This is a guest post by Adnan Onart, a multidimensional creative, philosopher, poet, photographer from Cambridge, MA.
No, “Brutalist Architecture” doesn’t have anything to do with the pandemic we are going through. During the week, I just kept sharing my photographs with the hope that the pictures could provide some elements of distraction to family and friends. I happened to have in my pipeline some photographs I took around Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts building of the Harvard University. But the choice of the location was not accidental: I had taken these pictures towards a photographic series dedicated to the examples of Brutalist Architecture from Cambridge and Boston.
Yes, I have been planning to make photographs of the buildings (which in my perception or understanding) exemplified the Brutalist Architecture. Why Brutalist Architecture, you may ask. I happen to be aware of some people cannot stand this architectural style as it was reported in this Boston Globe’s editorial piece.
But my point was not that much to make a political stand or to take a counter-position. I was much interested to demonstrate that there were ample elements of beauty in places many people failed to see one. Brutalist Architecture has a strong aesthetic appeal to me. I am too afraid that people who are failing to appreciate them would be committing some form of cultural crime by destroying or disfiguring them. I wanted to make my modest part to contribute to their protection.
These photographs are not an example of “Architectural Photography.” They are willingly committing the most fundamental mistakes against the genre: not dealing with the perspective issues or representation of the parallel lines. They are not perfectly sharp. They are not high-resolution. Moreover, they don’t mean to document different views of the building towards some form of completeness. They hope to reveal the beauty of a building by capturing the interplay of light and shadow, the effects of time, the feeling of texture, the impact of the negative space. They also want to illustrate how a building acts as a context or background to the people who just attend to their daily lives, but maybe more interestingly how it can be an invitation to an affectionate behavior: a kiss is a kiss, maybe even more fondly given on the terrace of a brutalist building.
To create some boundaries for this project, I wanted to establish some constraints: I decided to use my compact and system Fujifilm cameras with interchangeable lenses. I relied on my Fujifilm X100T with a 23 mm fixed lens for my initial visit to a building, to create sketches to develop a sense for the architecture. For my interchangeable lens cameras, I decided not to use any zoom lenses, but to work with primes, namely, 16 mm, 23 mm, 35 mm, and 50 mm. (Since my cameras are based on the APS-C size sensor, these focal lengths ought to be multiplied by the factor of 1.5 in order to obtain their full-frame equivalents.
Although I take my pictures with JPEG + RAW options, I have a strong preference to utilize the JPEG files to finalize the photographs with some minimal tonal adjustments in Lightroom during the post-processing. Fujifilm established fame for itself through its in-camera film simulations that leverage the companies analog photography tradition. My go-to choice is CLASSIC CHROME which provides somewhat muted color in some people’s minds evoking the memories of Kodak’s EKTACHROME. But when I feel I need more saturated color rendition I don’t hesitate to change my settings to VELVIA which corresponds to Fujifilm’s’ slide film of its analog heydays. In terms of aspect ratios, I like to work with 16:9 format for a somewhat panoramic look and 1:1 format for sharing my pictures on INSTAGRAM.
Right now, I don’t know whether I’ll be able to proceed with my series of “Brutalist Photographs” or even will be able to keep sharing my photographs. But I would like to hope whatever their photographic qualities, these pictures were able momentarily to distract you from worries and fears of uncertain times we are all going through.