Quintin and I first met some years ago at the same crossroads in our photographic careers. It’s a long story but we were both thinking of taking the same big step and, as it happens, neither of us did. But we kept in contact and I became a great fan of his work.
Quintin is ‘mainly’ an architectural photographer: that is the core of his business, his primary bread and butter. But like many photographers, his career is also his passion and his Fine Art work, which often combines elements of his architectural practice with travel, documentary and landscape styles, is a very natural extension of this core practice.
The two series featured here, Chernobyl and Sweet Thames, are very different. Chernobyl is a fusion of architectural discipline, documentary bravery, intrepid travel photography and a Fine Art sensibility. Sweet Thames, one the other hand, is far less structured, more fluid (as befits its theme) and more obviously lyrical. Both avoid cod narrative in favour of a form of quietly passionate dispassion, if that makes sense.
It’s worth adding that it’s not just me that rates his work highly: Quintin has recently been awarded 1st place in the ‘Architecture – Historic’ category for the Chernobyl series in the 2012 International Photography Awards. He also received three honourable mentions in the categories for Fine Art – Landscape, Architecture – Cityscapes and Architecture – Buildings.
The rest of the words that follow are Quintin’s, and I hope you enjoy them and the images as much as I have. Because both series are quite long, I have embedded them as slideshows to expedite loading of this page.
I also recommend Quintin’s blog, where you can see some of his architectural work, as well as more of his landscape and travel photography.
Finally, don’t miss the ‘Methods and Approach’ section at the end. It is brief but highly informative!
Pripyat: 21 years after Chernobyl
When reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in 1986 the result was the worst nuclear accident in history. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were severely contaminated, requiring the evacuation and resettlement of over 336,000 people.
Pripyat, 1km from the reactor, was designed as an exemplar of Soviet planning for the 50,000 people who worked at the power plant. A funfair, with bumper cars and Ferris wheel, was due to open two days after the reactor exploded.
These photographs, inspired by Robert Polidori’s earlier images of Chernobyl, were shot in 2007 over 5 hours, apparently the safe period of exposure. Although a Geiger counter was carried in case of localised high emissions, certain areas of vegetation which attract a higher concentration of radiation were avoided.
The physical devastation stems from looting and gradual building collapse, not from the explosion. Over the last ten years people have intruded regularly into the military exclusion zone, stealing everything from irradiated toilet seats to the marble cladding from hotel walls. Photographs of the town capture a memory of three traumas: the invisible radiation, the visible looting and the gradual collapse of a ghost town.
Sweet Thames, Run Softly
The idea for the project started when watching the first few minutes of Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening ceremony. Seeing the sped up aerial journey starting at the source of the Thames and ending up in London I immediately realised I wanted to walk the length of the river and try to produce an artwork based on that experience. I’ve recently got married and live with my wife in Cheltenham near the source, my childhood was in Oxford, half way along and I lived in London for seven years as a student so the river has a very personal connection for me. Earlier in the year I’d been in hospital with meningitis and then immediately afterwards witnessed the birth of my son so I started the journey with more sensitively to the notion of the river as a metaphor of life than I might have done otherwise.
I’ve always been a keen long distance walker having backpacked Land’s End to John O’Groats and many of the long distance trails in Britain. I always travel alone and camp, as its cheaper (much cheaper in the Thames valley!) and gives me a greater connection to the landscape and allows me the concentration necessary to think about and notice interesting light for photography. It was surprisingly difficult to camp along the Thames as it relatively populated and I prefer to wild camp so I often pitched after dark and broke camp at dawn. The journey was 170 miles and it took me ten days.
Whenever I work on a photographic project I think of the images as a series, to which I endeavour to give a particular and constant feeling. I never know what this feeling will be before I start a journey which is part of the thrill. In the artic this was the play of light, In Iran it was the architectural symmetry and on the Thames I felt it was the pattern and texture of the water. I purposely cropped out the landmarks to emphasise the difference of the texture and colour of the water. Before I started the journey I would never have thought that the water at the source could look quite so different to the same water as it passed under the M25 bridge.
I make photographs of things I’ve never seen before. The desire to understand the visual world is the inspiration for my work. Geometry and stillness are qualities of space I’m particularly fascinated by. My background in architecture means I tend to abstract the world in terms of line, surface and form.
My working method involves two parts. Firstly extensive walking and looking, photographing intuitively if a place interests me. Subsequently I’ll edit the material I have collected while thinking consciously about a theme or idea that the images suggest to me.
Methods and Approach
My background was working with a 5×4″ sinar view camera but now, the 20+ megapixel full frame 35mm sensor cameras more than meet the technical demands of the industry (architects, developers and design press). I’m not excited about the new generation of 40 megapixel full frame sensor 35mm cameras as I consider the extra detail excessive and it increases processing time. Far more important than resolution is a flair for composition and light. The cost of buying or hiring a Phase One back and associated digital lenses is not proportional to what the industry pays and this type of camera reduces the propensity to experiment and play which can reduce creativity of composition.
