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Exploring a Multi-Perspectival Approach to Architectural Photography


Mark DeKay and Pygmalion Karatzas


In this paper we explore an integrally-informed, Wilber-influenced approach to architectural photography’s many variations. Using historical examples, we examine four fundamental perspectives (quadrants) of the eye (UL), view (LL), frame (UR) and practice (LR). Each quadratic perspective is unpacked for four domains: the photographer, making of the photograph, the photograph itself and viewing the photograph.

We consider the development of architectural photography using examples across worldviews from traditional, modern, postmodern and integral. Levels and Quadrants are intersected to reveal sixteen “Lenses” and the concerns of each. We define integral photographic Types, focusing on the distinctions of documentary, editorial and expressive forms. These various integral framing elements are combined in different ways to explain major movements and schools, illustrated with examples. 

We conclude with a summary of Karatzas’s “Integral Lens” project and define integrally-informed architectural photography with themes and examples. An integrally-informed photography is multi-perspectival and views the phenomena of both architecture and photography from the standpoint of Self, Culture and Nature. The integral photographer can inhabit all of these, shifting from an aesthetic perspective, to a symbolic interpretation, to an empirical and calculated view of its subjects. 

Note: The 'Integral Lens' paper presented here is protected by copyright and may not be used, shared or reproduced in any way for any purpose without the authors' permission. Text, diagrams and images are by the authors, unless otherwise stated. 

A pdf version of the paper can be viewed on


Architectural Photography spans a wide range of subjects, intentions and applications. Its subjects can be buildings, rooms or architectural details. Yet, like the discipline of architecture, it can be expanded to include streetscapes, building complexes and campuses, settled landscapes and the city itself. Architectural photography takes the built environment as its subject, yet can also set constructed works in natural context. When design takes space as its material with which to compose, spatial patterns can be found almost anywhere. Similarly, architectural photography, as image-making from space, can be extended to include traces of human occupation in our infrastructure and in Nature. Architectural photography is often thought of as a profession in service to clients ranging from architects, to real estate marketers, to a variety of print and digital media sponsors—or it is thought of as a tool for historic or utilitarian documentation. However, buildings and built environments are also the subjects of artistic, interpretive and expressive images, either for personal delight or as fine art for exhibition and sale, distinct from the professional commerce of the architectural trade. How can one make sense of this diversity? What is architectural photography today? Using an integrally-informed approach, this article attempts to untangle and explain this question, from both the perspective of architect and of photographer.



As a beginning, let us consider four diverse black and white examples from the history of American architectural photography in the 20th century and see if in a general way we can shed light on their varied impulses.

2.1  The Objective Photo: Walker Evans

The matter of art in photography may come down to this: it is the capture and projection of the delights of seeing; it is the defining of observation full and felt.” – Walker Evans

Evans, an influential photographer of the 20th century, might be considered an heir to the documentary tradition of Eugene Atget’s work in Paris. Rather than the urban themes of Atget, Evans mainly focused on the American rural vernacular culture. This photograph (Fig. 1) was one of a series of images of African-American churches captured while working for the U.S. Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression years. Robert Elwall characterizes Evans as having “the capacity to convey the nobility of the unassuming,” having an “emphasis on meticulous description” and employing, “classical reserve”(Elwall, 2004, p152). Evans avoided deliberate artistic effects, extreme perspectives and overt emotions.


2.2  The Artistic Photo: Edward Steichen

The arts equally have distinct departments, and unless photography has its own possibilities of expression, separate from those of the other arts, it is merely a process, not an art. — Alfred Stieglitz

Photographers associated with the Pictorialist movement in the late 19th and early 20th century were less interested in photography as description and more committed to the idea that photographs could be used as a means of artistic expression in ways as powerful as painting or sculpture. They wanted to create artistic images rather than record scenes. In describing Steichen’s Flatiron photo (Fig. 2), the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art writes, “This picture is a prime example of the conscious effort of photographers in the circle of Alfred Stieglitz to assert the artistic potential of their medium.” In this image one can read the atmospheric intent, the similarity to painting, and a portrayal of twilight. Steichen and Stieglitz included this photograph in the "International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography" of 1910, which promoted Pictorialist photography as a fine art.

2.3  The Narrative Image: Charles Sheeler 

Every age manifests itself by some external evidence. In a period such as ours when only a comparatively few individuals seem to be given to religion, some form other than the Gothic cathedral must be found. Industry concerns the greatest numbers—it may be true, as has been said, that our factories are our substitute for religious expression.  — Charles Sheeler  

For for six weeks in fall of 1927 Charles Sheeler photographed the Ford Motor Company plant in Dearborn, Michigan, often referred to as the “River Rouge” plant. The commission came from Ford’s advertising agency and was intended to help promote the Ford Model A. This image (Fig. 3), considered an icon of modern photography, was published in Ford publications, such as the Ford News, and in numerous popular publications. The image here depicts a massive industrial works, focusing on machinery rather than human labor. Along with the others in the series, its intention is to convey ideas of power, productivity and the mystique of American industry. While Sheeler’s photographs are technically excellent, called “precisionist,” and while they are often later interpreted as art, their lasting influence remains as symbols of the American industrial age. The images are used to tell a rather mythic story, the myth of the Modern machine.

2.4  The Commercial Image: Bill Hedrich

A working rapport with our client is essential. The ongoing creative exchange between clients and photographers promotes collaboration……Our clients' success proves Hedrich Blessing's value. — Hedrich Blessing website

In 1937, Bill Hedrich and his brother, Ken, were commissioned by Architectural Forum to photograph Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Wright made the stipulation that he would design the journal’s layout without the magazine’s art director. This is photography for hire, intended to make the best presentation of an architect’s work and to be published broadly for the consumption of and influence on future clients and other architects. To shoot one of architectural photography’s most iconic images (Fig. 4), Hedrich describes buying waders so he could photograph from within the stream, and selecting the shot for its dramatic perspective and to make the house look large in its setting (Blum, 2005). The shot intentionally emphasizes the unique foundations set on the rocks and attempts to create an image the architect would admire. The strong sunlight and filtered-to-darken sky became common elements of 20th century commercial work. The view itself is not one that anyone could see other than in a photograph, and is quite unlike the experience of the house from above, that is, until a visitor’s “underlook” was built decades later so tourists could reproduce the famous image. One might say that this kind of editorial architectural photography is driven and defined by the situation, the context of its production, where the expression of the photographer is subjugated to the wishes of architects and publishers of mass media.

2.5  Four Fundamental Perspectives on Architectural Photography

These four well-known examples serve to illustrate the way we, the authors, organize approaches to architectural photography at the most basic level—based on their values. 

Walker Evans’ ‘documentary style’ represents a relatively objective view, using little intervention between object and subject to descriptively record the American rural vernacular culture through its buildings and cityscapes. In that sense, it is a third-person view of architecture, intentionally taking – as much as possible – the photographer’s point of view out of the frame. 

Alfred Stieglitz’s ‘Pictorialist movement’, in contrast, presents a highly subjective view of the built environment, a first-person view in which reality is less important than impression. The photographer’s intention is to engender an aesthetic experience, rather than present a topographic record of the scene. The expressive possibilities and artistic potential of the medium are the primary focus, in an aspirational dialogue with the powerful internal – and more intangible – characteristics of fine arts.  

With Charles Steeler’s narrative imagery from the Ford Motor Company plant, we are presented with an inter-subjective view, enrolling the viewer in a cultural story where the built environment’s meaning takes priority. Photography in this case sits inside a second-person view, a perspective of “we”, with the intention gravitating neither towards documenting nor the artistic expression, but rather their collective interpretation and influence as symbols.

Yet another approach can be seen with Bill Hedrich’s ‘Fallingwater’ image from Edgar Kaufman House designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and commissioned by Architectural Forum magazine. This is photography intended to make the best presentation of an architect’s work and to be published broadly for the consumption of and influence on future clients and study by other architects. This kind of editorial photography is driven and defined by the situation, the context of its production, and as such takes as its basis a different inter-objective view, the institutions and regulations of the architectural profession and the building market business and networks. However true they are to documenting, to providing an aesthetic experience, or becoming iconic symbols; they are primarily products set in the complex plural world of socio-economic systems. 

These varied and distinguished approaches are examples of one of several frames that we can now give a more precise formulation using Integral Theory. 

Figure 01

Figure 01

Rural Church, Beaufort, S. Carolina. Walker Evans, 1936

Figure 02

Figure 02

The Flatiron Building, New York.Photo Edward Steichen, 1904, printed 1909

Figure 03

Figure 03

Criss-Crossed Conveyors, Ford Plant.Michigan. Photo Charles Sheeler, 1927

Figure 04

Figure 04

Fallingwater, Edgar Kaufman House, Bear Run, PA, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. Photo Bill Hedrich, 1937


Integral Theory as defined by Wilber has been applied to the fields of education, medicine, psychology and psychotherapy, business and management, politics and governance, socially engaged spirituality, consciousness studies, ecology and sustainability, human rights and minorities, art and literary theory, architecture, and city planning. Below we present an introduction to architecture using the four quadrants of the Integral model.

The four fundamental perspectives represent different knowledge domains that are always integrated within the discipline of architecture (Fig. 5). It is useful before jumping in to an integral view on architectural photography, to take a look at how these perspectives inform architecture itself. DeKay (2006) first proposed an integral approach to architecture, later developed more fully in Integral Sustainable Design: transformative perspectives (2011), from which the following is adapted. 

3.1  The Perspective of Behaviors 

The upper-right perspective is the individual-objective value sphere. Practitioners take the viewpoint of science and engineering; it is empirical. It values what can be measured and weighed. It is concerned with how buildings work and perform, their functions, parts, details and elements.   

From the perspective of Behaviors (UR), the design question is, How shall we shape form to maximize performance? From this perspective, good form minimizes resource consumption and while maximizing performance. 

3.2  The Perspective of Systems 

The lower-right perspective is the inter-objective value sphere where parts are related into wholes. Practitioners take the viewpoint of the complex and social sciences. Ecology rather than physics is often the model, but architecture itself is quite at home here in its own right, as a discipline that orders form based on resolving a complex set of issues. From the perspective of Systems (LR), the design question is, How shall we shape form to guide flow and fit to context? From this perspective, good form solves for spatial pattern by creating structure in the built environment that best accommodates its internal and contextual processes, both social and natural. 

