An exhibition in 2009 of period photographs from the British Architectural Library Photographs Collection. Ever since its inception, photography has profoundly influenced the practice and study of architecture. This was especially true with the advent of Modernism which, during the 1920s, brought architecture and photography into closer alliance than ever before.
Modernism's celebration of the man-made rather than the natural world not only gave new prominence to contemporary architectural and engineering feats but also greatly enhanced their status as subjects suitable for photography. The so-called 'New Vision' engenderd a more dynamic mode of photography that encouraged the use of unconventional viewpoints, sudden changes in scale, dramatic tonal contrasts, radical cropping and a predeliction for geometrical abstraction. In addition, Modernist architects' greater and more inventive use of materials such as steel, concrete, glass and chromium afforded the photographer increased possibilities for dramatic expression. As a result, architectural photography was revitalised and played a key role in the dissemination of Modernist architecture.
Despite recent studies, the history of architectural photography remains in its infancy; in particular, little work has been undertaken on the photography of Italian Modernism. This exhibition complemented recent case studies on the Czech Republic and Hungary as well as other, more general surveys, to paint a clearer picture of the often shifting but symbiotic relationship between the two disciplines.
The selection of over 100 period photographs was drawn almost entirely from the RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection. It was curated by Robert Elwall - a leading writer and expert on the relationship between photography and architecture - and Valeria Carullo, Assistant Curator in the Photographs Collection of the British Architectural Library.