35mm full frame lenses with excellent corner to corner sharpness and low distortion are essential. Tilt shift movements are useful not just for correcting perspective but for shifting the compositional emphasis of a scene. I work with Canon and my preferred lenses are 17mm f4 TS-E L, 24 f4 TS-E L and 70-200 f4 L. The ubiquitous 24-105 f4 L is also fantastically versatile and most of its problems can be removed in Lightroom; the Chernobyl series was shot with this lens as I was so short of time due to fears of radiation exposure. Architectural Photography is particularly sensitive to lens/ body calibration and I send my equipment to be calibrated annually.
Useful techniques for architectural photography depending on the situation are exposure fusion which is a naturalistic version of HDR which increases the dynamic range by blending bracketed exposures. I use LR/Enfuse lightroom plugin for this. For interiors, tethered shooting can be very useful for previewing often complex Lightroom adjustments on the fly. Mirror lock up and a high end tripod and head are essential for pin sharp results. Aperture is best kept no higher than the f8-f14 range to avoid problems with diffraction softening the image. A Hoodman loupe helps focus the manual tilt shift lenses. Wearing a fluorescent worker’s jacket when using a tripod reduces people’s suspicion in urban areas and tends to make people walk quickly past the building. And I always carry a couple of door wedges for interiors photography!
I was delighted to be one of the View Picture Agency architectural photographers commisioned to capture the images for this book. The fascinating buildings that I photographed for the book include : Fox’s umbrella Shop, Ironmongers’ Hall, Postoffice Park, General Post Office Headquarters, Overseas Bankers Club & Snow Hill Police Station.
The City of London is a major illustrated celebration of the architecture and of the Square Mile. Beginning with a general introduction that provides an historical overview of the Citys development, the main part of the book is divided into 8 chapters, each devoted to a particular district of the City. Each chapter begins with a 1,500-word introduction (with a specially commissioned map of the district as well as additional illustrations) and then includes approximately 25 entries on individual buildings and urban spaces such as squares and public gardens. Each entry is illustrated with 24 images, including specially commissioned exterior and interior photographs and selected archival images provided by the London Metropolitan Archives and other City sources. In total, there are approximately 200 entries, including major landmarks such as St Pauls Cathedral and 20th-century developments such as the Barbican, and each of the bridges that connects the City with the South Bank. The Tower of London, although not technically in the City, is also covered, as its history has been so bound up with that of the Square Mile.
The exhibition will feature eleven of my photographs fom the series “Pripyat: 21 years after Chernobyl” see more
Romanticism in the Urban Environment A multi-disciplinary exhibition of works by selected Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts.
The theme of this exhibition is the urban landscape. The city can be seen as a living museum of past and present voices and ambitions… a romantic view of this landscape will be manifest in the artists’ emotional response to the history, the present, the future, the people and the vistas of the city.
This two-month long exhibition has been jointly curated by Charlotte Wand (for the Portico) and Lotte Karlsen (FRSA) and will feature work by: Adam Aaronson, Frank Creber, PJ Crook, Fiona Heron, Lotte Karlsen, Quintin Lake, Agnieszka Mlicka, Martin Stynes, Alan Yates
The Portico Gallery, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3HY
Previewing on Wednesday 6th July 2011, 6.00pm-8.00pm
Continues until Friday 26th August 2011
Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 4.30pm
Thursday late night until 7.30pm
There is something almost edible about Quintin Lake’s Architectural Photographs which have been arranged in pairs for the viewer to draw associations. This book is all about looking and learning but not lecturing. I am delighted to discover that doors in Iran traditionally have two knockers, one with a heavy loud sound announcing a man’s arrival and one with a lighter sound announcing a woman.
I now know that the lawn, railing and cobbles in an Oxford Square strike similar note as the curved concrete ribs of Oscar Niemeyer’s Copan building in Sao Paulo.
There is much more to discover in this deliciously designed book for which the publisher Alexandra Papadakis, who studied architecture, should share the credit. I am tempted to place it on my bookshelves with food rather than architecture and I am absolutely resolved to get a better Camera. George Ferguson
I’ve just received the first copy of my latest photo book “The Last of the Borneo Rainforest” this is my first foray into print-on-demand publishing and I’m delighted with the print quality and colour accuracy.
To buy a copy visit the blurb bookstore here
A photostory of deforestation and Palm Oil plantations contrasted with the wildlife of Sabah and Brunei. Featuring Sepilok, Kinabalu National Park, Danum Valley, Kinabatangan River, Peradayan and Ulu Temburong.
Binding: Hardback, 146 pages
Format: 20 × 25 cm, Full page photographs in colour throughout
Experiments in Architecture edited by Samantha Hardingham and published by August Projects in 2005. Much of the material in the book was a result of the pilot PAL Architecture Lab supported by NESTA and directed by Digital Putty. Ten architects, artists and engineers nominated by heads of schools and practices in the UK collaborated on design projects. The participants were: Jason Bruges, artist / Kevin Gray, architect / George Grinsted, new media practitioner / Mark Hemel, architect / Dominik Holzer, architect / Frank Jensen, engineer / Sophie Juettner, architect / Quintin Lake, architect / Matilda Pye, artist & Keith Wilson, artist.
The book also includes contributions by David Greene, Cedric Price, Sand Helsel, Bruce McLean, Kevin Gray, Matty Pye, Richard Wentworth, Feliks Topolski, Dickson Robinson, Ben Morris, Roger Zogolovitch, Nicholas Royle & Davis Rosen. Buy on Amazon here