3.3  The Perspective of Cultures 

The lower-left perspective is the inter-subjective value sphere where meaning is generated out of shared interaction with others. Practitioners interpret architecture’s meaning and generate new cultural communications using the symbolic language of design. This viewpoint includes the stories, myths and narratives that we make significant about the built environment. From the perspective of Cultures (LL), the design question is, How shall we shape form to manifest meaning? From this perspective, good form reveals and expresses consequential ideas and places people into relationship with each other and with nature. 

3.4  The Perspective of Experiences 

The upper-left perspective is the singular subjective value sphere in which architects focus on individual occupants’ interior sensations, feelings, emotions, consciousness, responses and aesthetic experience. Of architecture’s “firmness, commodity and delight,” it is delight. This perspective also can be used to examine the designer’s own intentions and experiences. From the perspective of Experiences, (UL), the design question is, How shall we shape form to engender occupants’ experiences? From this perspective, good form orchestrates rich human experiences. In its highest form, it creates centering places conducive to self-aware transformation in which we can become most authentically who we are.

3.5  Multiple Perspectives

One of the purposes of using multiple perspectives is to make sure nothing significant is left out. Buildings of course, always function in the world (UR), have a socio-economic and environmental context (LR), have occupants with experiential interiors (UL), and get interpreted by their own culture and by other cultures (LL). Architecture is at once a science, an art and a discipline of the humanities. 

One way to explore the multi-perspectival condition of architectural photography is by using the above four value spheres as our subject matter, as our photographic injunctions—to look for, experience and photograph from each of the four perspectives—in order to produce a comprehensive communication and expression of a building. A second way to explore the multi-perspectival condition of architectural photography is by combining the above four approaches.  



An integrally-informed approach to architectural photography also requires “touching all the bases,” that is, taking a comprehensive view from these four fundamental perspectives. In the paper’s opening, we used photographic examples to illustrate the concerns that emerge from “viewing from” each of the four perspectives. Now we can explore with greater precision the four quadrants of architectural photography. Karatzas (2006) proposed the first interpretation of the four perspectives for photography. Figure 6 is an evolution of that initial work. 

4.1  Photographer’s Consciousness, “The Eye” 

(upper-left quadrant, interior / individual perspective) 

The simplest way to understand this perspective is by considering the viewpoint of the individual photographer’s self. The UL domain encompasses aspects such as: individuals’ perception, original photographic impulse and intention, intuition, insight, self-expression, truthfulness and authenticity, vision, spontaneity and freedom, state of mind (concentration, mindfulness, awareness, etc.), aspiration and motivation, self-discipline, and the development of of photographic consciousness.

4.2  Photographic Product, “The Frame” 

(upper-right quadrant, exterior / individual perspective) 

Here one considers the photograph as a physical object, and, as we will see later, the technology of production. The UR domain encompasses aspects such as: composition, proportion, rhythm, symmetry, balance, tonality, form, coherence, structure, novelty, repetition, simplicity/complexity, and the the discipline’s measurable and observable features.  

4.3  Photography Culture, “The View” 

(lower-left quadrant, interior / collective perspective) 

Culture, manifesting worldviews, sets the intellectual and interpretive context for photography. The LL domain domain encompasses aspects such as: artistic styles and movements, cultural background, historical reception and criticism, situated viewer responses, explaining theories and photographic influences, photographic values and ethics, imagistic communication, meaning and symbolism, legitimacy and appropriateness, and worldviews. 


4.4  Photographic Systems, “The Practice”

(lower-right quadrant, exterior / collective perspective)

In the LR domain one considers aspects of the social and economic context of photographic work, such as presentation and exhibition, production, publication and distribution, the client brief, the business of practice, regulations and intellectual property rights, the exchanges of information and knowledge, institutions and networks, and political and environmental conditions. 


4.5  Multiple Perspectives

These perspectives are partial views on the holistic endeavor that is the photographic phenomenon. The perspectives are both distinct and ever-present. Indeed there are journals and schools of thought attached to each of the four major perspectives. In the introduction we looked at four authorial examples starting from a different intention/vision and producing images that illustrate the four perspectival distinctions. Wilber’s integral map is not a framework to fragment them though, but instead to show their co-creation and co-existence. 

“[…] the technically correct view is that all four dimensions arise simultaneously and tetra-evolve. No quadrant is ontologically prior or primary. Nor is any quadrant actually “in” or “within” another quadrant.” — Ken Wilber (2006) 

For example, taking the four perspectives on architecture we can notice that a set of spatial intentions in the designer’s consciousness (UL) corresponds to a particular set of measurable building typology and formal compositions (UR), which corresponds to a specific mode of production and programming (LR), which in turn corresponds to an architectural theory or movement (LL) set within a cultural disciplinary narrative discourse.

Similarly, in photography, a photographer’s aesthetic vision (UL) usually correlates with  particular equipment and techniques employed (UR), which corresponds to a socio-economic context (fine art vs. editorial, etc.), which corresponds to a photographic meaning within a worldview of operative injunctions and values (LL).


4.6  Four Kinds of Questions

Wilber makes the point that each quadrant can be accessed through the use of particular methods of inquiry, tools, precepts, practices, and operative injunctions that define and give rise to the vision that each perspective offers. One way to distinguish and contemplate the four quadrants of photography is to ask four kinds of questions: 

1.    UL: The Eye

  • How do I feel about this photograph?

  • What is my intention in making this image?

  • How does the viewer experience the photograph?

2.  UR: The Frame 

  • What is the subject of this photograph?

  • How was this image made?

  • What are the compositional elements
    and relationships present in the picture?

3.  LL: The View 

  • What story does this photograph tell?

  • What is the meaning of this image?

  • What influenced its production?

4.  LR: The Practice

  • How is this photograph a part of a larger

  • In what social or economic context was this image produced?

  • To whom does the photo belong?


5  Architectural Photography in the Four Quadrants

As outlined in Figure 7, let’s now expand our discussion of perspectives further to address more directly architectural photography. Another dimension to an integral understanding of architectural photography can be revealed by considering:

  1. The photographer 

  2. The making process of photography 

  3. The photograph itself and its subject

  4. The viewing of the photograph.

Figure 05

Figure 05

Four fundamental perspectives on Integral Architecture

Figure 06

Figure 06

The Four fundamental perspectives of Integral Photography

Figure 07

Figure 07

Some aspects of the four perspectives on Integral Architectural Photography

Figure 08

Figure 08

The four contemporary structures in design (DeKay, 2011)

Figure 09

Figure 09

Four contemporary worldviews in architectural photography


The four cases in our introduction exemplify distinct authorial value perspectives taken by the photographers on the perception and presentation of the built environment through the photographic medium. These varied prospects do not exist merely inside independent minds, however, but within the space of worldviews. Wilber (2000) declares that:

…different worldviews exist—different ways of categorizing, presenting, representing, and organizing our experiences. There is not a single, monolithic world with a single, privileged representation, but rather multiple worlds with pluralistic interpretations. Moreover, these worldviews often—indeed, almost always—change from epoch to epoch, and from culture to culture.

    As DeKay articulated in Integral Sustainable Design (2011), Integral Theory recognizes that all four quadrants—Behaviours (UR), Systems (LR), Cultures (LL) and Self (UL)—show growth, development, or evolution, exhibiting stages or levels as unfolding waves. Each quadrant, each foundational perspective, has levels of complexity and depth. The perspectives in each quadrant co-arise (and co-evolve), describing multiple views of the same object or event. Development in one quadrant is correlated in the other quadrants. 

    Our premise here is that the worldviews, values and cognition of photographers develop through known stages of increasing complexity, paralleling those mapped by developmental researchers. Photographs produced by these varying developments of consciousness can often be distinguished in the character of the work. The distinctions offered by developmental levels gives us access to a powerful way of understanding photography. The developmental view opens up a world where photographers are freed from the narrowness of a single point of view on visual values that may have been taken as ‘the truth’ in the past.

    Integral Theory finds that several characteristics of stage conceptions seem to be universal to all systems, summarized by DeKay (2012) as:

•    The same developmental characteristics can be investigated using different scales or subdivisions.

•    Each progressive level transcends and includes its predecessor. It is not necessarily better, but is more inclusive, deeper, more embracing and for individuals, more expansive in its awareness.

•    Lower levels are fundamental to higher levels. Stages cannot be skipped.

•    Higher levels organize relationships  of lower levels. Complexity increases.

•    Stages are like overlapping waves or ‘probability clouds,’ not like discreet levels in a building.

•     Each level has light and dark expressions and can have both healthy and unhealthy expressions.

•    Any state of consciousness is theoretically possible at any level.

    Each structural stage represents a level of increasing complexity with identifiable emergent qualities of its own (Fig. 8). Integral Theory often uses stage conceptions such as those of orders of consciousness developed by Robert Kegan (1982), self-development in the work of Jane Lovinger (1977) and Susanne Cook-Greuter (2005), and values in the Spiral Dynamics system of Don Beck and Christopher Cowan (1996).

     One explanation for the different ideas of both architecture and photography present today is that multiple worldviews are operating simultaneously in contemporary society and that these worldviews hold different perspectives, employ different languages and have different values. 

    Worldviews can be thought of as levels of developmental complexity manifesting from the Cultures Perspective [LL quadrant]. The distinctions and historic progression from the Traditional/pre-Modern era to the Modern era to the Postmodern era are familiar to most architects and photographers. These are grand cultural currents that form the background and intellectual context of individual practitioners, also working inexorably to influence the LR socio-economic contexts of practice. What is less clear to many is that the external formal and stylistic expressions of artistic and architectural movements are correlated with developing collective worldviews. 


For a sketch of architectural photography across the evolution of worldviews, it is sufficient to consider Traditional (rule-based/mythic), Modern (rational/formal-individualistic), Postmodern (pluralist/relativisitc-communitarian), and Integral (holisitc/reconstructive) levels of complexity. 

These basic worldviews, all simultaneously present in the contemporary world, can also be seen in the present and past of architectural photography. We have presented the four integral perspectives of architectural photography with “The View” representing the LL Cultures perspective. In the following simple four-level approach, we describe each level of worldview by its dominant “View” (Fig. 9). Again from DeKay, (2011):

In a healthy expression, each higher level transcends and includes its predecessor. Ideally, the Modern transcends and includes the Traditional. The Postmodern transcends and includes the Modern, and the Integral transcends and includes the Postmodern. Higher levels become more significant/deeper. Lower levels remain more fundamental. Higher levels are more complex, but depend absolutely on lower levels. The transcendence consists of taking the wholeness of a lower level and expanding it into a wider, deeper inquiry. 

Similar to section 2, where we looked at examples of architectural photography to illustrate four fundamental perspectives on architectural photography, let us now turn again to examples from the historical evolution of photography from the 1900 to the present. To identify worldviews we need to take a longer historical look, as it is only over extended periods of time that temporary states become permanent traits and thus recognized as stages (or levels) of development. In brief and very limited terms, we offer the following overview of these levels in architectural photography.

7.1  Traditional / Realism

What the human eye observes casually and incuriously, the eye of the camera…..notes with relentless fidelity.
    —Bernice Abbott

The Traditional Worldview, tends to follow compositional, stylistic, vernacular rule systems. While the technology of early photography is 19th–century Modern, making use of optics, mechanical engineering, and chemistry, photography is also based on the perspective of the photographer acting, consciously or not, within the background of her/his individual development within a cultural context. One can view the world from a Traditional perspective through the lens of post–traditional technology. As such, the Traditional worldview tends toward realism and documentary, as shown in Figure 10, where the image is taken to represent the real, seeing a subject literally for what it is.


7.2  Modern / Spatialism

I believe that the best photographers of architecture understand the design process and can convey the architect’s intentions. Working with space and light, the photographer has the technical skills to translate and create two-dimensional representations of three-dimensional space.
    —Erica Stoller, ESTO (Karatzas 2016b)

The Modern Worldview gives rise to a differentiation between the image and what it represents, while introducing the articulation of more individualism and personal expression of the photographer. Distinctions between architectural photographic types emerge with greater clarity: documentary, commercial, fine art, and editorial, etc. These will be defined more precisely later in this paper. In Modern architectural thought, “space” as the substance of three-dimensional composition and the field of human experience is given precedence, as illustrated by Figure 11. Modern architectural photographers strive to both represent the building objectively, thus, “including” Traditional realism, but also now to give viewers the experience of “architecture as space,” and therefore “transcending” and going beyond the Traditional.

7.3  Postmodern / Criticalism & Contextualism

Sometimes it’s possible to catch the kind of complexities that Alan is talking about…the relationships between a new building and existing buildings, between existing space and what you’ve done to transform it.
    — John Ruble (2013), architect

One aspect of your work that Mario [project architect] conveyed as important to depict in the photographs was habitation, people, use—to be sure there was a sense of real people really using the space.
    —Alan Karchmer (2013), photographer

One of the defining characteristics of the Postmodern Worldview is its penchant for a critical view on most everything. One of its positive insights is “contextualism,” the understanding of anything by placing it into a larger context (in any quadrant). Postmodern architectural photography followed simultaneous trends in art and architecture to develop critical perspectives and explain architecture and imagery by “deconstructing” the contexts in which they are situated. Photographers became critics of the design professions and of our built environment on one hand, while on the other, seeking to explain and situate individual works of architecture as designed responses to their urban and social context, as in Figure 11. If a building was no longer merely an object but a set of complex relationships within larger systems, then it could now be understood as a setting for human inhabitation with its events and rituals. It could also be seen as part of a site, street, or urban fabric (again, see Figure 12).

7.4  Integral / Holism

At the end of a day's work, I will have photographed the answers to three simple questions: "Where is it?, "What is it?" and "What is it for?". The objectives are simple, but how to respond to them is complex because so much does not depend on me.
    —Fernando Guerrra

Essential to an integrally-informed photography is the inclusion of multiple perspectives to obtain a more inclusive and holistic representation: the building as object, but also as setting for life, as inhabited by people over time, as situated in place, and as a dynamic interaction with the sun and seasons (Figure 13). 

    From an Integral Worldview, one can see the full spectrum of previous development and find some healthy value to include from each preceding worldview, while transcending its disasters. Architecturally this gives designers great freedom as they seek to integrate as many truths as possible while reconstructing a city more whole than the one left by deconstructive post-modern pluralism. The integralist has at her or his disposal all the theories and techniques of photographic history. 

I like to shoot a work as an invisible photojournalist, as if it were a journalism piece, which of course it is not. I like to show the reality of the project in a way. Such as including anyone who happens to be present in the work by chance —or not. So beyond just showing the scale and form of a project, I am interested in using the people present to give it meaning. To give it life. —Fernando Guerra


8  The Sixteen LENSES

Using these basic worldviews as the framework for levels of complexity, we can now examine how the correlated unfoldment occurs and expresses in each of the four fundamental perspectives on architectural photo-graphy. The combination of four perspectives (quadrants) considered at four levels of complexity generates sixteen unique and valid prospects on architectural photography, as summarized in Figure 14. Metaphorically, we term these, “Lenses.”

Figure 10

Figure 10

Traditional Level: Flatiron Building, New York, D. H. Burnham & Co., architects.Photo Berenice Abbott, 1934

Figure 11

Figure 11

Modern Level: Salk Institute of Biological Research, La Jolla CA,Louis Kahn, architect. Photo © Ezra Stoller/Esto

Figure 12

Figure 12

Postmodern Level: University of Cincinnati Steger Center, Moor Ruble Yudell, architects. Photo ©Alan Karchmer

Figure 13

Figure 13

Integral Level: Ecole Polytechniqu de Lausanne, Switzerland, Daniel Rhodes & Assoc., architects. Photo ©Fernando Guerra, 2017

Figure 15

Figure 15

Documentary type: ‘Dryland Farming #2, Monegros County, Aragon Spain, ‘Water’ series, Photo © Edward Burtynsky, 2010

Figure 14

Figure 14

Sixteen Lenses of Integral Architectural Photography

Figure 16

Figure 16

Documentary type: ‘Car Park, roof waterproofing, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens Greece, Renzo Piano Building Workshop. ‘Orthographs’ series, Photo © Yiorgis Yerolymbos

Figure 17

Figure 17

Editorial type: ‘View Hill House, Victoria, Australia, Denton Corker Marshall, architects. Photo © Tim Griffith, 2012

Figure 20

Figure 20

Expressive type: ‘44th Street Hotdog Stand’, New York, USA, ’Signals Crossed’ series. Photo © Michael Massina, 2014

Figure 19

Figure 19

Expressive type: Borobudur Temple, Java Island, Indonesia.’Ashes and Snow’ book No.3 series. Photo © Gregory Colbert, 2005

Figure 18

Figure 18

Editorial Type: The Building on the Water, China, Alvaro Siza, architect. Photo © Fernando Guerra, 2014


In Wilber’s approach to integral theory, “Types” are relatively stable patterns that can occur at any of the levels of development or complexity. Familiar examples in the UL quadrant are masculine and feminine types and personality types. In photography broadly, we can note types of photography based on subject matter or application, such as landscape photography, portrait photography, fashion photography, etc. Among these is our topic, architectural photography. Within architectural photography, there might also be found many types or sub-types. 

Similar to the concept of integral “Levels,” we adopt here a framing system in which there is no one right number of levels or types. We have identified three common types that can occur at any level. We could use two types, no types, or many more types could be defined. Further, like personality types, architectural photographic types can be blended and photographers can sometimes identify with and practice from one type and sometimes from another. 

    We identify and find utility in three main types of architectural photography:

  •     Documentary Type

  •     Editorial Type

  •     Expressive Type


9.1  The Documentary Type

The Documentary Type uses images relatively objectively to tell a story about or to chronicle a building or its construction (Figures 15, 16). This type tends toward the representational, real, and objective, but, as we will see, can be employed at any level of development or world-view in the left-hand perspectives of Self and Cultures. Relatively “pure” applications include historic surveys and documentation, archaeology, anthropology, building science, building forensics, restoration and renovation studies, and “as-built” documentation, real estate sales, and so on. The Documentary Type’s point-of-view is to have the photographer disappear as much as possible and to have the work “speak for itself.”


9.2  The Editorial Type

The Editorial Type uses photographic images in both descriptive and interpretive ways. The editorial photographer seeks to present the essence of buildings as artifacts, as expressions of design intention, and as a setting for human experiences (Figures 17 and 18). The audience for this type is often, but not necessarily, architectural journals, both in print and online, along with design services marketing. When the Editorial Type manifests as architectural photojournalism, images are often presented as a curated set with accompanying narrative text (often not written by the photographer), captions, and architectural drawings, such as plans, sections, and explanatory diagrams. The Editorial Type’s point-of-view is a synthesis of photographer, architect and publisher, with no set rule for their combination. Most often today the photographer is hired by the architect or the building’s owner. Occasionally, the photographer is hired by the publisher and a more critical perspective, one that does not necessarily attempt to flatter building or architect, can be taken.


9.3  The Expressive Type

The Expressive Type is the least concerned with accuracy of representation. Instead, its practitioners aspire to use photography primarily to convey an individual or collective expression. An Expressive type photographer might use a variety of capture and post-processing techniques to create artistic images, make social commentary, or elicit emotional responses from viewers (Figures 19 and 20). Such expression might be beautiful, banal or shocking. In this sense “Fine Art Photography,” an often-used category is a kind of Expressive Type photography, but the expressions evoked in the Expressive Type include a broader range than what many people would consider “fine art.” Partly for this reason, and partly because the term “art” has so many varied and contested meanings, we have termed this type “expressive” rather than “artistic.” In all cases, the Expressive Type’s point-of-view is primarily that of the photographer’s.

9.4 Typological spectrum

These three typological distinctions are fluid, as in practice we find degrees of each in photographic products. Hence we can think of types more like a spectrum, with objective representation on the one end; subjective expression on the other end; and in-between a mixture of both in various degrees. 

