As part of our Architectural Photographers interview series, we spoke with Rodrigo Dávila, an architecture photographer based in Bogotá. When he was a teenager, Dávila inherited a Rolleiflex medium-format camera from his grandfather and never looked back. After working as an architect for two years and taking pictures of landscapes in his free time, Rodrigo moved to Melbourne, Australia to study photography at RMIT University. Back in Colombia, Dávila established a photography business through which he expresses his passion for design, Scandinavian architecture and contemporary buildings.
“Architectural photography works in the opposite way of designing a building. Instead of projecting in order to construct a building, a photographer analyzes the image in order to deconstruct the building and understand the architect’s intention," explained Dávila.
Read the complete interview after the break.
1. Are you an architect?
I studied architecture at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, and I worked in the offices of architect Daniel Bermúdez before becoming a photographer.
2. When and how did you start to photograph architecture?
Photography was always my great passion. When I was 14 years old, I inherited my grandfather's old camera and I started to photograph in black and white. For many years, especially during university, I was faced with the dilemma of leaving the pencil and scale for a camera. When I graduated from university, I was able to travel and photograph buildings designed by important architects. I had the opportunity to study commercial photography in Melbourne, Australia. By joining my experience as an architect and a photographer, I became an architecture photographer.
3. What do you like about your job as an architectural photographer?
Finding the ideal moment when all external variables come into play to create a "perfect moment." In some ways, one waits until the weather, the light, and even the people in the building are at an ideal point in order to take the picture.
4. Favorite architect?
My favorite architect is Alvar Aalto. I love his organic shapes, which at the same time are not overloaded or extravagant.
5. Favorite work?
The Sydney Opera House by Jorn Utzon. It is a perfect example of how an architectural object can change a place or even a city.
6. Favorite architecture artist or visualization studio?
I like the old school, the work of architecture photographers Ezra Stoller and Julius Shullman. Through their photography, I see that they understand the functioning of spatiality in modern architecture.
7. How do you keep yourself updated with current industry trends?
In addition to constantly reviewing publications, I also examine market developments through major brand providers.
8. What software do you use?
I use Photoshop and Lightroom. I always edit files using both programs at the same time.
9. What hardware do you use?
I use a Canon system with perspective correction lenses, along with Apple Macintosh computers. This is a good combination for location photography given that it supports heavy work outside of the studio.
10. How would you define your style?
I seek strong and clear composition in my photographs. My intention is that, through shape and color, the different elements of a scene that make up a single bi-dimensional image can be noticed.
11. How would you summarize your work?
I have a work method where I plan the photographic session. At first, I write a key phrase or words that define the project. Subsequently, in an architectural plan or sketch, I define the points of view that will be photographed. This is where the key words are addressed. A timetable is organized with an assistant in order to photograph the defined points of view.
12. How did a photographic approach to architecture change your way of viewing the profession, if at all?
Architectural photography works in the opposite way of designing a building. Instead of projecting in order to construct a building, a photographer analyzes the image in order to deconstruct the building and understand the architect’s intention. To summarize, my photographic work is performed in an inverse manner to designing a building.
13. What advice would you give to a person who wishes to start to photograph architecture?
Take many, many, many pictures and always keep in mind what the idea behind the building being photographed is. One should keep in mind that an image is a combination of emotion, narrative, and technique.
View our full series of interviews with Architectural Photographers here.