Integral Lens vol.2

Integral lens: an integral approach to the study and representation

of the built environment through the photographic medium 


April 2016

During this 5-month trip, approximately 9,600 miles were traveled by plane, 4,200 miles by car, 1,300 miles by public commuting, and 750,000 steps walking. In total about 12,000 still images were taken from 150 buildings and locations, 65,000 images in time-lapse video, 20 meetings and interviews, and 300 hours in post-processing and editing. A lecture on editorial and artistic architectural photography, and two workshops on the aspects of architectural photography were given at the College of Architecture and Design of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and two video presentations were submitted at the ESW architecture conference in Athens. These “marathon-like” figures reflect the author’s eagerness to seize an opportunity of a life time, and his continuous admiration for architecture and iconography. 


‘Integral Lens’ is a photographic vision aiming to combine a respectful representation of exterior realities with a meaningful expression of our interiority. Choosing iconic buildings as well as conventional structures and cityscapes we come across daily, is intended to share my enthusiasm for design and aesthetics, to contemplate on man’s symbiotic relationship with the material, and ultimately to trigger a more inspirational and uplifting sense for the built environment. This open-ended journey started twenty years ago with my architectural and urban design studies, spend twelve of them practicing architectural design and construction, and the last three shifting to commercial and artistic photography.   


Integral photography starts with an integrally informed photographer.  Wilber’s integral map is designed to be applied in different fields. For example, the ‘Five levels of sustainable design aesthetics’ by prof. Mark DeKay can also apply to architectural photography. The four essential dimensions (‘4 quadrants’) use different methods and criteria to “shape” (to design or to present) form in order to: engender experience (UL), manifest meaning (LL), maximise performance (UR), and guide flow (LR). The five levels of aesthetic complexity represent actual milestones of growth and complexity, both for the designer and the user (the photographer and the viewer). Stages of consciousness represent levels of organisation with important emerging qualities that tend to come into being in discrete quantum-like fashion. The five levels of aesthetic complexity proposed by DeKay are:

- Visual Aesthetic: beauty in form, colour, tone, structure, repetition (static).  

- Phenomenological Aesthetic: beauty experienced through multiple senses, through time, including movement in space (rich full-body experience). 

- Process Aesthetic: beauty in the patterns that connect, the elegant fitness and interplay between form and process, in the order of change (dynamic). - Ecological Aesthetic: beauty in things whose patterns create ecological health (higher level of ecological awareness). 

- Evolutionary Aesthetic: beauty in the order of process (long-term over extended periods of time / life cycles).   

Each time we operate from one of these levels we see the world differently since consciousness and existence are inseparable. Through long term practice temporary states become permanent traits. The more access we have to these stages the greater the spectrum of consciousness of the creator and richer the product of his expression. 


These distinctions are like the map of a territory, but they are not the territory itself. People rarely work in such clear cut manners. An artistic product can embody multiple aesthetic levels; it can be critical or challenge our understanding or question the limitations and implications of our perceptions and actions within this matrix of reality. A more expansive analysis on the ways integral theory applies to architectural photography is beyond the scope of this epilogue but it will be further developed in volume two. 


In the editorial article ‘Two-way street: the photography of architecture’, Kate Bush highlights a pivotal dialogue and exchange of ideas between European and American photographers that has defined the history of architectural photography: in 1929 the American photographer Berenice Abbott took Eugene Atget’s photographs from Paris to New York and by doing so inspired the work of Walker Evans and subsequently the New Topographics (“the baton was passed from Europe to America”). In 1973 Stephen Shore sought the advice of Hilla Becher in Germany and shortly after the Dusseldorf School at the Kunstakademie was created and dominated world photography in the 90ies (“the baton was returned”). On a much more modest but personal level, my perception and understanding of the American way has been influenced by the work of Ken Wilber, the Integral Institute and the broader transpersonal movements in the U.S. (in both the translative interpretations and transformative experiences of our zeitgeist). I had visited the U.S. once before in 2002 as I was beginning to unfold this “integral multiverse” but back then it was just for leisure and with friends and family being my guide. This time with the generous scholarship by Fulbright, I developed my own itinerary and timetable, and I got to experience a simulated version of living and working there. A non-stop fast-paced work schedule from city to city and state to state during some days; inspiring meetings, constructive dialogues and moments of reflection during other days; and above all, a heart-felt encouragement and uplifting support to continue my work.     


In the acknowledgement section I express my deepest gratitude to all the people who helped me and those who participated in this project. Here I would like to give an extra appreciation to prof. Mark DeKay for his generous foreword to this book and both him and his wife Susanne Bennett for their loving support and warm hospitality during my stay in Knoxville as well as during the whole journey. I feel very fortunate to have met such affectionate and considerate souls.


This publication marks the completion of a project that started with the application period (December 2014 to April 2015), then the preparation period (May 2015 to September 2015), followed by the five months in the U.S. (October 2015 to February 2016) and then two months back in Greece post-processing, editing, and publishing; but it is not the end of the journey. It is a tree whose branches will continue to give fruits and I look forward sharing new varieties as they mature internally and externally.


May you, in viewing this visual journey, share the enjoyment of discovery and connection.


Fulbright Fundation Greece:

College of Architecture and Design, University of Tennesse Knoxville:

Project description.

Project info.