Integral Lens - a multi-perspectival approach to architectural photography
[extract from upcoming paper co-authored with prof. Mark DeKay]
The ‘four quadrants’ of Ken Wilber’s integral approach take into consideration the interior and exterior aspects of both the individual and the collective perspectives of an investigated phenomenon, in order to provide a comprehensive study that respects all available dimensions in a non-reductionistic manner.
An integrally-informed approach to architectural photography also requires “touching all the bases”, that is, taking a comprehensive view from these four fundamental perspectives. One interpretation of the four quadrants for photography is illustrated in figure 1. Each quadrant can take on different labels, depending on the subject being considered. For photography, we have renamed these to fit.
1) Photographer’s Consciousness, “The Eye” (upper-left quadrant, interior/subjective/individual perspective). The UL domain encompasses aspects such as: perception, original impulse and intention, intuition, insight, self-expression, truthfulness, vision, spontaneity and freedom, state of mind (concentration, mindfulness, awareness), aspiration and motivation, discipline, introspection, psychological barriers, the soul and spirit.
2) Photographic Product, “The Frame” (upper-right quadrant, exterior/objective/individual perspective). The UR domain encompasses aspects such as: composition, proportion, rhythm, symmetry, balance, tonality, form, coherence, structure, novelty, repetition, simplicity/complexity, measurable and observable features.
3) Photography Culture, “The View” (lower-left quadrant, interior/collective/intersubjective perspective). The LL domain encompasses aspects such as: content, themes, series, styles and movements, cultural background, historical reception and viewer response, literary theory and influences, values and ethics, communication and feedback, meaning and symbols, legitimacy and appropriateness, pluralism and relativism, worldviews and paradigm shifts.
4) Photography Systems, “The System” (lower-right quadrant, exterior/objective/collective perspective). The LR domain encompasses aspects such as: photographic gear and technology, post-processing, printing and editing, presentation and exhibition, production and distribution, utility, function, client brief, business, regulations and rights, information and knowledge, institutions and networks, social/ economic/ political/ environmental conditions and contexts.
All of these are partial perspectives on the holistic endeavor that is the photographic phenomenon. The perspectives are both distinct and ever-present. Indeed there are schools of thought attached to each of the four major perspectives.
The integral perspective pays homage to the major past and present genres of the field, from the early realists and pictorialists to the postmodernists and editorialists. Put together, they highlight four broader functions of the historic relationship between architecture and photography:
- Documenting and portraying the built environment and the urban condition,
- Making architecture with photography,
- Producing architectural critique and contributing to urban discourse,
- Establishing an expressive dialogue with the contemporary urban landscape and aspiring to something greater.
M.Sc. Urban Design
Photo Editor, arcspace.com