Regional experts discuss the importance of photography in architecture

The importance of photography when it comes to getting media attention for a project was the subject of a talk and panel discussion held in Dubai by the Gulf Chapter of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Award winning photographer Gerry O’Leary was the main speaker and he told the audience: “A strong image will always attract attention and that is the key factor.”

O’Leary (a picture taken by him illustrates this article) is acknowledged as Europe‘s foremost architectural photographer, and is just one of a handful of “European Masters of Architectural Photography“ – a distinction conferred on him by the Federation of European Photographer’s in 2007.

His awards include European Commercial Photographer of the Year 2009/10, and runner-up for the same award in 2012/13.

O’Leary’s said he believes that “photographers are hired for their vision, they compose just like musicians and poets, they are commissioned for their ability to see and for their creative aptitude and they earn their reputation accordingly”.

A resident of the UAE his clients include  Aedas, Armani, Carlson Rezidor, Dubai Airports, Emirates Airlines, Hyatt, Jumeirah, Missoni and Norr Architects.

He explained the power of the image to the audience, largely composed of members of smaller architect practices but also including representatives of Atkins and U+A: “When you go into a gallery and stop at one picture which stands out that image has arrested you – it has engaged you and connected with you.

“If you are on an aircraft and the video screens have yet to come on you may pull out an in-flight magazine. You may see an image of a watch, a bag or a building but if you stop and look at it you are engaged by it.”

O’Leary compared the power of an image to that of a universal language which everyone can understand and told the audience the benefits of paying out to get a professional photographer and the exposure that will get a project far outway the costs incurred. He also emphasised the importance of documenting a project as it progresses.

Architecture marketing expert Victoria Moy was on the discussion panel and she emphasised the importance of social media to the exposure of work.

“We live in the digital age,” she said. “Instagram has now become the most popular form of social media and while waiting for a meeting or riding in a taxi you can scroll through projects and see what captures your attention. But the images have to be powerful – that is why a professional photographer is so important.”

Middle East Architect editor Nick Ames was also part of the panel. He said: “When you see so many projects being submitted an arresting image is so important. Architects and designers are – by necessity – people who prize visuals. So to stand out from an increasingly competitive field a striking image is essential.

“It’s not true that everyone is a photographer – it’s true that they can point their phone at something and press a button but that does not mean they can take a picture.”