Sunday, February 22, 2009

Careers-How did I get into Architectural Photography?

"Kirk, how did you get into architectural photography?"

Thanks for asking David (from the Large Format Forum). This is a rough sketch....I had always had an affinity for prehistoric and historic buildings since exploring ruins in my early youth with my older brother Kent near our house on the far West Mesa near Albuquerque. See also: Statement. My father and brother were avid amateur 35mm photographers (their primary interest was astrophotography). We had a primitive darkroom in our house for many years. My first camera was a hand-me-down rangefinder Leica IIIC from my father. After doing a bachelors degree at the University of New Mexico (b&w medium format primarily) and showing in galleries (but making my living other ways, Volkswagen mechanic, welder, industrial mechanic, union organizer etc.), I got a 4x5 in '78 to photograph landscape but started wondering what else I could do with a 4x5 to make an income. A friend was an architect at the largest construction company in the state and he asked me to shoot some color of their buildings for a brochure. I had never shot color up to that point. That was the start, 1978. I used the assignments for the builder to get my foot in the door with the architects.

I found that I loved shooting architecture and that I had a real affinity with architects. It took about two years before I could go full time and make a minimal living. Then, because of the suggestion of a friend who had some connections, almost on a lark, I took off and went to graduate school at the University of Calgary in Canada for a photography MFA. I thought I would teach art photography for a living but when I got back to New Mexico in '82 but there were no teaching jobs that I was competitive for. So I threw myself into architectural photography with a vengeance, hooked up with some local architects who were making a splash nationally with their Post Modern architecture and started getting published in and assignments from national magazines. That was about 1986? See a very condensed list of my clients 30 years later here: Client List. Ironically my expertise in AP got me into teaching after all and I taught architectural photography (to keep the juices flowing) at the University of New Mexico and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 19 years combined. I may not be done with teaching yet. Circumstances have prevented it the last couple of years. Only so many hours in a day.

Interesting where life takes you. All in all, I have been very fortunate.

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