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TAKE TEN: Paris Brummer

Ever wondered what makes for a great architectural photo? Cape Town-based photographer, Paris Brummer, shares her thoughts and takes us through her favourite buildings, getting started in the business and shooting with the X100VI.

Paris Brummer

How did you manage to carve yourself a career in architectural photography?

My dad is an architect, so architectural theory and history has always been an interest of mine and naturally architecture became my favourite genre / subject matter. I was fortunate enough to shoot my first large project for acclaimed South African architect, Jo Noero. The work was published locally and internationally gaining exposure, and it kind of just took off from there.

What makes for a good architectural photo?

Tricky question but for me it ultimately needs to evoke a mood so strong that the viewer, not having visited the space, can feel or get a sense of what the space would really feel like. And even better, evoke nostalgia and longing if you have visited the space already.

There also needs to be a fine balance between the image being technically sound, echoing elements similar to an architectural drawing or schematic, but at the same time also bringing in an element of abstraction, energy or a joie de vivre signature element that the photographer (someone that wasn’t commercially involved in the creation of the project) can add to the mix.

By appealing to both the analytical and the emotional side of the project, the image satisfies those responsible behind the design and cements the structure’s visual existence for the future.

Do you have a favourite building/place to capture locally?

Locally it would have to be anything brutalist or anything with exceptional urban planning. I love shooting the Taalmonument for its sculptural quality, Battery Park and the Silo District for its use of excellent urban planning, and the UCT Sports Centre, designed by Roelof Uitenbogart, for its brutalist magic.

What about internationally?

Internationally it could be anything in Japan or anything brutalist (I have an open love affair with brutalist architecture). I really enjoyed shooting inside the Nakagin Capsule Tower before it was demolished and I love shooting the work of Kenzo Tange (Yoyogi National Gymnasium)

Apart from architectural photography, do you have other genres you like?

I also shoot a lot of art photography and documentation for galleries and artists. This includes artwork documentation for catalogues and installation photography of exhibitions. Interior photography has also crept a lot into my work because of the close relationships architectural firms have with interior designers.

For fun though I really love analogue film photography on road trips across South Africa – another reason I love Fujifilm cameras is because of the film simulations and recipes. Another big love is street photography which is the genre that actually made me pick up my first Fujifilm camera, an X-E2 with an 18mm lens.

When and why did you switch to Fujifilm?

I wanted a second camera that would channel some of recreational photography and would also be ideal in weight and size for travelling. Back in 2016 I started exploring street photography around Cape Town or at local events/exhibitions and I really enjoyed the compatibility and weight of Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras.

I picked up an X-E2 with an 18mm lens and it became an extension of my arm. So much so that I named my Instagram account ‘youmeandmyfuji’. So just like I joined Twitter in 2011 for Lady Gaga’s video releases, Fujifilm got me on Instagram challenging myself daily to upload a photo.

I eventually upgraded to an X100F because I preferred the fixed focal length.

What camera and lens combo do you prefer for your jobs?

As a second body I recently upgraded to a Fujifilm X100VI and I am pushing its 40 megapixel sensor to the limit alongside another brand’s camera. I would love to upgrade to a Fujifilm GFX one day and use the incredible GF30mmF5.6 T/S lens that came out last year – watch this space.

What’s your thoughts on the X100VI?

What a beauty. Coming from the X100F, and initially the X-E2, it definitely packs a punch. I am enjoying pushing the sensor to its limits and seeing how it handles low light with high ISO levels.

Print quality at large sizes is excellent and the dynamic range is by far the best in the X100 series. The new film simulations are such a treat as well, but the real MVP has to be the in-body stabilisation. I am rather enjoying shooting handheld at 1/4 of a second without noticeable camera shake. As I skipped the V there are also improvements that I love like the tilted screen, the pull-up redesign of the ISO dial and the touch screen. I do miss the D-pad though (yes, looking at you Fujifilm – please bring it back).

I took the X100VI with me to Belgium recently on an architectural assignment and I was amazed at how it performed under the dark, cloudy conditions in Belgium. Coupled with the TCL and WCL lens adaptors (as well as the digital teleconverter), you essentially have the perfect camera at your disposal and you are fully equipped to shoot any scene.

Do you have a building/place/person on your photography bucket list?

I would love to see Tadao Ando’s Church of Light as well as Gaudi’s projects in Spain. As an aside, I would love to drive along Route 66 in America and stop at every town along the way. I could see myself easily polishing off a bucket load of SD cards or rolls of film.

What’s your favourite tip when it comes to architectural photography?

Filters and tripods are not accessories. They are an extension of your gear and are as important as your lens. If you want anything in the image to be straight and sharp you need a tripod and if you want to work with available/natural light, you need a polarising filter or a night light filter.

Perhaps less technical but it’s also important to love what you’re shooting and fall in love with an angle. If you’re not enjoying what you are shooting, move on, find a better angle or change your perspective.

Find more of Paris’s work here:

Commercial work: www.parisbrummer.com
Instagram: Paris Brummer (@parisbphoto)
Street photography and analogue photography :
ParisB (@youmeandmyfuji)

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