WITH 90+ CATEGORIES AND 300+ JURORS, THE ARCHITIZER A+AWARDS IS THE WORLD'S DEFINITIVE ARCHITECTURAL AWARDS PROGRAM. IN THE WEEKS LEADING UP TO THE EXTENDED DEADLINE, JANUARY 30, 2015, WE ARE PUBLISHING Q&AS WITH 2014 A+AWARD WINNERS. TO SEE A FULL LIST OF CATEGORIES AND LEARN MORE ABOUT THE A+AWARDS, VISIT AWARDS.ARCHITIZER.COM.
Karatzas Architects and Photography was a 2014 Popular Choice Winner in the Architect+Photography & Video category for Morphogenesis. Pygmalion Karatzas' work inspires viewers to cultivate their understanding of the built environment through his unique perspective of experiencing architecture.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a photographer?
I have been photographing architecture since my undergraduate years as part of my education and inspiration. As a freelance architect, I have also been photographing my own works for documentation and presentation. Artistic photography had been a hobby of mine I would take up from time to time. Over the last few years, I've decided to focus more systematically on fine art and architectural photography. So, it has been a gradual process for me and not a single moment.
What was your first photography job?
I consider my first commissioned project to be a photo shoot I did for a client's holiday house, which he wanted to promote in real estate agencies abroad. It was the first time we also paid more attention to the arrangement of the furniture, used professional photographic gear, shot early morning and evening to capture the best light, and did scouting and test shots.
My first personal project, on the other hand, was a photo trip to Rome to Basel to Frankfurt. It produced some of the images that won the Architizer A+Award and my ongoing ‘Morphogenesis’ series. It took research and a well-defined pre-visualization, many hours on the road, and experimenting with new techniques in post-processing.
Who is your favorite photographer, design hero and/or what is your favorite building?
I think photographer Gregory Colbert qualifies as a hero because what he achieved with his ‘Ashes and Snow’ collection and how he did it is extraordinary and indeed epic. His nomadic museums are among my favorite buildings. It would be remiss of me, though, not to mention also the architectural photographers I have interviewed for arcspace.com as photo editor of ‘The Camera’ section. Getting to know their work more closely helped me appreciate them better and they have become some of my favorite photographers. As for design hero, I would say architect William McDonough for his ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy and practice.
Tell us something that people might not know about your winning entry:
The two trips took 990 miles by car, 520 nautical miles by boat, and 5,470 miles by plane, over a period of seven weeks in Europe and Qatar. When the images were featured on behance.net, they got 36,600 views and some of my favorite comments were from people who said that the images motivated them to have a more active interest in architecture, either by photographing or studying it. The image ‘MAXXI’ was commended in the architecture category of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards among 65,000 entries from 166 countries. For the Doha trip, I got the editorial referral from Adrian Welch (of e-architect.co.uk), Morten Scholz (of arcspace.com), and Vassilis Mistriotis (of greekarchitects.gr) in order to get permission to photograph buildings where needed. In cases that a tripod was not allowed on the ground, I replaced the sky with long exposure shots I had taken from my terrace.
Which juror(s) do you find most compelling and why?
Jurors Iwan Baan, Brad Feinknopf, Elias Redstone, and Pedro Gadanho were compelling to me because of their particular take on architectural photography.
Among your fellow A+Award winners, what is/are your favorite(s)?
Some of the winning projects I liked are: 142 Park St, Casa 103, Arctia headquarters, Sokol Blosser winery tasting room, Hublot pop-up store, Ion luxury adventure hotel, Danish Maritime museum, Halley VI Antarctic research station, Edgeland house, Smith Creek park, Thon Mun Community Centre. Congratulations to all the finalists and winners for pushing the envelope with their wonderful works!
Where do you look for inspiration?
The first source of inspiration is the subjects themselves, be it buildings, cityscapes, landscapes, terrain vague, the man-altered landscape, etc. Interesting design and architecture immediately grabs my attention and I want to explore it photographically.
The second source of inspiration is the photography world in general and the nuances of architectural photography in particular. Theoretical, philosophical, social, or spiritual concepts can also trigger the imagination and initiate or drive a visual story. Sometimes the conditions and limitations of a project, regulations, deadlines, and other such “restrictions” can become a source of inspiration and/or part of the process. Failure can also be a source of inspiration because within it we find aspects like risk-taking and experimentation, which are important especially in the creative fields.
What is the most important quality in a photographer?
We can find many different qualities in photographers, and if we consider the different photographic genres, the list becomes even more diverse, so I don’t think generally speaking we could point to one as the most important. What makes it important on a personal level is, perhaps, the conscious choice to focus on one’s strengths. Having said that, it seems to me photography at its core is about seeing, perceiving, observing, and being in the moment. Dorothea Lange has, as have many others, pointed out that we look but we don’t see, and this subtle difference hides an inner transformation.
Who would be your dream client, and why?
Both in architecture and photography, I haven’t had a dream client, but the more years pass, the more I realize it’s not about ideal conditions. It’s about doing the best you can in a given situation and learning from it. So, in that sense, the ideal client/project is the one that helps you grow and take the next step in the right direction. The wishful scenario is not about a dream client, but about better sociopolitical conditions that would allow and encourage people to do what they truly love in a world that doesn’t self-destruct.
What do you find exciting about architecture or photography right now?
We live in a time in which all past and present knowledge, schools of thought, methodologies, and traditions are available to us — if we look in the right way, we will find that there is more that unites us than separates us, something that our ill-conceived competitiveness often makes us forget. To quote philosopher Ken Wilber:
"An integral theory of art and literary interpretation is thus the multidimensional analysis of the various contexts in which — and by which — art exists and speaks to us: in the artist, the artwork, the viewer, and the world at large. Privileging no single context, it invites us to be unendingly open to ever-new horizons, which broaden our own horizons in the process, liberating us from the narrow straits of our favorite ideology and the prison of our isolated selves.” (The Eye of Spirit)