WITH HÉLÈNE BINET: THE PURE SENSATION OF PHOTOGRAPHY_PART II
BY SUSANA VENTURA
SV: When Peter Zumthor explains his idea of “atmosphere”, he gives as an example the photographs that he loves and make him wonder about his ability to design places such as those represented in the photographs. He is looking for a kind of sensation represented in the photograph and we must be aware of the fact that he has never seen one of the buildings and that he is enchanted with a mood that he cannot find anymore on the other one. However, both examples make him desire and pursue those sensations he describes. In your opinion, can photography represent the feeling of an architectural work? Or does photography capture a sensation that does not belong to the architectural work, but lives merely in the plane of the photograph composition, even if that photograph is faithful to the architectural work? Or is it the same sensation, the feeling of belonging to the architectural work that passes through the photograph?
HB: The way I work, I am interested in sublimating the sensation that belongs to architecture. And that brings me to ask myself: Can photography represent a sensation? Yes. If not, it will be not photography. Of course, architecture photography can be seen as a very strict and hard discipline. Sometimes people ask me: “What do you do with photography?” and I answer: “Architecture”. And they say: “Oh!” They think it’s a very unemotional form of expression. But it isn’t. The reason I like to photograph architecture is because I feel that photographing spaces and objects is a way of telling stories that belong to a specific environment. I need them like a musician needs a score. Somehow the camera is a little like an instrument and architecture is the score. You may say that sounds and stories are always very subjective. The camera plays something but someone else has been writing it, has been putting the notes and the harmony together. We need this score... but I’m still doing the sounds, so, it’s a very tight relationship. I need the harmony that was written by somebody else and someone else needs my sensibility to put it together, so there’s no way they exist without each other. I mean, of course, architecture can be visited, but I’m talking about architecture photography. In architecture photography we need to be quite reduced and this is why I like details in B&W. I think Aristotle said “We hear better in the dark”. If our senses are reduced; if we only have one sense available, we may be very impressed, or very concentrated, or hear better.
SV: In the act of creation what allows you to direct yourself towards a certain photograph? Or what makes you decide for a certain frame or angle or a certain luminosity or aperture instead of another?
HB: I think every building is different. I cannot really set a rule and apply it to every building. I think the artist looks at the space and then set the rules. When I frame a building I look for my little inside stories, of course, to decide how to look at the building, but they are never the same.
SV: Can you give some examples?
HB: When I was photographing the Brüder Klaus Kapelle, which is a very good piece of work and is also photogenic and accessible, you see a nice photograph of the place in every way. The landscape around it is also so beautiful and you don’t have to deal with street lights or trucks. I decided not to do any photos at the time of the opening. I wasn’t interested in photographing for the news, but I wanted to tell my story. I went there after one year, when the kapelle was already well known. I thought: “This is a small tool - this kapelle – that is able to connect you with something very big”. If you are religious, it is a God; if you are a thinker, you will want to understand the sky and the stars. So, in all of the photographs I tried to connect you with the firmament. So, there is a series of photos where the clouds somehow become part of the building and there is another series where I am looking up. Then, there is a photo which was made at night using a very long exposure, so the stars move and become a single line and, because the earth moves, they become one circle. So, you are really connected with the wide movement of the planet.