It’s 2010 and a photographer is at work in Jean Nouvel’s Serpentine Pavilion, playing with the reflections and layering effects caused by the vivid red glass. A girl appears and stands transfixedby the viewintothebuildingthrough a strip of transparent green. The interplay of
girl, glass, colour and light creates a perfect moment,
captured with the click of a shutter.
It is moments like these that make James Newton’s
life as a photographer of architecture and lighting
fulfilling. Capturing a lighting project for posterity sits
in the place where documentary blurs into art.
Newton’s task is not merely to take beautiful pictures
of buildings – although he does that – it is to reveal
the transformative effect of the lighting designer’s
work on the materials, forms and ambience of the
architecture. His success in achieving this is rooted in
his own experience as a lighting designer.
He uses no tricks or special effects. He is not creating
art, he says, although many of his pictures are
aesthetically compelling. His photographs are not an
end in themselves – they exist to serve the project.
‘Lighting design is not about having good ideas.
Lighting design is the idea. It is one big good idea. The
key is to implement it successfully on each project so
it is integrated with the architecture. Photography to
me is not so much about finding ways to make good
photographs, it is about photographing what is there
well, and stepping aside to allow the subject to be seen
clearly. The photographs can only be as good as the
work being photographed.’
The camera must not be allowed to distort reality.
‘With lighting a lot of things can happen in the camera
in terms of colours, colour temperatures and so on.
You can create a strong, stunning image, but if the
colour temperature is wrong or the hues are wrong it
is not showing what has been designed. It’s a case of
trying to be accurate in terms of what the designer has
done and showing it to the best effect.’
Which is not to say the result can’t be a great
photograph. With light being the dynamic medium it
is, magic can always happen. For his pictures of the
Turner Contemporary in Margate, Newton decided
to visit the seaside town on a foggy day, watch the
effect of the conditions on the light, and try to create
a Turneresque scene. Hours of patient waiting paid
off when the sun started to break through and people
appeared in the mist.
La Defense Offices, Almere, The Netherlands, by UN Studio. ‘ Why is
colour in architecture so rare? I love the layers of colour and reflection,
and the way the open windows change the angle to add another one’