    In his study ‘American Photography: a critical history 1945 to the present’, Jonathan Green hints to these opposing extremes of iconography: 

“photography is torn between being true of the world, which is the basis of documentation, and being true to the medium, which is the basis of art.”   

    In the traditional level of development, we find the emergence and experimentation with these typological practices. In the modern level of development, they become independent and distinct genres used separately and claiming authority and specialisation. In the postmodern level of development, we find a proliferation of sub-types and a cross-over merging. In the integral level of development, the whole spectrum becomes a playful utilisation in service of self, culture and nature.    

    In endnote 1 we have selected images from international photography competitions that visually illustrate this typological spectrum. 

10  Levels + Types: INTEGRAL FRAMINGS

Intersecting the integral framings of both Levels and Types as outlined, Figure 21 shows examples of photographers in some significant groups. We won’t term these groups as schools, styles, or movements, although some might be. Rather, we are more interested in an integrally-framed mapping of a discipline that, on the surface, just looking at the products, can be difficult to penetrate and to make sense of. A few of these groups are outlined with illustrative examples of their work in the following sections. All such groupings are abstractions or generalizations of more complex issues and photographic practices, and we in no way see these propositions as final or definitive. Certainly their is some simplification at work to paint a broad picture, and the list of photographers is decidedly incomplete and meant to be indicative. Important figures will inevitably have been left out. Yet, it is hard to deny either the broad waves of cultural development and worldviews, along with the new insights each brought, or the range of subjects and approaches on the spectrum from documentary to expressive. Our human collective sense-making seems to depend on distinctions made in language.


10.1  The Early Realists [Traditional Level + Documentary Type]

Beginning to mid-20th century
Eugene Atget (1857–1927)
Berenice Abbott (1898–1991)
Walker Evans (1903–1975)

These photographers prioritized rigorous observation, a mastery of technique and composition, and a deep desire to understand something of the world they found around themselves. They systematically recorded for extended periods of time their subjects with unprecedented intensity and attentiveness (Figure 22). Scrupulous documentarians, artists who resisted overt aesthetics in order to prune photography down to its essence: the clear expression of the subject. This group has influenced later generations of photographers, such as David Goldblatt, who photographed from 1964 to 1993 the South African social environment.

10.2  The Design Photojournalists [Modern Level + Editorial Type]

1930s  to Present
Julius Shulman (1910-2009)
Ezra Stoller (1915-2004)
Lucien Herve (1910-2007)

As the architectural industry developed with the globalization of modernism, the photography of just-finished buildings flourished with photographers such as Julius Shulman (Fig. 23) and Ezra Stoller evolving from commercial practices to accepted authors in the field of photography. Similar to cinematography, they became the expression of a “politique des auteurs,” developing a recognizable style and thematic preoccupation (Fig. 24).

By working closely with architects, this group disseminates knowledge about architecture, design, construction, urban design and sustainable development, and shows how the field creates cultural and economic assets for people, the industry and society. 


10.3  The Topographists / Tragic Ironists [Postmodern Level + Documentary Type]

1960s to Present. 
Robert Adams (1937—)
Stephen Shore (1947—)
Lewis Baltz (1945-2014)
Bernd & Hilla Becher (1931-2007, 1931-2015)

These photographers emphasized the plain presentation of facts in a way that appeared topographic and informative, rather than artistic (Fig. 25). William Jenkins, curator of the exhibition “The New Topographics,” writes: 

The pictures were stripped of any artistic frills and reduced to an essentially topographic state, conveying substantial amounts of visual information but eschewing entirely the aspects of beauty, emotion and opinion.

In most cases, however, they gradually revealed themselves as coming from rather critical vantage points. The stylistic anonymity was a statement on the absence of style. The banal, the everyday, the industrial, the urban sprawl, and degraded capitalist architecture, were the subjects for these photographers (Fig. 26). These “Tragic Ironists” favored value-free subjects, that were simply being there proliferating in the world, one no better or worse than the other, no more or less distinguishable, a representation of a representation,  which had the effect of undermining the commodity status of the post-war art object.

The influence of this Postmodern photographic group is still found today in the works of Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Edward Burtynsky, Yiorgis Yerolymbos, Michael Wolf, Bas Princen, among others. 

10.4  The Neo-Pictorials [Integral Level + Expressive Type]

1980s to Present
Gregory Colbert, Michael Kenna,
David Burdeny, Michael Messaia,
Irene Kung, John Kosmopoulos

A more recent group of photographers whose subject matter is focused around the built environment re-introduced a fine art approach. In an interview (Karatzas, 2014) with John Kosmopoulos (Fig. 27) he defined his  ‘oramagraphy’ approach: 

Fine art photography is a style or genre of photography that offers a harmonious composition of elements within a frame of reference whose content provides aesthetic, sensory, and sometimes surreal qualities that fulfill the authentic, creative, and personal vision of the photographer as artist while heightening the emotional and psychological response of the observer. It is an established but evolving discipline in photography whose essential condition is the 'felt aesthetic' (the feeling of being immersed in and inspired by something intellectually and imaginatively beautiful). This type of photography is often exemplified by but not limited to black and white compositions, various exposure lengths, and eclectic subjects (e.g., abstract, architecture, landscapes, nude portraits, etc.). It may also be interpreted by refined theories and concepts across disciplines (e.g., philosophy, psychology, literature, music, film, culture, semiotics, mathematics, science) and past and current trends in art, photography and technology in part or in whole. It is often defined in contrast to journalistic, documentary, and commercial photography. It also adheres to quality standards in post-processing and printing as part of the creation of art. — ©  John Kosmopoulos

From this definition we notice an emphasis on the interiority of the photographer, on aesthetics and beauty and on the response of the viewer. Similar to the early Pictorials, expressing the interior states of the photographer, is one of the main ingredients of the artwork. Fine art is not seen as superior to or separate from photography but as equally legitimate domains sharing common values, functions and ideals. The darkroom (analog or digital) is celebrated as an integral part of the creative process. The psychology, intelligence and imagination of the audience is intended to resonate with the state of the photographer that created it. The content of this group echoes the eclectic approach of the (non-architectural) group of Modern purists, such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, in the sense of their elevating the subject matter to iconic status, or vice versa, using iconic symbols as their main subjects (Fig. 28).


10.5  Pluralists [Postmodern Level + Editorial Type] 

1990s to Present
Iwan Baan, Alan Karchmer, Thomas Mayer, Peter Aaron, Brad Feinknopf

I was never a pure architectural photographer. I am a “reportage architectural photographer” and approached buildings and sites in a journalistic way in showing the design and the life in it. —Thomas Mayer

Throughout the past decades, as web-based media proliferated, it increased the demand for architectural images, creating the need for photographers that rise above normative Modernist conventions and retain a distinct gaze. As Joseph Rosa, curator at the US National Building Museum, notes:

Photography has become the lens through which we observe and analyze the evolution of architecture. 

While still employed by architects, Postmodern editorial photographers have expanded to include much greater attention to placing buildings in their physical and site contexts (Fig. 29) and to animating their images with daily life of occupants (Fig. 30). Projects more often now are understood as the settings for life in a particular culture. This corresponds to shifts in Postmodern thought from object thinking to contextual thinking and from structural conceptions to process conceptions.


11  Editing & Exhibits

…there’s a whole niche of architecture photography that's more about how a building feels than how it looks.
    —Lyra Kilston, Wired Magazine

We are at an interesting point in the history of architectural photography where curators and editors seem to be trying to make sense of the plurality of images flooding the industry. We are also observing the co-creation of the perception and analysis of architecture from the various perspectives and fields involved in its dissemination: magazine editors and social media platforms, along with architects and photographers. 

    The curation by Bilyana Dimitrova in the 2013 exhibition ‘“Beyond the Assignment: defining photographs of architecture and design,” is a prime example (Figures 31 and 32). Organized by the Julius Shulman Institute and Woodbury University School of Architecture in Los Angeles, the work of ten renowned American architectural photographers and the contemporary buildings they capture were presented. 

    In one sense, it is a Modernist collection of figures who mention either a direct lineage from 20th century editorial masters, such as Julius Shulman, Ezra Stoller and Hedrich Blessing, or indirectly being influenced by that Modernist era. Generally, their emphasis is on the spatial perspective, but also on how the conventions of editorial photography are expanding to include context, human occupancy, an emphasis on evoking emotion in the viewer, and attention to the interpretive perspective of the photographer on portraying the building—all facets of an emerging Postmodern gaze.

    In 2014 the exhibition “Constructing Worlds: photography and architecture in the Modern Age,” was organized by the Barbican Art Gallery in London (Figures 33 and 34). The catalog was published as, Shooting Space: architecture in contemporary photography (Redstone, 2014). The exhibit explored the relationship between architecture and photography in the representation and investigation of various aspects of the built environment: from the transformation of a metropolis after the Great Depression to the adverse consequences of modernity in the vernacular countryside; from arcane industrial archetypes to urban piecemeal growth in the Middle East and Asia; from a deeper understanding of architects’ intentions to artistically capturing icons of the 20th century; from contemplative images of space to imagined environments. 

    With this collection we are introduced to distinguished artistic expressions of architectural photography, with New Topographics influenced photographers (documentary type) heavily represented, along with some expressive types—all within the Postmodern perspective. The images are diversified into plural expressions and subjects and bring a critical contextual gaze. Some deconstruct Modern icons, while others shift from the glossy editorial life-style of presenting just-finished buildings to explore their aftermath. In the section 12.5, we look at a more consciously Integral approach to editing and curation of contemporary architectural photography. 

Figure 21

Figure 21

Photographic groupings based on type and worldview

Figure 22

Figure 22

Early Realist: Boulevard de la Chapelle et Rue Fleury 76, 18EPhoto Eugène Atget, 1921

Figure 23

Figure 23

Design Photojournalists: Chuey House, Richard Neutra, architect. Photo Julius Schulman, 1956

Figure 24

Figure 24

Design Photojournalists: Theme Vals, Peter Zumthor, architect. Photo ©Helene Benet, 1996

Figure 25

Figure 25

Topographists: Industrial Facades. Photo © Bernd & Hilla Becher, 2012

Figure 26

Figure 26

Tragic Ironists: La Brea Avenue and Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles. Photo ©Stephen Shore, 1975

Figure 27

Figure 27

Expressive type: ‘New Olympus’, New York, USA. ’Muted Colour Metallics’ series, Photo © John Kosmopoulos, 2016

Figure 28

Figure 28

Neo-Pictorialists: Window and Vines, Abbaye de Fontenay, Bourgogne France. Photo © Michael Kenna, 2013

Figure 29

Figure 29

Contextual Humanists: Bruder Klaus Field Chapel, Peter Zumthor, architect. Photo © Samuel Ludwig

Figure 30

Figure 30

Contextual Humanists: Konokono Vaccination Center, Turkana, Kenya,Selgas Cano, architect. Photo © Iwan Baan

Figure 33

Figure 33

Constructing Worlds: Grande Hotel, Beira, Mozambique. Photo © Guy Tillim, 2008

Figure 31

Figure 31

Beyond the Assignment: Alberta and Shepard Bryant in Hay Bale House, Masons Bend, Alabama, Rural Studio, architects. Photo © Timothy Hursley, 2000

Figure 32

Figure 32

Beyond the Assignment: Fisher Center, Bard College, Gehry Partners, architects. Photo © Bilyana Dimitrova, 2003

Figure 34

Figure 34

Constructing Worlds: 'Mokattam Ridge', (Garbage Recycling City), Cairo, Egypt. Photo © Bas Princen, 2009


At its core an Integral approach is open-ended and covers a variety of perspectives:

….general captures of a building that highlight it from its most compelling angles, archistracts that emphasize interesting and unique details, sequences of images that narrate the experience of discovering the building and its spaces, context shots with the surrounding, people interacting in and around the buildings, panoramic views and vistas, and fine art impressions that take us beyond the literal and trigger our interior faculties, emotions, and aspirations
    —Pygmalion Karatzas


12.1  Preparations

With two photographic tours of European cities in 2013 and 2014, a trip to Qatar in 2013 and reportage of the EXPO Milano Pavilions in 2015, Greek architect and photographer Pygmalion Karatzas began exploring an Integral approach to architectural photography. 

    His approach to the photographic medium and architecture as the subject matter is holistic. Karatzas explores both editorial and expressive types in architectural photography, practicing a comprehensive spectrum of the relationships between photography and the built environment.

    The Integral Lens project resulted in a series of portfolios, including:

  • Morphogenesis vol.1, example in Figure 35 (Karatzas, 2013)

  • Morphogenesis vol.2, example in Figure 36 (Karatzas 2014a), which includes ‘Doha Icons,’example in Figure 37 

  • Morphogenesis vol.3 (Karatzas, 2015a)

  • EXPO 2015 Milano (Karatzas, 2016a), example in Figure 38,

as well as his interviews of photographers for the Danish Architecture Center in the online series, “The Camera” on Arcspace (Karatzas, 2013-–2018). Also see section 12.5.

    Exploring a range of types and perspectives, Karatzas explains:

Editorial photography is about serving the subject, understanding the intention and vision of the designers, and presenting it in captivating ways. Artistic photography is about looking beyond that, exploring and expressing other aspects (aesthetic, personal, social, spiritual), some being more tangible and others intangible….I would like to investigate the wider spectrum of the relationships between photography and the built environment. — Pygmalion Karatzas (Monovisions, 2015)

12.2  The Integral Lens Project

In 2014 Karatzas was awarded a Fulbright Artist Scholarship to conduct a five-month project in the United States. The project, “Integral Lens, an integral approach to the study and representation of the built environment through the photographic medium,” was framed using the four integral quadrants (Figure 40). In the case of architectural photography, a practical interpretation meant: 

    • Buildings, cityscapes, landscapes, suburban areas, the man-altered landscape, ‘terrain vague’ (UR quadrant)

    • Styles and worldviews, relationships, communication and presentation, interviews, research (LL quadrant) 

    • Modes of production and distribution, technological advancements, institutions and organizations, resource management, networks (LR quadrant) 

  • Architects, photographers, artists owners, builders (UL quadrant). 

    From October 2015 to March 2016, the itinerary took Karatzas to Knoxville, New York, Boston and Cambridge, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Monterey Bay, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Miami, New Orleans, and ending back in Knoxville, Tennessee, staying in each location from two to four weeks (Figure 39). This paper’s co-author, Mark DeKay, was the supervising professor and the University of Tennessee, College of Architecture and Design, the US institutional sponsor.

12.3  Working Methods

After initial research of each location, Karatzas selected and mapped out examples of modern and contemporary architecture. Each day he visited as many buildings and their surrounding areas as possible for the purpose of editorial style photographic shoots. He also explored these subjects with long exposure photography and time-lapse videography. In this manner Karatzas utilized both the fast-paced editorial approach and slow expressive experimentation and exploration. 

    This integrally-informed approach used different points of view to suggest a pluralistic worldview, while at the same time giving an emphasis to minimalist and uncluttered compositions that served as a unifying underscore. From the UL perspective of Self (‘The Eye’), the photo-shoots required a heightened coordination of multiple faculties: managing of time and resources, continuous adaptation to new conditions, logistical issues of accessibility and permissions, 15–20,000 steps of walking with heavy gear per day, to name a few. The photo walks and selection of locations were based on thematic groups already established, but also on exploring and experimenting with new ones that were discovered during the visits. 

        For the editorial subjects (Figures 41, 44), hundreds of images per building were taken. The initial selection narrowed them down to 30–40 and from those about 15–20 images were selected for post-processing. A natural high dynamic range editing reveals both highlights and shadows of the RAW format file, which was then further processed in selective areas within the frame to add presence, depth and complementary lighting. The final images are then sequenced to narrate the project from context to frontal portraits to details, from exterior to interior, from daytime to dusk, with people and movement or unobstructed. 

    For the artistic subjects, the process was not as straightforward. In locations that are visited and photographed daily by thousands of people, the challenge of creating something unique and memorable lies not only in giving enough time, being patient, and thoroughly exploring the space, but also in the post-processing choices made in the “digital darkroom” (Figures 43, 48, 49). The discussions, meetings and photo walks that Karatzas conducted during the visits contributed to the on-going creative process.

12.4  Outcomes and Metrics

The scale and scope of the Integral Lens project was such that the final images are meant to be viewed and used [integrally!] in different ways. Some sets portray single buildings; some images can stand as individual aesthetic experiences.  Other images can be grouped based on their subject matter or motif, while some explore urban conditions for their diversity or commonality. For the 3-volume The Integral Lens publication produced after the journey, Karatzas grouped images in seven series, progressing in scale from the micro, such as details of buildings, to the macro, such as cityscapes (Figures 46, 48, 49). They alternate between representational (editorial) and expressionistic types, with some works intentionally blurring these distinctions.

    During this 5-month trip, Karatzas travelled approximately 9,600 miles by plane, 4,200 miles by car, 1,300 miles by public commuting, and 750,000 steps walking. In total he took about 12,000 still images from 150 buildings and locations, 65,000 images in time-lapse video, conducted 20 meetings and interviews, and worked 900 hours in post-processing and editing. He gave a lecture on editorial and artistic architectural photography, and two workshops on the aspects of architectural photography at the College of Architecture and Design, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and submitted two video presentations at the ESO architecture conference in Athens in 2016 and 2018. Selected images and series from the Integral Lens project have received 30 distinctions in international photography competitions, been featured in 57 architectural and fine art articles, 9 book and magazine collections, and have been included in 3 exhibitions (Trieste, Italy; Paris, France; and Monterey, USA). Limited edition prints were donated to two foundations for scholarship fundraising.

12.5  Integral editing: “The Camera” 

Since 2014 Karatzas has been collaborating with as photo editor for their architectural photography column (Fig. 50). The architectural web site,, features today’s most creative projects and the most influential of the past. It was founded in 1999 by architect and independent curator Kirsten Kiser. Since 2012 it has been run and operated by the Danish Architecture Centre (DAC). DAC’s goal is to disseminate knowledge about architecture and urban development, to create a broad interest for new ideas traversing traditional boundaries, and to show how architecture creates cultural and economic assets for people, the industry and society. 

    “The Camera” section is an online exhibition dedicated to architectural photography. As photo editor—and in collaboration with chief editors Morten Scholz, Jakob Hybel and Robert Martin—Kartazas has been selecting and presenting photographers’ works, conducting exclusive interviews, and writing stories and news related to the fields of communication and visual discourse. 

    “The Camera” series has so far published 30 interviews with photographers such as Michael Massaia, John Kosmopoulos, Thomas Mayer, Irene Kung, Yiorgis Yerolymbos and Erica Stoller/ESTO Photographics. With the selection of photographers and the discussions Karatzas explores numerous aspects of architectural photography using an underlying integral structure, including: the background biography and influences of the photographers, their overall vision and approach, the relationship between architects and photographers, specific key projects in assignments and personal work, film and digital technology, print and online means of production and distribution, business aspects of the industry, editing, commercial and artistic expressions, gear and technological advancements, awareness and transformative experiences, the interaction between people and their built environment, movements, styles and sub-genres, future plans and broader collaborations between photography and architecture, workshops, teaching and apprenticeship. 


12.6  Summary

Karatzas’s overall vision for the Integral Lens project aimed to combine a respectful representation of exterior realities with a meaningful expression of our interiority. In choosing iconic buildings as well as conventional structures and cityscapes encountered daily, he shares his enthusiasm for design and aesthetics, contemplates humans’ symbiotic relationship with the material world and ultimately intends to trigger and attune people to an inspirational and uplifting experience of the built environment.

Figure 35

Figure 35

MAXXI Museum, 2013, Rome Italy, Zaha Hadid Architects. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. Composite of still with long exposure sky in black & white, expressive type

Figure 36

Figure 36

Museum Casa Enzo Ferrari, 2014, Modena Italy, Jan Kaplicky & Shiro Studio Architects. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. Long exposure with tilt-shift post-processing in black & white, expressive type

Figure 37

Figure 37

Museum of Islamic Art, 2013, Doha Qatar, I.M. Pei Architects. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. Long exposure with graphic saturated colours, post-processing, expressive type

Figure 38

Figure 38

Italy Pavilion EXPO Milano, 2015, Milan Italy, Studio Nemesi Architects. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. Exterior facade view at dusk, editorial type

Figure 39

Figure 39

US cities visited on Integral Lens tour

Figure 40

Figure 40

Framing of the ‘Integral Lens’ project as submitted to Fulbright

Figure 41

Figure 41

EMP Museum, 2016, Seattle USA, Frank Gehry Architects.Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘Nortigo’ series of architectural abstractions, facade exterior detail, editorial/expressive type

Figure 42

Figure 42

WWII Museum, 2016, New Orleans USA, Voorsanger Mathes Architects © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘Serial Vision’ series, street photo with architectural landmarks, documentary type

Figure 43

Figure 43

WMS Boathouse, 2015, Chicago USA, Studio Gang Architects. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘Boomeritis’ series of architectural portraits, long exposure desaturated exterior view, expressive/editorial type

Figure 44

Figure 44

PATH Station West Concourse underpass, 2015, New York USA, Santiago Calatrava Architects. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘Future Memories’ series of contemporary American architecture,documentary/editorial type.

Figure 45

Figure 45

National September 11 Memorial, 2015, New York USA, Handel Architects. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘Future Memories’ series of contemporary American architecture, documentary/editorial type

Figure 46

Figure 46

Chicago riverwalk skyline, 2015, Chicago USA. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘Empire State of Mind’ series of American cityscapes and landscapes, documentary type

Figure 47

Figure 47

Pacific Grove, 2016, Monterey USA. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘Empire State of Mind’ series of American cityscapes and landscapes, documentary type.

Figure 48

Figure 48

Lower Manhattan, 2015, New York USA. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘AQAL Views’ series of urban waterscapes long exposure black & white, expressive type

Figure 49

Figure 49

Lo Presti Park, 2015, Boston USA. Photo © Pygmalion Karatzas. ‘AQAL Views’ series of urban waterscapes long exposure black & white, expressive type

Figure 50

Figure 50

Photographers interviewed for ‘The Camera’ on Includes professionals practicing each of the three main types, along with some moving freely between them


The current cultural situation is calling for individuals to transcend the fractured vision of postmodernism and awaken to some transpersonal and collective spiritual basis for truth and conscience. Can we use the wisdom gained from each stage of consciousness and artistic epoch and transfigure our minds and our art into a new integral vision, honouring the truth of both objective and subjective worlds, and save the planet while we’re at it?”
     - Alex Grey, The Mission of Art, 2001


13.1  Integral Themes

Considering the overall body of the Integral Lens work and the outline of an integral framework as it has been discussed in this paper, certain themes can be observed that touch upon the multi-perspectival approach to architectural photography, which suggest outlines of the emerging integral gaze.

While groupings of photographers using similar approaches can be identified for the Traditional, Modern, and Postmodern worldviews, and, similarly, we can see all three of the basic architectural photographic types—Documentary, Editorial, and Expressive—manifesting at each level, the Integral Level is in its early formation. It is currently a shallow structure, and we can’t claim at this moment, while new track is being laid, while the grooves of Integral Photography are still shallow, to know what form its full development will take. We also can’t yet find its widespread practice or call out large groups of practitioners with common approaches. What we can do is to identify what we think are some of the salient characteristics of how Integral Level awareness is being and, we believe, will be applied to architectural photography.  

Earlier we said that a defining characteristic of the Integral Level in individuals is the ability and commitment to finding what is valuable and true in each preceding wave of consciousness, and in our case, what was workable for architectural photography from the Traditional, Modern, and Post-modern approaches. From the Integral level, the photographer has options. All tools, equipment, techniques and processes are available, as are the history of insights, ideas, and perspectives, depending on the situational needs. Then, like each new stage of development, Integral brings new insights and emergent syntheses. Here are a few themes that we can identify for the Integral Architectural Photographer:


13.2  All-Quadrant Transmissions

As the previous quote from Karatzas illustrates, the medium requires a host of different views to convey the wholeness of a building, including its context, its parts and its experience. Perspectives are literally embedded in the practice of photography. Perhaps because of this, it is a natural place to envision the essence of the Integral worldview. 

    The Integral Photographer works to  communicate architecture as an all-quadrant, multi-perspective occurrence. This includes building as object, spatial relations and artistic expression, building as a stage for human experience, interaction with both animate and inanimate elements in it, building as responsive to physical/historic context and as part of ecological and settlement systems, and building as a transmission of cultural and symbolic meaning, status and broader social role. One way to explore the multi-perspectival condition of the subject is by using the four value spheres/perspectives on photography of Figure 6 as our subject matter, as our photographic injunctions—to look for, experience and photograph from each of the four perspectives—in order to produce a comprehensive communication and expression of a building.

    All four images in Figures 52–55 assume an aerial perspective, a point of view that has been added to the vocabulary of the photographer with the proliferation of Google Earth and drone technology. Fernando Guerra’s ‘Casa Cabo de villa’ (Fig. 52) takes its inspiration from  satellite-like “peeking” to give us a close-up bird’s-eye view of the animate and inanimate interactions that are carefully positioned to reflect key design features of the project. While Guerra captured the building fully, including multiple exterior and interior shots during various day and dusk light conditions and occupancy activities at different times (as the assignment by the architects and editorial publications require), this image illustrates a dialogue between UR and UL while the dominant presence remains in the individual-exterior perspective (UR). 

    Tim Griffith’s ‘Tianjin Riverside 66’ (Fig. 53) takes its inspiration from the seminal 20th century “set piece” architectural images of a building that usually took additional time, logistics and resources to produce and were intended to become the iconic representations of the project. By appropriating his own work, Griffith’s post-processing of the image fuses the boundaries between the objective and subjective views while the dominant presence remains in the individual-interior perspective (UL).

    Iwan Baan’s ‘New York after the storm’ image (Fig. 54) is part of his book & exhibition, 52 Weeks, 52 Cities, developed for the Marta Herford Museum as an engaged commentary on human living and survival strategies—the relationship between humans, social use and the built environment on a global scale. For most shoots Baan rents a helicopter to capture his subjects from above, giving an overview, to get some distance from ‘architecture-in-isolation,’ and reveal the larger contextual systems at play. While the boundaries between documentation and interpretation are blurred, the dominant presence remains in the collective-exterior perspective (LR). 

    Irene Kung’s ‘IAC Building’ image (Fig. 55) is part of her book & exhibition, The Invisible City, a direct reference and inspiration from Italo Calvino’s novel, Invisible Cities. With a selection of historic and contemporary architectural landmarks from around the world, she treats them as otherworldly ‘scapes’ reminiscent of imagery from the unconscious, the realm of dreams and visual archetypes. The Inter Active Corp headquarters, by Frank Gehry, is taken out of its original urban context in New York and floats weightless on the open sea with the curved walls as sails. The image is an art work based on the author’s vision and interior faculties yet heavily charged with cultural inter-subjective themes (LL).

    The Integral Photographer can also work in ways that include at the same time multiple views on what counts for value in creative works: 

  1. An emphasis and careful consideration of formal elements and the structural integrity of the artwork itself (the “formalist perspective” in integral art -(Rentschler, 2006)

  2.   Expressing his inner state and vision beyond the specific requirements of the assignment/project (the “expressivist perspective”)

  3.   be set within the larger social forces and means of production (the “symptomatic  perspective”) 

  4.   be open to multiple interpretations by the viewer and the wider historical community (the “reception & response” perspective).

    Considering Figures 6 and 39 (the four perspectives of architectural photography and of a project) can give us another way to explore the multi-perspectival condition of the medium, as a set of photographic injunctions that can serve as an inclusive, non-reductionist framework.


13.3  Catalyzing Human Development

Philosopher and linguist Jean Gebser (1949) identified one characteristic of integral art (his term) as “concretizing interiority.” Photographs, as the artifacts produced by the photographic level of consciousness that made them, carry the expression of a state. According to Integral Theory, this embedding of consciousness can also evoke a similar state of consciousness in the viewer. Integral photographers look at the world from a level that includes more depth, and offer us that vision so that more of us can inhabit an Integral view.    Even though the interior photographic process varies from individual to individual, we can discern three generalized steps :

  1. The photographer experiences a creative intuition

  2. The photographer then tries to convey that intuition in the final photographic image

  3. The viewer observes and contemplates on that finished work.

    Even at this simplified version of an otherwise complex and sometimes mysterious creative process, we can still notice the subtle, albeit difficult to pinpoint, relationship between the photographer and the photographic product. From the Integral view we take the perspective that at the heart of this process, either consciously or unconsciously, we can find the transformation and evolution of consciousness itself. One of the deeper functions of the creative impulse is for one to consciously experience how one feels through the process of transforming internal intuition to tangible product.

    In Pygmalion Karatzas’s article ‘Zen and Photography’ (2015), Zen principles are considered in relation to photographic practice, as presented by roshi and photographer John Daido Loori. The Japanese Zen aesthetic has a rich history of embedding within their creative fields notions of transience, stark beauty, natural patina, profound grace and subtlety as an integral part of daily life. A network of cultural practices, all having at the heart of their creative process the meditative state   for creator and user.

    Mark Citret’s work (Fig. 56) includes landscapes, waterscapes, cityscapes, construction sites, interiors, and street photography. His images do not explicitly set out to accentuate this threefold creative process but it is nonetheless implicit throughout his portfolio. The ‘decisive moment’ of aligning one’s head, eye and heart is gently yet firmly present in the photographer’s consciousness, inevitably resonating with the audience. 

    The creative duo of Jesús Marina Barba and Elena Morón Serna (Fig. 57) have collaborated on photographic projects since 2003; their work explores the tangible and intangible connections between the image and architectonic space and emphasizes the experiential qualities of colour and the Japanese concept of ‘Ma’. From their interview (Karatzas, 2014b):

We are interested in the eastern idea that the body itself activates space and not the space alone. We like to play with the same principle of the active presence that materialises itself in the interior space of the ‘Ma’ in the Japanese culture.

Approaching iconography as a representation of our perception, both in the way we create and view it, becomes an opportunity to understand and expand our spatial consciousness. 

    In the article, “The Art of Oramaku,” John Kosmopoulos (2018) further explores Henri Cartier-Bresson’s head-eye-heart axis alignment as they relate to his own photographic vision (Fig. 58) integrating Japanese aesthetics, ‘neuroaesthetics’, and ‘felt aesthetics’: 

    The raw immediacy and lived experience of thresholds and liminality, of places and subjects that bridge the concrete with the ephemeral, of ordinary spaces with sublime qualities, are abundant in David Burdeny’s photographic journeys around the world (Fig. 59). He states: 

I seek to capture the mood and promise, silence and solitude in that extended moment of awareness.

Simplicity and ordinariness open up a creative space both in the artwork itself and in the viewing experience that reflects the pure dynamic between form and space, light and darkness, silence and meaning, ultimately cutting through to states such as the non-dual ‘suchness’ of Zen’s ‘empty witness.’ About Burdeny the Gilman Contemporary Gallery curators write: 

His early black and white long exposure work created a minimalist monumentality out of spare landscapes that felt privately spiritual and seemed to exist outside time.

    Nathan Wirth (Fig. 60) has been studying and integrating into his work the Japanese tradition of Zen, rock gardens, and calligraphy, as well as the transience, impermanence, and imperfections of wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The state of “no-mind”, a mind not preoccupied with emotions and thoughts, one that can, as freely as possible, simply create, is the interiority of the artist at work and a state the viewer can enter by letting the image become his or her contemplation. Looking with undivided attention, concentrating with an act of loving-sight, excluding all other objects from the conscious field, without intellectualising the experience, brings a state of unobstructed communion with the subject. Focusing on minimalist compositions and subjects, using techniques such as long exposure, infrared and black & white post-processing, Wirth’s work consistently attempts to align the consciousness of artist and viewer.  


13.4  Photography as an Integral Transformative Practice

As a photographer and artist I am fascinated by a variety of photographic genres and I try to practice them in parallel, like a cross-training. Each type has a different approach and wearing different hats enriches the individual and his creations.
    —Pygmalion Karatzas (In Focus, 2014)

A developmental practice is something we do repeatedly that creates developmental change. Taking multiple, sometimes unfamiliar perspectives is part of transforming ourselves. Such “cross-training” might include photographing in different genres or inhabiting different photographic types or worldviews. Each reveals something different about the reality of architecture and cityscapes. Photography, like an art form, can also be a meditative practice of moment-to-moment awareness, and even a form of “nature mysticism,” that is, the experience of being one with the manifest world.

    As Wilber (2007) points out, some of the important developmental lines include:

  • Cognitive (awareness of what is)

  • Moral (awareness of what should be)

  • Emotional (the spectrum of emotions)

  • Interpersonal (socially relating to others)

  • Values (what is most important)

  •   Aesthetic (self-expression, beauty, art and felt meaning) 

  •   Spiritual (unfolding from Ground to highest stages). 

For an Integral cross-training practice, one can combine practices across physical, mental, psychological and spiritual lines. Adapting this concept for the creative fields, following musician Matthew Dallman (2006, 2003), we can propose an open-ended list of modules for an Integral Photographic Practice: 

  1. Contemplative (spiritual/transpersonal): How aware can I be of my entire photographic practice and process? How do I think, feel and see when I take and make images? 

  2.   Vital (energetic): How well do I know what I use as a photographer? How easily can I enter into a raw photographic flow state? How intimate a relationship can I have with the ingredients of my medium? How much can I connect my awareness with my technique? 

  3. Technical (physical): How skilful can I be with the techniques and craft of photography? 

  4. Critical (mental): How accessible can I be to the larger forces and social systems of the photographic world? How immersed can I be in the history and theory of photography? 

  5. Public (social): How can I create rapport and foster affinity between my creations and the viewer? How much can I connect my theory and business skills with the wider photographic world? Do my presentations entertain, educate and enlighten?  

  6. Ethical (interpersonal): How much can I give back to my community and support the creative impulse in others? 

  7. Psychological (shadow): How well can I surpass my creative barriers?  

    Even though Gregory Colbert’s project ‘Ashes and Snow’ (Figures 19, 61) focuses primarily on the relationship between animals and humans in their natural habitats, it is nonetheless an exemplary case of Integral artistic practice where the photographic medium catalyzes transformative experiences. The ablative intention of his images is meant to hold the emphasis on the direct experiential interaction with his subjects. The relationships express primal connections instead of ‘retro-romantic’ notions, and even though symmetry, balance and harmony permeate throughout, his images are a spontaneous production. Over nine years and 27 journeys in many countries Colbert went through the physical training needed for such interactions and spent countless hours in preparations and waiting for the right moment. The images have no photo manipulation. 

    With the TED award he proposed a non-profit foundation royalties would be paid when humans use animals and nature in for-profit advertisements, with funds distributed to preservation cases and animal aid. With the sponsorship of Rolex, he materialised the ‘Nomadic Museum’ (Fig. 61, top) that travels the world. In collaboration with Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, he constructed the exterior walls of existing shipping cargo containers and recycled paper tube columns, which were easily assembled and disassembled for his shows. 

    The accompanying 60-minute feature film combined still and movie cameras as a poetic narrative. The exhibition has attracted more than 10 million visitors, making it the most attended exhibition by a living artist in history. The results point to a holistic artistic endeavour in which photography mediates interior and exterior transformations individually and collectively.


13.5  The Built Environment as a Dynamic Phenomenon

Gebser also identifies a second characteristic of integral consciousness as that of “concretizing time,” where to concretize is to know something as concrete, rather than abstract and therefore be able to integrate it fully—in this case to integrate space with time. Whereas Modern consciousness is more concerned with portraying space, and Postmodernism with context and the meaning behind form, for the Integral, time is fully present and is as important as space. Modern thought marks time as linear and experienced by movement within universal space and as evidenced by change. Postmodern ecological thought requires process thinking, where time is understood cyclically as the order of change and exchange, along with contextual thinking, where space is understood within larger space. Integral awareness includes all of these, and the sense of time as evolutionary, that is as the order of process and the direction of increasing complexity, while space can also be seen as holarchic, as contexts within contexts. 

    While the techniques of representing architecture and the city as dynamic phenomena are not limited to Integral photographers, Integral level photographic perspectives often employ longer shutter speeds to capture human motion, long-exposures to express sky and water changes (Fig. 62), time-lapse photography (Figures 63, 64 movies), multiple exposures (Fig. 65), entry or other traverse sequences through buildings and sites, and viewpoint sequences combined with time-lapse and hyper-lapse.

    Michael Wesely’s ‘Open Shutter’ series (Fig. 62) pushes the limits of long exposure photography and multiple exposures to durations of months and years. With bespoke camera equipment, a combination of filters and weatherproofing to protect against the elements during its long presence in a scene, he documented major construction sites in Berlin and New York, revealing architecture’s fragility and the layers of the city that are often hidden. Explaining his work he states:

My long-exposure images question our understanding not only of photography but also of memory, image, time and imagination, and challenge the conventions of representation. 

    Koyaanisqatsi (1982) by director Godfrey Reggio and cinematographer Ron Fricke introduced the time-lapse technique, where still images are taken from a fixed position every few seconds for a duration of several hours and then played back in 30 frames per second speed. Slow and dynamic natural and human changes that cannot be observed by the naked eye and conventional means were edited together over a music score, ushering a new non-narrative cinematic experience. While such productions in the past required expensive and multi-crew setups, they have become easer to create with digital single-lens-reflex cameras (DSLRs), and both architectural photographers and artists use this engaging technique to portray the dynamic aspects of architecture (Figures 63, 64).

    Fabrice Silly’s ‘Timeless 4’ image (Fig. 65) is part of a series of images from his photographic journeys to France, Italy and the USA, among others, where he experimented with the in-camera double exposure feature superimposing several shots and post-processing the final result with the ‘intentional camera movement’ technique. Inspired by impressionist and expressionist painters, the resulting works merge these two fine art fields with the ephemeral nature of man in a changing world being the central theme. 


13.6  Type Fluidity

Both editorial/commercial and artistic/expressive architectural photography have by now developed multiple well-established visual styles, languages and sub-genres; both individually as each photographer/artist advances his/her own stylistic nuances, and collectively, as schools, movements and group formations articulate their own designations. The matter of style is a double-edged sword in all creative fields, as creatives find themselves between on one hand, the need to produce work that comes from a deeply personal and self-expressive process that addresses issues of uniqueness and originality and on the other hand, the need for the work to be recognised and accepted within specific cultural institutions. Such venues establish dominant norms and narratives by employing hermeneutic dialogue, proposing paradigm shifts, and engaging issues of viewer reception and response, among others. 

    We have discussed three integral editing projects above: ’Beyond the Assignment’ and ‘Shooting Space’, in Section 11, and ‘The Camera’, Section 12.5. All three of these collective publications cover many of the world’s leading photographers in documentary, editorial and expressive architectural photography. From them we observe the following patterns:

    • Photographers who are pushing the boundaries of the genre and layering their content with strong typological cross-pollination and a distinct gaze setting them apart while working within the confines of the commercial project (Fig. 66)

    • Photographers who practice both professional and personal projects, commissioned and self-initiated works, as two parallel separate or crossed-over paths, allowing the typological drives to develop independently (Fig. 67)

    • Photographers who focus exclusively on their personal vision and motivation, taking a detached approach from the architectural industry, with romantic/idealistic, critical, experimental or complementary undertones (Fig. 68).

    More than at any previous levels, the Integral photographer moves fluidly among Types. All three images in Figures 66, 67 and 68 use the straight-on perspective from a carefully chosen elevated position to minimise the sense of depth (as in flat architectural elevation drawings), and the building is cropped and isolated from its surrounding. 

    Yiorgis Yerolymbos’ image, ‘Tower 25 in Cyprus’ (Fig. 66) brings the viewer close to a portion of the facade design of wall pattern, multi-storey atrium garden and elevators exposed to the views). 

    Shannon McGrath’s image of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Figure 67) is using the sculptural and chromatic features of this iconic building as her motifs and brushes in an expressionist painting. 

