Architectural Photographer Nathan Lopez shares his experiences 

Nathan Lopez, Switzerland.

Nathan is a Graphic Designer, graduated from ECAL/ Lausanne University of Art in 2014. He now works in the field of Digital Education at the Swiss University EHL/EcoleHôtelière de Lausanne where he develops animations and produce educational videos.

Nathan had the opportunity to go for an exchange semester in Tel Aviv Israel in 2013, that’s where he actually started to practice photography on a regular basis and became more familiar with the medium.

Nathan shares a fond memory about his camera, Canon 5d mark II, which he bought as second hand during his studies, since then it follows him everywhere he travels with standard Canon RF 24-70 mm lens.

Nathan has traveled to Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan for a couple of months. This is the moment when he realized that his photography practice was naturally orienting towards architecture photography & a new passion was born!

“I consider photography as a hobby and I always enjoyed finding graphical textures in my surrounding environment, particularly in architecture”.

Sharing his experience further Nathan adds that he likes to shoot mostly architecture, particularly Socialist Modernism. Besides this he enjoys shooting landscapes sometimes, but he avoids shooting portraits as Nathan says "I am absolutely not good at it!"

Light is extremely important for architectural photography according to Nathan. He spends hours on streets waiting & searching for the perfect light conditions, & it can be worse, to give an example Nathan adds, in Tajikistan he spent three hours looking for a building before finding out it had just been torn down. Sometimes it is so disappointing to find out the building you were looking for is in a perfect back lit. But such constraints sometimes become an excellent way to challenge one’s creativity.

Nathan's approach is pretty much simplistic, raw & minimal to capture the beauty of the raw concrete architecture with the play of light & shadows.

“I particularly love to find forms of beauty in raw concrete, abandoned places and all the buildings that would most commonly be considered as ‘ugly’”.

Nathan has keen eye to look for specific architectural structures, details, patterns or any element that stand out, as according to him ‘subject have to be well-chosen to make good picture stand out from the average. He always tries to find the geometrical forms in the subjects which he shoots. Apart from this light & a good composition are extremely interesting elements to play with to make picture stand out.

In today's regularly updating & technologically advanced world it is very important to keep yourself updated. Nathan says, " I don’t have much photographic technique. I learned the bases during my degree at the art university and that’s it." On the other hand he have the opportunity to practice image editing / post-production skills everyday through his current animation work. Nathan displays his pictures on Instagram mostly, but he tries to find inspiration beyond the social media.

"I spend a significant amount of time looking for places/buildings over the internet. I inspire myself with the work of artists, photographers and bloggers. I also look for books and go to photography exhibitions to see as many different approaches and practices."

Our day to day life experiences & influences greatly affects our thought process our perception & ultimately our work, Nathan talks about his graphic design works which greatly influences his perception towards the photography.

"I don’t think I would be able to describe my photography style as it constantly evolves. I think it is deeply influenced by my graphic design practice. I always try to keep my pictures minimalistic enough and pay attention to the composition of a picture. I want lines to be perfectly straight, horizontals to be perfectly horizontals and verticals to be perfectly verticals"

Books have inspired many of us, Nathan tells about, 'Archi Brut' by Peter Chadwick, which he came across in 2016 that he really loved it and discovered amazing examples of brutalist architecture throughout the world. Moreover, he discovered there were such amazing pieces of such architecture in Switzerland. He later discovered many of these buildings on social media such as Instagram, following the journey of various bloggers and/or photographers. In 2019, the book “Soviet Asia” by Italian photographers Roberto Conte & Stefano Perego definitely inspired him to visit Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

There are experiences which turn in to very good out puts, some don't. There are experiences which are very peaceful to mind you try to live in them, you don't feel need to capture them for a good output.

"I particular loved to take pictures of the abandoned Olympics in Sarajevo. Beyond the result itself, I had such an amazing experience there and consider Sarajevo to be one of my favorite destinations of all times".

Nathan considers Sarajevo to be one of his favorite cities. In general, he loves Eastern Europe & former Soviet Union countries, there are such wonderful examples of socialist architecture there! Moreover, this architectural heritage is slowly disappearing…which makes even more sense to document them before they disappear forever.

"Among my favorite destinations, I traveled to Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Bosnia, Montenegro, Poland... I also enjoyed visiting Iran, Lebanon and Israel a lot".

"My trip to Central Asia in July and August 2019 was quite memorable. In Tashkent, the modernist apartment blocks simply looked like canvases, streets full of works of art each covered with curves, triangles, ellipses and geometrical motifs".

Tashkent is a particularly interesting place as most of the city was destroyed by a massive earthquake in the 60's. The city was entirely rebuilt, portraying the essence of soviet modernism. Its monuments, hotels and museums are particularly impressive and most of the apartment blocks have geometrical concrete motifs on their facades and colorful mosaics on the side.

Nathan adds further as there are always unexpected experiences when you travel to unknown places, "In Tajikistan, I discovered amazing buildings as well… unfortunately, I got sick and had quite a tough time there. Moreover, I broke my camera. The road were in such bad shape so my advice would be: make sure your camera is well isolated from shocks, the roads can be extremely shaky sometimes. Keep it all with you and always refuse to put you bag in the trunk or on the roof of the car. Luckily I managed to get my camera repaired once back in the city".

Nathan is quite optimistic about his experiences as these experiences only creates memories & teaches you life lessons,

"I am quite adventurous and didn’t hesitate to hitch-hike, exchange with locals and other travelers, hike quite long distances or camp in the wild. It brought me the best travel experiences ever"!

On the other hand, a minimum of common sense and little precaution can avoid these safety concerns. "It is always important not to carry too much material while backpacking as it can be pretty heavy. Always remember, the heaviest your material is, the least you will take time out to take pictures. Always be careful with the food you eat (I had a bad experience in Central Asia) and make sure to carry enough water in the summer. It can be pretty uncomfortable to take pictures throughout the city with 40 degrees Celsius. In the winter, it can be equally uncomfortable taking pictures in the cold…"

It is always advisable to research or investigate a building or location prior to Travelling, Nathan adds further that he uses Google Maps to see how to get there, and most importantly check the building’s orientation to identify which time of the day/light will be the best to shoot it. By force of circumstances, Nathan became expert in identifying buildings on google maps.

In many other cases, Nathan advises try not to plan too much and keep space for spontaneity. The best discoveries he made were generally not planned… It reinforces the experience and makes it a lot more memorable.

"As a hobby and a passion, I try to keep the best of it only and combine it with excursions and travel moments. I would recommend not to underestimate travel experience that comes together with architecture photography. I personally don’t want to take pictures with a mechanical approach. In my opinion, it is important to live the present moment and feel the atmosphere when taking pictures and not only think about the moment they will be published on Instagram or any other platform".

Nathan Lopez insta: __nathanlopez

All the images in the article are clicked & are intellectual property of Nathan Lopez.

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