Dr. Akira Takaue is a structural & consulting engineer from Japan, working on high-rise buildings, long-span bridges and other mega-structures mainly in Asia since 1996. After receiving his Ph.D. and whilst working for an international structural engineering firm, Takaue travels around the world producing fine art architectural images rooted in his approach of structural mechanics and material engineering. In recent years his images have received numerous international awards and publications. Directing the spotlight to common structures with his unique vision of flat-shot series harmoniously combining long-distance views with texture and context, and his fresh approach of the ‘crystallization of engineering’.
Q: Dr. Akira Takaue thank you for accepting the invitation to discuss and show some of your work with us here at arcspace. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you started being involved in photography?
A: As an international structural engineer, I have been fortunately enough to visit a lot of places not only in Tokyo but also around the world for various large architectural and bridge structure projects, including my own engineering achievement. Firstly I brought a camera just for taking shots of the interesting scenery in foreign countries.
But gradually my mind has been changed. The reason why I'm interested in photography came initially from simply taking photographs of the bridges and buildings I've designed; however, recently I saw some wonderfully artistic architectural photographs in several web galleries and international photograph magazines and have been passionately interested in the category of fine-art photography ever since.
Q: Could you describe your overall photographic vision?
A: As an international structural engineer, I would like to express not just the city scenery but conceptual city scape under fine art photography, from the point of view of the field of landscape architecture design. My goal is rooted in both the logic of structural mechanics and material engineering as well as the finer artistic elements that make a building and its photograph successful.
Q: Who are some of your favorite photographers and how has their work affected your own? Are there other influences to your artistic approach outside photography?
A: I cannot recall their names. I respect all of the fine art photographers in the category of architecture and city scape, whom I have seen and talked in various galleries, photo exhibitions and contests as well as facebook. I'm influenced by all of them.
Q: Architecture and urban spaces play a central role in your work. Could you tell us why you gravitate towards those subjects?
A: I would like to produce conceptual urban scapes including the fields of Aesthetic Design and Structural Mechanics including material engineering. And also I would like to direct the spotlight to not only famous structures but also "Common Structures" usually seen in a town. The photogenic subjects regarding structures may not be limited by famous or popular structures. Even if they are nameless and have common shape structures, they were designed deeply, planned carefully, calculated in depth and constructed precisely, which must be the crystallization of engineering.
I would like to produce artistic images of such structures based on the logic of Landscape Architecture Design and the structural properties of the building.
Q: Tell us a few words about your flat-shot series (‘Meaningful cells’, ‘Modern Vietnam’, ‘Interruption’, ‘Dynamic Mechanics’) shown here.
A: I'm so pleased that you have bought up my favorite flat-shot series such as "Meaningful Cells", "Modern Vietnam", "Interruption" and "Dynamic Mechanics". They are one set of my signature flat-shot images. The field of Landscape Architecture Design is categorized in roughly 4 viewpoints such as long-distance view, middle-distance view, close-distance view and texture. Three of them are examined by the Engineer to achieve harmonic content with neighboring objects, but originally texture would be examined isolately. I would like to express the harmonization between the texture and long-distance view including surrounding road structures such as lamps and trains.
Q: How did your awareness towards the built environment change with the photographic practice?
A: I'm a structural engineer, who is always considering harmonization between designed structures and neighboring road structures from various viewpoints. I strongly believe that architects or structural engineers should understand not only their skill of engineering but also the expressivity of photography, at least of the focused structures of which they have been in charge. That would be one of their responsibilities towards the public.
Q: What photographic gear and post-processing workflow do you use and what are your thoughts about their role in the creative process?
A: Nikon D700 and Nikon V1, and for post processing, I spend a total of 2 or 3 hours with the Photoshop element and Nikon Capture NX2. Post processing is also a very important role as well as taking shots in the site to complete fine art photography.
Q: You have mentioned your interest in “common structures” and your desire to create artistic impressions of them, bringing the spotlight to the less famous buildings that we are surrounded by daily, and the collective efforts that go into their production. How has this intention been received by the public and the construction industry from the feedback you get?
A: Please view "Meaningful Cells". The building is a very common structure in Japan, which is a hotel. But when we have stood up from different viewpoint and when we consider interesting harmonization with the road structure, in this case the lamps with ABC signs, a new concept is produced from the scenery. I would like to do my best to take such interesting fine art. Of course I do not hate to take shots of famous structures. ;)
Q: Although fine art and commercial photography are defined and practiced differently, do you think there’s also a common ground and a trend to fuse their boundaries?
A: I define that commercial photography has the existence of clients, whom request photographer’s concepts of targeted photogenic objects. Unfortunately I'm still a novice photographer. I have not received any requests or orders from clients. Therefore, I'm just producing photography in which I bring my thoughts and philosophy selfishly.
Q: Minimalism and the Zen aesthetic have a great influence worldwide in contemporary architecture and art. Sometimes it might be criticized as a superficial interpretation of this tradition, other times however we are blessed with genuine work that resonates deeper with its principles. What are your thoughts about this approach to work in general and in your personal life?
A: The Way of Zen and minimalism is no longer a Japanese personalized path, but influences many artists in the world. Zen was born in the 17th century, Sengoku Era, but the origin could be placed from 12th century, Kamakura era, when the samurai period started. The philosophy of Bushi-do (the Way of the Samurai) and Kishi-do (the Way of the Knight) have various common elements, hence I believe that fine art photography, including minimalism and Zen, can be understood between European and Japanese photographers. To concentrate our spirits into an object or the mind, trimming other extra passions and distractions, may be the same logic with photography.
Link to Dr. Akira Takaue photography:
Originally published on arcspace.com, 16 April 2014.
Ezine edition of interview coupled with his photographic work: