deconstruction of the ideas underlying photography – particularly its optical truth. . This is the paradoxical nature of his photographs. Junctions between forms do not seem to correspond. The type of process he subjects his photographs to is emblematic of a postmodern deconstruction. The more you study the photographs of Josef Schulz. the more you question that anything contained is actually real or actually existed. I have argued that the subjectivity of the images is derived from the uncertainty of the digital processes he subjects his images to. I have proposed that Josef Schulz’s photographs are in actuality digital images masquerading as photographs. the oblique view he uses to compose his photographs.21 - .

I will state that postmodern thought evident in photographic representation. Thomas Aquinas: ‘Adequatio intellectus et rei’. but we weren’t satisfied with this answer…since we knew that it was a question of truth. in Frampton. He did not ask the question. I asked Peter Behrens. architectural periodicals and architectural history texts were beginning to use photographs as their primary sources of evidence to prove ‘event occurred’ of more aptly ‘building built’. “It then became clear to me that it was not the task of architecture to invent form. or as a modern philosopher expresses it in the language of today: ‘Truth is the significance of fact’ (Mies Van der Rohe 1961. not only from the environment. We were very delighted to find a definition of truth by St. This mode of practise was existent at the time when academic journals. The emergence of these systems coincided with the rise of the media representation to heighten the importance of the image in the architectural sphere. but also from the future and worldly phenomena – returning the building to the realm of ideas (Colomina. The others said.Chapter 6 Optical Truth and Architecture In this chapter I will examine the relation between canonical works of the modern project and optical truth. It was no coincidence that structure started to be emphasised and walls rendered at the same time that photography was starting to become a primary form of representation in architecture (Haus. and alongside a credible editorial team. I will argue that modern discursive spaces still operate around optical truth and that their postmodern critique is found in the gallery space. credible photographs were used in a generic way to communicate new and past achievements of the profession. This was primarily derived from the closed perfection that the architect strove to achieve through composition of form.22 - . proportion and materiality. This interaction with the realm of ideas also allowed an integration to history through comparative and classificatory systems that sought to place architecture socially. 2002: 161) There was a strong relation between the now canonical works of modern architecture and the optical truth status of photography. This required a certain authority. These emerging discourses were primarily constructed because there was a need to disseminate architectural information throughout the profession. This emphasis of structure and rendering of walls was adapted to the black and white photographs of the time guaranteeing a preservation of the building in the way intended by the architect. 1999: 114). 1997: 85). politically and culturally. ‘What we build is architecture’. Photography was undoubtedly the best medium to preserve the building. structure. we tried to find out what truth really was. but he could not give me an answer. notably the break with modern notion of objectivity. I tried to understand what that task was. was also evident in the physical and theoretical formations of architectural practise. .

But where it seems logical and instinctive to draw comparisons between the work of the Bechers and the canons of modern architecture – with its distinct categories and taxonomies – the same task is not as easy when considering postmodern architecture. 1985: 132). accordingly. The gallery wall is where the critique of optical truth occurs. This is why architecture is still presented through printed media as fact. These.Figures 10 & 11 : German Pavilion.23 - . This strong link between optical truth. But . The same conditions do not. are discourses that operate primarily around the notions of empiricism. not only as a preservation of the architectural spatial construct but also as a means of communication. on one level as a signifier of progress. Each one of these notions were dependant upon credible and truthful images as a representation of architectural values. Only when read as postmodern art do the photographs of Demand and Schulz take on their full meaning. however. attempting to distance themselves from modernist dictum and both incorporating a certain irony in their work. and because of this have resisted criticism from semiotic analysis and later from postmodern critique (Kember in Wells. The work of Demand and Schulz is certainly postmodern. This is the way that the discourses have been constructed. rationality and empiricism. Photograph by Stelljes Bau. occur in the discursive space of the gallery. architecture and its representation in printed discourses is still evident today. These discourses could be said to be self-regulating systems. of course. 2003: 202). To print bad pictures would be to undermine their profession and their livelihood. Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe. And so began the rise in the importance of the photographic image. and on another level the signifier of a product being placed into a market. rationality and progress. a different type of knowledge is required (Krauss. which maintains the evidential truth of a photograph. significantly true. Because of these foundations they had good cause to publish only aesthetically pleasing pictures that put their establishment and architecture into a good light. the mere act of placing a picture of modern architecture on the gallery wall stimulates criticism and comment. Barcelona (Reconstruction). they are resistant to attack or criticism.

