Looking at an illustrated real estate listing or brochure, have you ever been mesmerized by a wide angle and luxurious photograph of what you suspect is, in fact, a tiny studio apartment? Have you ever had the experience where all the photographs of the tourist site you just arrived at didn’t match up to the reality of what your found yourself standing in front of? Some structures look more iconic, and take up more space in your imagination than perhaps they deserve, when they’re encountered in photographs. In other cases, it’s just the opposite; some photographs just can’t or purposely don’t capture the experience of space, scale, and a real-world context.
Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the idea that many architects concerned with building up their portfolios and reputations now have to think as much about how their buildings will photograph as what they’ll actually be like to live and work in. Given the many ways photography transforms what we see and know about the built world, I contacted Phil Patton, who writes on architecture and design, and he’s done a piece for click! about how photography has led him to places, and mislead him about them. His story about a road trip to the startling Ames Monument in Wyoming—an architectural landmark, but a place few people travel to anymore—explains some of the things you can and cannot tell about a place from the pictures of it.