the art of seeing

March 2016 Newsletter

seeing is feeling

Much like a movie director scouting a location for a scene, an architectural photographer walks into a building with all of his senses in high alert. "It is my goal to record that initial emotional response, such as the kind one gets when going through a small and dark passage and entering into an expansive and light-filled space. When a viewer sees my photograph, I want him to have the exact same feeling as if he had the actual physical experience," says Scott Hargis, our long-time collaborator.

seeing is believing

A frequent misconception about photography is that people believe it is an exact recording of physical spaces or matters. In reality, a photo renders a 3-D space onto a 2-D medium. A camera lens is not equal to a pair of human eyes. Human eyes can look at a bright surface and discern the details, then turn to a dark surface and still can discern the details, which the camera lens cannot. Human eyes can always perceive depths while the camera lens relies on the tones of light (bright, medium, and dark) and converging lines to create a perspective. Sometimes too much natural light can make a photo look flat. It is often blocked with dark curtains and artificial lighting is used instead. Scott explains that a photographer uses many tools and techniques to make a representation of reality that is more true than real.

In this remodel of an unfinished basement into a garden level great room in San Francisco, Scott tries to capture that excitement as he walked through the main floor of a traditional residence and stood at the threshold of the new stairwell. The tall window accentuates the ceiling height and floods the space with natural light. The wood panels with a lighter tone at mid distance wrap around and continue on the ceiling of the lower level. They invite and guide you down into the new space. Once you turn the corner, the drama is enhanced as the conventional stairs become floating logs made from reclaimed oak. In the above left photo, a gauze curtain was attached to the outside of the window to soften the light and obscure the sidewall of a neighboring house. The ceiling lines were included in the shot to clarify a jog in the wood paneled wall. 

the art of seeing 

In this remodel of a suburban residence in Marin, the entry is at the lower level. In contrast to the previous project, Scott wants to express the designer's intent to indicate something interesting is happening above on the main level. The left image shows the stairs as they were during the photo shoot at 3pm in the afternoon. Scott used artificial lighting to enhance and brighten the rich wood tones of the treads. He focused a spot light through the pendant fixture up above to cast contrasting shadows on the wall. He positioned the camera such that none of the jogs of the handrail would be obscured by the vertical metal rods. The finished shot on the right shows the entire handrail dancing up in sync with the steps. A thin strip of brightness accompanies the stairs as they climb up as the top of the baseboard was highlighted with yet another spot light during the shoot.

being true to the design

Scott believes in using his tools and techniques so that viewers can see the design in the best light. Constant communication with the design team is a must as this is an art of collaboration. Having worked with building Lab for years is definitely a plus. He can appreciate and understand the evolution and continuity of Stephen's design philosophy. When he encounters one of our new projects, he immediately puts it in relation to other bL works. This experience informs him in mysterious ways. Somehow, it works!

ready to shoot

Scott Hargis is a widely recognized interiors and architectural photographer based in the San Francisco Bay area.

Scott creates artistic photographs that communicate more than just basic information about a room or structure. His compositions reveal the intent of the designer and accurately convey the feeling of being in the space itself. He relies on traditional field techniques and attention to detail to create images that feel alive and authentic without excessive digital manipulation.

Photo captions L - R 
1. SF Great Room entry stairwell   2. SF Great Room floating stairs
3. Marin Residence stairs to main level without lighting   4. Marin Residence stairs with lighting
5. Blocking the flat natural light   6. Spot light through a pendant fixture
7. Scott Hargis at a shoot

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stephen and taya at home 

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