November 4, 2020

Architect Magazine Features Laura Peters' Perspectives on Architectural Photography in the Era of COVID

Laura Peters, CannonDesign’s in-house photographer, has written a new piece for Architect magazine detailing her experience shooting “Architectural Photography in the Era of COVID-19.

Laura, who photographs scores of projects for our company each year, notes that one of the most rewarding challenges of architectural photography is telling a building’s story through the people who occupy it. “I typically look for opportunities to capture authentic experiences that exist in and around these spaces while highlighting the aesthetic, innovations and elements of the architecture. This style has become increasingly difficult to capture during the pandemic because people are not connecting in public. How do you capture life in buildings devoid of people? It is not impossible, but it does require a new level of patience and creativity.”

Laura then shares several photos and strategies on how she’s still able to capture the humanity of our work during the pandemic. The full article is available online.

Here’s an excerpt with additional photos:

“At Richard J. Daley College’s Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center, in Chicago, I captured the various ways light reflected off each elevation as the sun moved across the sky. Although the building was mostly empty, its surroundings were active: Traffic buzzed by on a nearby thruway and airplanes streamed to and from Chicago’s Midway Airport. This movement energized the scene and gave the building vibrancy and life. I made architecture the centerpiece—an anchor to all the external energy.

At Upwork’s new Chicago office expansion, I had to be creative with the limited crew I had. As the sun began to set, my colleague and I took a break and talked about the remaining spaces on our shot list. We decided to infuse ourselves into certain shots to ensure life resonated in the images.

I took several frames of my colleague sitting in the café area, which would have been filled with activity and crowds pre-pandemic. Then he left the scene, and I sat close to where he had been sitting. I took a few photos of myself using a remote trigger. I combined these frames in post-production so we appear to be sitting for a coffee break. Though the final image doesn’t show a bustling and lively café, we do add life to the space. And the exhaustion on our faces after a long day from sanitizing, photographing, and then resanitizing every area we touched was all too real.

At Townsend Hall, a renovated student residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I spent most of the assignment documenting empty rooms and lounge areas. Then I turned a corner in a hallway and spotted a group of students laughing and socializing outside their rooms. I felt pure joy: It was the first real interactivity among students I had seen in the building. Besides the moment being perfect for photography, I felt a jolt of hope that we soon may be able to return to lives filled with connection, socialization, and memory-making together.”

In closing, Laura shares, “Merging real life and design is ultimately what architecture is all about. Photographing occupied spaces can be messy and chaotic, but it is honest. The beauty is in the authenticity. The pandemic has made finding those authentic moments tougher, but it is far from impossible. Good design creates a seamless background for authentic life and genuine experiences. As a photographer, my job is to be there and ready for when these stories unfold.”