    Michael Wolf’s image, ‘Architecture of Desnsity #39,’ from the high-rise residential towers of Hong Kong (Fig. 68), confronts urbanisation issues of human scale and density. Even though the viewing experience is quite different, they can also stand alone as engaging iconographic works of their own.


13.7  Multi-level Communications and Dissemination Pluralism

Integral photographers recognize that different audiences receive and interpret images in different ways. They attempt to match the imagery and the insights photography transmits to the level of consciousness and worldview of the audience. This is strikingly unlike any previous level, which tends to “speak” to only its own level with relative unconsciousness of the others. Our concern is not always about questions like, What is an Integral photograph? Integral does not have to speak only to Integral. An integrally-informed photographer may produce, if needed, individual images or sets that appear like those of any other level. Similarly, an individual image (difficult) or a set (easier), may include multiple communications to multiple levels of audience.

    For example, theoretically, an image might both represent and describe the building’s realistic appearance (Traditional) and, at the same time illustrate its formal composition and experience as space (Modern) and exhibit a contextualization in various aspects of the building’s systemic connections or lack thereof with a positive or critical eye (Postmodern). A higher Integral level, in our view, entails a transcendence of some sort, beyond those three stages, to evoke greater all-quadrant or all-level awareness in the viewer. At the Modern level a single photographer/photographic “view” tends to be used to capture and portray the aesthetic and beauty of a building. (“Architecture is space,” or ‘Architecture is the expression of what it is to be Modern”). At the Postmodern level we see multiple photographers/perspectives used, often in the same portfolio for a building, to capture the building’s salient features—plus the addition of novel perspectives (“Architecture is meaning,” and “Architecture is what happens in buildings” and “Architecture is power manifested”). Photographic vision, ideas and personal signature are still present at the Postmodern level. The healthy version is when photographers are free to choose their perspectives and not required to accept the singular or dominant perspective of the authorised professional photographer hired by the architect. The unhealthy expression is when photographers are driven with little choice by pluralist cultural convention to treat all perspectives as equal in value—even if they are not. 

    Being able to recognise the worldview level from which one is operating, along with understanding the level from which the subject matter was created and the level of the viewing audience or presentation outlet can give photographers the creative freedom to either strengthen such an alignment of these three or intentionally disrupt it for the purposes of an artistic statement. 

    Edward Burtynsky’s project ‘H2O’, which includes the series ‘Water’ (Fig. 69) and the feature-length documentary Watermark, presents an immersive experience of global stories about mankind’s relationship with water, the effects of its consumption on the earth and the alarming unsustainable management humans have been deploying. The stunning visual language of the  documentation and his active engagement with  social and environmental implications sets his production apart from other Postmodern topographists. The effect is an ability to communicate with audiences from different worldviews. 

    Dionisio Gonzalez’s series ‘Cartografias para a remoção’ (Cartographs for removal), Figure. 70, reimagines informal Brazilian favelas as sites for urban intervention, stitching together photographs taken in Sao Paolo with seamless architectural design renderings. As photorealism and photography now appear increasingly interchangeable, the boundaries between fantasy, projection and reality are further blurred. Gonzalez uses photography as an architectural proposal to argue that sensitive micro-interventions in existing communities could be more effective strategies for regeneration than demolition and displacement. Thus, this creative activist work speaks to multiple perspectives. 

    Michael Kenna (Fig. 71) is considered one of the masters of contemporary fine art photography and a source of inspiration for many amateur and professional Neo-Pictorial photographers. With a career spanning more than 40 years, 47 books and 30 countries, Kenna’s uncompromising vision is rooted in the craftsmanship of printing, the alchemy of the darkroom, and a conscious focus on the relationship between places and the traces people leave on them. With extensive revisits to locations the photographic act becomes a holistic process of connecting with the world. The tenderness with which he sees the subtle beauty around him, and the fleeting yet meaningful connections of transitory revelation resonate between photographer, image and viewer in a transcendental act of merging.

Figure 52

Figure 52

(UR): Casa Cabo de Villa, Spaceworkers, Photo © Fernando Guerra, 2015

Figure 53

Figure 53

(UL): Tianjin Riverside 66, Kohn Pedersen Fox, architects. Photo © Tim Griffith, 2014

Figure 54

Figure 54

(LR): New York after the storm. Photo © Iwan Baan, 2012

Figure 55

Figure 55

(LL): Inter-Active Corp, New York, Frank Gehry, architect. Photo © Irene Kung, 2010

Figure 56

Figure 56

Power Lines and Plowed Field. Photo © Mark Citret, 2003

Figure 57

Figure 57

She’s asleep #14. © Marina Morón, 2014

Figure 58

Figure 58

Ideality, OAKA complex, Athens Greece.© John Kosmopoulos, 2013

Figure 59

Figure 59

Floating Village, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, ’Asia’ series. © David Burdeny, 2011

Figure 60

Figure 60

Wake (Richard Serra), Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle USA. (composite)Photo © Nathan Wirth, 2010

Figure 61

Figure 61

Nomadic Museum (top) and Borobudur Temple, Java Island, Indonesia, ‘Ashes and Snow’ book No.3 series (bottom).Photo © Gregory Colbert, 2005

Figure 62

Figure 62

Berlin construction site, 2-year exposure. Photo ©Michael Welsey

Figure 64

Figure 64

Empire State of Mind: New York. © Pygmalion Karatzas, 2015 (Click to view time-lapse video)

Figure 63

Figure 63

EXPO 2015 Milano Glimpses. © Pygmalion Karatzas, 2015 (Click to view time-lapse video)

Figure 65

Figure 65

Timeless 4. Photo ©Fabrice Silly, 2013

Figure 66

Figure 66

Tower 25 in Cyprus, Jean Nouvel, architect.Photo ©Yiorgis Yerolymbos, 2016

Figure 67

Figure 67

Guggenheim Museum: Evolving Possibilities, Bilbao Spain No.1, Frank Ghery, architect. Photo © Shannon McGrath, 2011

Figure 68

Figure 68

Architecture of Density #39, Hong Kong.Photo ©Michael Wolf, 2005

Figure 69

Figure 69

(documentary) Salt River Pima, Maricopa Indian Reservation / Scottsdale, Arizona, US., ‘Water’ series. Photo © Edward Burtynsky, 2011

Figure 70

Figure 70

(editorial): NovaAcqua Gasosa II. Photo © Dionisio Gonzalez, 2004

Figure 71

Figure 71

(expressive): Ratcliffe Power Station Study 41. Photo © Michael Kenna, 2003


When we define “Integral” using the Wilber/AQAL definition, we take into consideration quadrants, levels, lines, types and states. In this sense, Integral architectural photography is a panoply of practices, insights and institutions across all of these variables. Integral thinking and theory helps us to make sense of the complexity we see.

    When we talk about “Integral” as a level  beyond and transcending Postmodern, that’s another thing; we consider the developmental lines within each quadratic perspective. We look for the unfolding of complexity to the Integral level in: 

  • Integral photographic consciousness, an “Integral Eye”

  • Integral photographic products, an “Integral Frame”

  • Integral photographic systems, an Integral Practice,” and

  • Integral photographic cultures, an “Integral View.”

Integral Architectural Photography is in the process of emerging and being created. From this vantage point, it appears that some of the relevant Integral level themes, which we have summarized in the concluding section, probably include: 

  • All-quadrant transmissions, where the photographer often works toward portraying buildings an all-quadrant, multi-perspective occurrence

  • Catalyzing human development, where the image is intended to convey a state or insight that forwards the viewer’s state and helps initiate a potential new stage awareness

  • Integral transformative practices, in which the photographer develops her own photographic self to new levels of development

  • Engaging the built environment as dynamic phenomena, the practice of capturing in still images the complex processes, changes and evolutions of the built and natural world 

  • Type fluidity, where documentary, editorial, and expressive types no longer constitute the photographer’s identity and thus become available each to inhabit independently and to be combined and merged in intentional variations

  • Multi-level communications and dissemination pluralism, in which the photographer consciously communicates to multiple levels of viewer and client awareness, either simultaneously or singularly, by election, and uses the variety of print and digital publication means available to deliver the  communication.

New themes and trends will emerge as Integral awareness moves from a small minority of the culture on the leading edge to a more significant proportion of mainstream culture. Our propositions are neither final nor comprehensive.

    Two trends offer us an encouraging vision for the significance of integral architectural photography. First, with Integral level awareness comes an expanded circle of care and concern. Integral photographers will be aware of, be related to, and care about more people, place sand things than their predecessors. Second, the earth’s population increasingly lives in cities and most urbanites spend most of their time indoors. We face unprecedented challenges of urban growth, megacities, housing the billions of poor worldwide and the environmental impacts of human habitat, including the urgent issue of climate change. We expect therefore to see Integrally-informed photographers become more socially and environmentally engaged. 

    We imagine many more practices along the lines of Gregory Colbert, using creative entrepreneurial models to put their skills to work catalyzing consciousness shifts and making a contribution. Integral awareness sees no problem with making a profit while doing good, supporting oneself at making a living while being the maximum contribution one can. Wendell Berry wrote in his poem, ‘Healing,’ 

Seeing the work that there is to be done,
Who can help wanting to be the one to do it?

If indeed each level in its healthy expression transcends and includes the previous levels, then an Integral level architectural photography will critique the built environment while pointing to positive alternative solutions. It will convey the spatial experience of buildings and help us place them with awareness into their constituent living systems. It will portray how real people doing real activities use and occupy buildings while making us more aware of how buildings can better support what is most important in human life. It will facilitate the economic health of members of the building community, promoting quality works of design, while also forwarding the patterns that bring a high density of life energy to our world.

    Several trends make the professional photographer’s career both difficult and in flux: the increasing diversification of the photographic industry, the the proliferation of cheap visual culture and increasingly more accessible digital technologies for both creating images and for dissemination. Optimistically, we stand for the unreasonable possibility that integral architectural photographers will find paths for both a dignified living and an honorable commitment to the life and health of the built and natural environment that is our home.


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1. The typological spectrum illustrated with examples from 13 international photography competitions. Gallery view here.

2. A pdf version of the paper can be viewed on

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