neither can completely reject modernity because it is too reliant upon the discursive spaces created by modern practise to function. how we think and signify: it is not primarily a claim concerning ‘material reality’” (McGuigan. Critics have identified two contradictory strains of postmodernism “a postmodernism of reaction that repudiates modernism and celebrates the status quo. which has responded at both physical and theoretical levels. then. On a physical level this is most commonly understood to be characterised by spatial and syntactic ambiguity. but even if these thoughts are not primarily to do with material reality. In this chapter I have examined the relation between canonical works of modern architecture and optical truth. challenged the modern foundations upon which architecture stands. if not impossible to find. In my final chapter I will now summarise the key points of my study and conclude my argument. if there is no objectivity. has selected parts and incorporated them into its own way of looking at the world. both oppose the modern concept of optical truth. Postmodernism brought about an end to the modern ideas of objectivity and closure in architecture. and a postmodernism of resistance that attempts to continue the project of modernism while subjecting it to critical re-evaluation” (Leach. Paradoxically. and in doing so they also oppose the modern theoretical foundations for its formation. in any case. then there can be no closed perfection. Primarily. namely within architectural publications and the discourse of architectural history.24 - . not one situated beyond thought and signification” (ibid. opposed to its underlying tradition and/or its dominant “mythologies” (Grundberg. “The postmodern declaration is. they find their materiality through architecture and consequent representation through architectural photography. McGuigan goes on to state that “the declaration is supported by the assumption that there is no ‘objectively’ discernable reality. which allowed freedom away from the rules that modernity had imposed. could be said to be united in its opposition of modernity. 1999: 207). Postmodernity. It is as though postmodernism. 1999: 2). 1999: 6). a playful historicist irony and the use of surface iconography. then. the re-introduction of symbolic form.their architectural comparison is hard.). Coming to the conclusion that the canons of modern architecture exhibited a reliance upon optical truth not only to preserve their buildings. while trying to oppose modernism. This break away from objectivity is not without ramifications for architecture. . but because of a growing relationship with emerging discourses. first and foremost. to do with ideas and subjectivity. Still. I argued that the postmodern critique of optical truth is found in the discursive space of the gallery and that a break away from objectivity also had consequences for architecture. On a theoretical level opposition took on deconstruction and cultural theory as a way of opposing the underlying ideas of modernity. postmodernism intended to create new spaces and ways of working. Consequently. and in so doing.

we are having to re-evaluate our understanding of the photograph in the light of digital imaging technologies due to the uncertainties of manipulation and closure. Mitchell. Thomas Demand and Josef Schulz on the other hand oppose the truth status of photography. 2003: 88). My discussion considered the relation of proof to the photograph and established that photography exerts a control over us in the way we learn about and understand our position in the world socially and historically (Kember. 1998. Kember. Although this is the case. 1998: 18).Chapter 7 Conclusion Throughout this thesis I have attempted to trace a relationship between optical truth. 1999. 1979: 156). even if postmodern architecture no longer strives to achieve an ultimate objective truth. The notion of optical truth lies in the analogical paradigms of the camera obscura. 1990. a break with the modern idea of objectivity occurred in both photography and architecture.25 - . Rosler. of Cartesian space and perspectivalism which still permeate our conceptions of the photograph (Damisch in Wells. Schulz deconstructs the meaning behind the image by subjecting it to the process of digitisation and alteration. namely within architectural publications and the discourse of architectural history. I placed the representation of architecture into a continuum that runs from analogue objectivity to digital subjectivity and argued that the canons of modern architecture were reliant upon the optical truth of photography to uphold their truth. 2004). honesty and clarity of design intention. Causing a response on both physical and theoretical levels and an imposition of subjective perception upon the built environment. Finally. 2004: 175) and show how modern architectural photography built discursive spaces upon its assertion of truth and reliability within systems of information (Sontag. Ritchin. These discourses are still functioning today and still rely heavily upon optical truth. architecture and its representation through photography. I argued that this practice was compounded by the emergence of modern discourses which relied upon the photograph as a source of evidence to elucidate their arguments and further their own causes. architecture and its representation I conclude that the canons of modern architecture exhibited a reliance upon optical truth not only to preserve their buildings. . While Demand causes us to question truth through fabricating models based upon mediated images. They use the wall of the gallery to discuss photography as a means of objective. The Bechers are examples of photographers who uphold modern tradition of using objectifying techniques as a means of preserving the buildings they photograph and entering them into architectural history. Through examining the relationship between optical truth. 1999. which have upset the causal relationship evident in analogue processes (Grundberg. but to develop the growing relationship with emerging discourses. truthful representation (Schwarzer.

. and the way they seemingly hold a degree of authority and control because of this. I feel that within printed discourse we accept the authoritative thrust of photographic representation too readily because of its nature as evidence in this context. looking particularly at the way discursive spaces have been constructed around photography as evidence.26 - . I feel that this is part of a larger more complex intersection of social. I feel that there has been little research into this subject and think that this is partially due to the way that a reliance upon the photographic image has been internalised into architectural practise to communicate information. more explicitly. Accordingly I would recommend a continuation of research into this area.Recommendations for Further Research Throughout my research I have been looking at the way that architecture is presented as an optical truth in photography. cultural and economic factors that were beyond the scope and time-frame of this research.

Corrected. .27 - . California. Uncorrected. Figure 13 Administration building. California. Taken from the same point with a large format camera these photographs show how dramatically the tilting or perspective controls can effect the final image.Appendix 1 Figure 12 Administration building. Figure 14 Wide angle view Figure 15 Normal angle view Figure 16 Narrow angle view Taken from exactly the same point these pictures show the effect of increasing the focal length of the lens.

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