Most of the time, and for most of us, when we go out in public, we aim to dress accordingly. Moving from the comfort of our home, we change from wearing sweat pants into something we deem more appropriate. If we don’t, well, we mean it. Because we all, even though we might not concede, somehow acknowledge the truth in the statement „you are what you wear“. For a person, it is relatively easy we can pick clothing to suit our mood and the weather conditions. But imagine you could only dress once in a lifetime? What would you wear? Who would you be and what would you want to express?
You might think this is a strange question to ask in an article about architectural photography, but I promise, you will understand. Let us first take a look at the works of Sebastian Weiss, known to the mobile photography world as le_blanc.
Let us start with the first image. What we see when we first look at the image, is a greyish triangular structure in front of a light blueishgreen background.
A line on top of the triangle leads the eye back, a little off center in the image, until it hits the background. Then our gaze fixes on the tall rectangle in the left part of the picture, which, when you look closer, appears to be a flat block of stone. The light enters from the right, causing the lower left part of the image to form a curved shape towards the top of the rectangle.
The geometric sculpture creates a strong shape, which we can recognize as a being made out of concrete by the way the light enhances the structure. It seems to be a heavy object. And even though the light paints a three dimensional shape, it still comes across as very flat, against the almost monochrome background. And viewing it like this, it almost feels as if we could lift the whole thing up just by the grabbing the top of the rectangle. The five rectangular holes on the top of the shape aids this way of looking at the image. It seems like someone has precisely removed parts from the shape with a cardboard cutter.
In the second photo we get a similar experience. The brown curve from the top of the image leads our eye from the top left and down. At the curve’s summit, we discover a c-curved blue-green background with a color tone very close to the one in the first photo. But again, our eye, wanting to explore the background, is stopped by its flat, monochrome character. So our eye wanders back to the c-shaped curve, and discovers a curved fencing. Then, when we look down to the right, we cross a darker area and more fences. To the lower left, our gaze rests on a white clouded background and on what seems to be the end of an s-curve. Finally we perceive the whole, a partly shaded, wooden structure, railed by fences.
Again it is a geometric structure, which feels solid and strong from the perspective given to us through the photograph. At the same time, we are left to think that it could also be a small model, perhaps created by matches.
In both photos, the place and the time, remains unknown to us. The photographer leaves that up to our imagination, so the questions remains; Are they models or buildings? The only thing we can be sure of, reading them into the context of le_blanc’s work, is that they belong in the category of architectural photography. Both examples express what his continuous work stands for.
If you take a look at his Instagram stream, you will discover many more of the same kind of sculptures, captured in a flat and confided space; figures that appear to be both three dimensional and flat; both solid and life-like – in green, blue and white tones – and as small models. They are close up portraits of architecture, carefully observed details of buildings, mostly made out of concrete.
There are several different approaches to architecture photography: A photographer could point out how a building blends and enhances its surroundings, or he could tell us how architecture makes use of itself when people find a place in it. Another approach could be to portray open and huge spaces, spaces that give room to breathe and think; or spaces that protect; or the photographer could showcase the impressive illumination by night that almost lifts some buildings off the ground.
Le_blanc does nothing like that. In his keen observations, he zooms in on a larger detail, revealing the fabric that covers the geometrical skin of the buildings. It is not a deconstruction of what architecture is, on the contrary: it is a personalization. In showing a detail of the shape and the nature of the cloth, he creates a personal portrait of the buildings he photographs. We see the suits and the make-up that have been carefully designed by its architects, to give them character and personality.
The building in the second photo, is more natural and profound, while the one in the first photo wears a more simple, ordered but little military suit. Still as every portrait photographer he leaves room for interpretation and imagination. We as a viewer can never fully grasp what the buildings personality is.
It takes good craftsmanship to continuously create the kind of work le_blanc does, especially in architectural photography; you have to find the right point of view; you have to figure out the right time to shoot, when the light helps to create perfect shapes. And it is tied together by Instagrams Brannan filter which gives the shots a similar tonal and colour range. The sky is ongoing homogenous. His work displays a craftsmanship in architectural photography that reminds us of the heritage from Bernd and Hiller Becher.
And it is intriguing, how on a platform like Instagram, that has a high percentage of fashion photography, superficiality, #ootd-selfies (outfit of the day), one user chooses in such a timeless way to explore and portray the suits and make-up of architecture, buildings/subjects that almost never change their outfit, and therefore never go out of style.