Arcspace.com presents the architectural photography series
sponsored by the Danish Architecture Center, edited by Pygmalion Karatzas
Hufton + Crow architectural photography studio comprises of english photographer duo Nick Hufton and Allan Crow. They started collaborating in 2004 and with their passionate attention to detail and their dedication to self-initiated projects as well as assignments, quickly established themselves as a prolific and successful practice creating striking images of contemporary architecture from around the world. As two experienced photographers with complementary skills and competitive characters they bring a unique approach to their iconographic documentation of the built environment. In 2014 they won the prestigious ‘Architectural Photographer of the Year’ Award by Arcaid Images supported by the World Architecture Festival, and Divisare Atlas of Architecture ranks them among the top 10 architectural photographers worldwide in their extensive database of 2491 photographers.
Pygmalion Karatzas: Mr. Nick Hufton and Mr. Allan Crow thank you for accepting the invitation to discuss and show some of your work with us here at arcspace. Could you tell us about your backgrounds and how did you start being involved with architectural photography?
Hutton + Crow: Nick and I are old friends. We went to the same high school in Macclesfield, a small town near Manchester. Our friendship began around 1994 when as young men we spent most of our time nocturnally travelling around the North West of the UK clubbing and engaging in general shenanigans. After school Nick went on to study photography at University and then moved to London and started assisting architectural photographer Chris Gascoigne. When I finished university in Manchester a couple of years later I travelled to London to see Nick and went on a few shoots and didn’t go home. After a couple of years also assisting Chris, Nick and I started Hufton+Crow in 2004.
PK: It is not often that we see photographer duos in this profession. How did you decide to collaborate and how does such a collaboration work in practice?
HC: Nick and I were hanging out in our local pub The Winchester in Archway, London, sometime in 2004 when we decided that rather than become professional competitors we would team up and form Hufton+Crow. In the early days of H+C we still used large format 5x4” analogue cameras, so shoots were very different from today. However I think the slower considered approach to composition helped train our eyes, and it was at this time we started to develop our style of contemporary architectural photography. It wasn’t however until we made the decision fairly early to take a leap into digital photography that we really found our style.
In these early days and for a number of years after we both attended all shoots together, it was during this period that together we developed our style and worked out the most successful way of photographing and communicating architecture. As the years passed we were able to work together on shoots less and less, primarily down to workload commitments. However we still share all our clients and a studio near to where we both live. We also make an effort to sit through and provide creative input to each others images before they are sent out to clients. Those fundamental elements and techniques that we developed together are still the blueprint for our approach to assignments today.
PK: Could you describe your overall photographic vision and approach?
HC: I would describe our style as modern contemporary architectural photography. We always strive to produce strong compositions that display and communicate architecture at its best. In the beginning, using large format cameras, images needed to 'be staged' to a certain degree because of the additional lighting and often long exposures required. However with the advent of the digital photography revolution, and using the new wave of DSLR’s allowed us to spontaneously capture light and human activity much faster. When we switched to a digital format the final key to our style was the introduction and focus on people within architecture. Often we will compose ‘a stage’ of architecture on which the focus will be human activity of some kind. The architecture becomes the backdrop to human behaviour.
PK: From your experience what makes the relationship between architects and photographers a successful one?
HC: Like all relationships, successful ones are built on the ability to listen, on trust and good communication. We have developed our style over the years and combined it with a professional work ethic. We listen to our clients requests and requirements and then with that in mind try and apply our combined knowledge and experience to achieve their goals.
PK: Which are some of the influences to your photographic work and in what ways have they affected your approach?
HC: Other contemporary photographers such as Iwan Baan and Fernando Guerra to name a couple have provided inspiration over the years and we always enjoy seeing their images around.
PK: How important is the role of post-processing / retouching in your creative process?
HC: To us its highly important. We’re not in the game of visualisations or rendering things that aren’t there, but our approach is to ‘imagine’ the finished photograph on location and then collect the required ‘data’ to take back to the studio and realise the vision. This almost always includes combining several layers of RAW files that contain different elements to produce a final image.
PK: Some of your projects were self-funded/initiated. Can you give us some examples from this approach and how they developed?
HC: Especially in the early days but also through out our career we have adopted the mantra of ‘If the mountain won’t come to you’. Basically we are passionate about photographing architecture and sometimes you’re not going to get asked, so we decided to go and shoot it anyway. Several self funded shoots have led to long established relationships with high profile clients. Other times like when I traveled to Austria to shoot the bus stops in Krombach, it was just a thoroughly enjoyable shoot that gets in out there online and creates some exposure.
PK: What are your thoughts about the shift from print to online media? How has it affected the way architectural photographers work and how do you see the field changing in the future?
HC: One thing that is constant is change.. The whole world has shifted online. I’m not sure it has affected the way we work other than I think our images reach a much wider audience these days. The fundamentals of our business have always been based on direct commissions so where the images end up is secondary really.
Hufton + Crow website:
Originally published on arcspace.com, 22 February 2018.