Alexandra Lange | Essays

Pay No Attention to Me

In one of those strange topical coincidences, this Sunday’s Arts & Leisure section has a profile of Iwan Baan, a Dutch architectural photographer who, Fred A. Bernstein claims, is the post-Stoller-Shulman-Molitor savior of architectural photography.

Mr. Baan’s work, while still showing architecture in flattering lights and from carefully chosen angles, does away with the old feeling of chilly perfection. In its place he offers untidiness, of the kind that comes from real people moving though buildings and real cities massing around them. Mr. Baan sees buildings as backdrops for his photographs of people, he said during a recent visit to New York.

Unfortunately, either the A&L editors chose bad examples of Baan’s work, or this claim is wildly exaggerated. Yes, there are some people in the photos, but they are pretty blurry. Yes, some of the angles are different, but the lines still recede to infinity. The Shulman example used as counterpoint is everyone’s fantasy of L.A. modern life, hardly alienating.

Take this quote, about what I assume must be the image above.

Looking at a picture of the new Cooper Union building in the East Village, designed by Mr. Mayne, Mr. Baan said, “It’s about the woman shuffling down the street.”

Well, maaaaaybe, if you ignore the elephant in the room. In this case the Arbus comparison is apt (my apologies to this unnamed woman), but she’s about the only human star in this slideshow.

Posted in: Architecture, Photography

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