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Contemporary Architecture with Photographer Ash Camas

Historically, architectural photography has been characterized by a desire to “faithfully” or “objectively” represent a building.

Award-winning minimalist photographer Ash Camas’ approach is quite different. Ash offers us an interpretation rather than a simple translation of the spaces she chooses to capture with her camera.

We invite you to discover her spatial and photographic universe with us.

Portrait of Ash Camas, contemporary architecture photographer
Ash Camas - Photographer of Contemporary Architecture

Ash, you are a photographer of architecture, contemporary architecture in particular. How did you become a photographer and choose architecture as your subject?

I am always fascinated by abstract art and artists who create these amazing paintings with various geometrical shapes and colors. After I got my first smartphone with a camera, I started taking pictures of urban art and created an Instagram account. Later I decided to get a camera since the quality of images taken with my smartphone became less and less satisfactory for me. I can say that my life as a photographer began with Instagram almost a decade ago.

While I was taking street art photos, I started to pay more attention to the built environment and notice unique abstract elements, textures, geometric shapes and colors. Then I began taking architectural photos and documenting them on Instagram. Although I am still a big fan of urban arts, I focus mainly on architectural and minimalistic photography now.

Photography of a blue tower building, taken by Ash Camas, contemporary architecture photographer
Ash Camas - Blue tower building

Your photos have been taken all over the world. How do you choose your "subjects"? How do you select the buildings you will photograph?

I am always on the lookout. Walking is another hobby of mine. Sometimes when I walk, I stumble upon some interesting architecture or sometimes I find them through research. I enjoy traveling and before visiting a new city, I always conduct a research of local architectural highlights, especially the contemporary and visually attractive ones. The structures I seek must have a certain vibrancy in color, some kind of disorder or asymmetry in certain elements such as windows, a visually pleasing continuity in all kinds of geometric patterns. The artistic elegance of the subject plays a major role in my research.
Photography of a pyramidal structure with someone walking inside of it, taken by Ash Camas, contemporary architecture photographer
Ash Camas - Pyramidal architecture

Through your photos, is there a message you wish to convey?

I don’t have a message to convey on my photos on purpose. I love showing what I see and revealing hidden gems. Architecture is a visual art that utilizes the philosophy of aesthetics in its process of creation. Through my visual interpretation of the structure, I suppose I’m just showing that art of architecture is everywhere and it deserves appreciation by everyone even if we live, shop, or work in them. 

“The message I convey is the beauty of human-made structures that make life beautiful, sustainable and enjoyable.”
Photography of red seats from a stadium
Ash Camas - Stadium

The architectural photographer is confronted with the difficulty of translating into a single shot a space that should be apprehended during a journey.... What is your approach to make this exercise possible?

When I find something interesting to photograph, I first look at it as a whole and work my way around it to find unique angles, patterns and perspectives. If the overall structure is visually appealing, I take some photos of the whole building and sometimes I add a human figure, sometimes a passerby or sometimes a friend. This allows the viewer an understanding of the scale of the subject.

If I can’t manage to create an artistic image with the whole architecture, I look for a fragment of the entire building that has some interesting artistic appeal.

For me to take a capture of that fragment there has to be some vivid colors, shadows, lines, geometric patterns, etc. Once I find it, I try to create a two-dimensional minimal abstract art out of that whole building. I make sure my composition is very simple without any clutter and framed without having to crop too much. The minimalist shots, in a way I show a different viewpoint of the same building that you may already be familiar with.

Photography of a brown building made out of glass
Ash Camas - Building shape

"Architecture is the learned, correct and magnificent play of volumes assembled under the light" according to Le Corbusier. How do you make light and color your allies in giving the viewer keys to the space you photograph? Do you have a particular methodology to share?

Working with the weather can be a challenge sometimes and so does the light. The light and the time of the day affect the whole composition when taking a photo of a building. At various times of the day, the subject may even look different by providing you with the luxury of having a nice shadow over the building, which can make your image unique. And sometimes you don’t want any shadows of the trees and other elements on the walls. So it is always a good idea to revisit the site at different hours and different days or even at different seasons when the leaves are gone in late autumn or winter.

Do you like Ash's interview?

Photography of a builder on a building made out of white rectangular prisms
Ash Camas - Original architecture

If I take a photo in my hometown, I always go back over and over again and take different shots. But when I travel, it is pure luck. I generally don’t have enough time to visit the area again. Unfortunately, that forces me to work with the images I took under one lighting condition, but I try to capture as many images as possible using different POVs, different focal lengths and different shutter/aperture settings. Photoshop becomes a very handy tool for post-processing to compensate for better light/shadow and various other image adjustments in those kinds of situations.

I should also mention that I find harsh lighting compliments the vivid color schemes that I use. I prefer when the colors are bright and pop out. Softer lighting has no such impact. It washes out the colors.

Photography of an orange building with a blue sky behind, taken by Ash Camas, contemporary architecture photographer
Ash Camas - Orange building

Our community wanted to ask you what your lens preferences? And if you use tilt lenses?

I love taking long strolls around the city and when I do, I always bring my camera bag and I don’t want my bag to be heavy. I keep my gears to a minimum. Same goes for traveling as well. So I always carry three different kinds of lenses in my bag: Standard (AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55 mm), Wide Angle (AFP- DX 10-20mm) and Telephoto Lens (AF-S DX 55-200 mm). I use my 18-55mm the most. I don’t have a tilt shift lens at the moment. Perhaps I’ll get one in the future.
Photography of a building with an atypical lighting and a bird flying in front of it
Ash Camas - Atypical building

Which editing software are you using?

I use Photoshop to process my raw images. First, I do some color correction and lens/perspective correction and then usually declutter the image by removing some distracting elements. I also play with contrast, brightness and hues to try to make the image visually more attractive to the viewer’s eyes.

Could you share with us some difficulties you have encountered during a photographic project?

Not all architectural gems are publicly accessible and require permission from the property owner/manager to take photos in advance. In addition, some cities have strict rules against photographing certain office buildings. You generally need permission from security guards to take a photo, even from outside. 

“The accessibility of the buildings I want to photograph is probably my greatest challenge.”
Photography of the inside of a white building, taken by Ash Camas
Ash Camas - Abstract art

What are your sources of photographic influence?

Much of my inspiration comes from traveling and exploring new surroundings. I’m also inspired by abstract art. I also get inspiration by following various photographers on social media. They each teach me to look at things differently.

Does this interview inspire you?

Photography of blue furniture shaped as an S, taken by Ash Camas, contemporary architecture photographer
Ash Camas - Architecture shapes

Getting known as a freelance photographer is not easy. What has worked best for you?

It takes time to get recognized and not easy for those who just get into the world of photographic art. It is important to join a social media group of professional photographers who have a lot of experience and provide you honest feedback so that you can continuously improve yourself. Getting constructive feedback from others has always been helpful.

Any advice for a young photographer who would like to get started?

Take lots of photographs, see lots of images, know your camera well, spend time looking for perfect objects, learn how to use the photo editing tool and never give up.

Photography of a white building with a blue sky behind, taken by Ash Camas
Ash Camas - Building photography

Extend this moment with Ash Camas by following her on Instagram.

Photo credit : © Ash Camas

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