In association with A. Lange & Söhne. A photographer and an architect make sense of the creative process.
Understanding and capturing light is a cornerstone of artistic creation. It breathes life into an oeuvre, allowing it to evolve with every shadow and movement of the sun. A Lange & Söhne’s Datograph Up/Down ‘Lumen’ model is a visual metaphor, created by a marriage of high craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology, of the creative relationship with light. In an endeavour to make sense of this fleeting yet essential element, and the challenges of coaxing meaning from the figurative darkness of the creative terra incognita, we speak to two London creatives about how they approach their respective fields, the vitality of light and the human touch in their creations, and the rewards of working in the urban milieu.
Q&A 1: Polly Tootal, Photographer
Tell us about your early work.
I leaned towards English landscapes. It’s about me being out by myself and looking at familiar places – but trying to make them look exotic. I liked the idea of being able to create something, with long exposure, beyond what I saw. Using a camera is like painting light: you bring more and more light through and it paints the image; colours come out differently.
What are the biggest challenges?
Searching and not finding. You spend days looking for something that may or may not exist.
What are you looking for now?
People who’ve ended up in unfamiliar landscapes: African immigrants in Italy; migrant workers in Dubai. I stumbled on this idea of looking at people who are not where they should be – they’re trapped. I’ve been taking landscapes and, again, bringing the light, the long exposure. Some of these guys are on the phone all the time so I’ve been creating images where they’re sitting on the phone, talking to their wives or children, and the phone is lit up like static.
1 Feeling inspired
“I look for things that evoke something exotic, that could be America. I’m looking for things that could be from another place, or that are really English in their subject matter.”
2 Stark contrasts
“I’ve never made a photograph without something of the man-made in it. So it could be rural but I always want an element that’s man-made, just because the image is then talking about people.”
3 Look away
“It’s heartbreaking when you’re a creative looking at other people’s work. It’s amazing to discover it all – but at the same time you compare them to yourself. It’s a struggle we all have. But if it’s a passion then, quite simply, it’s what you must do.”
Q&A 2: Joe Morris, founding director, Morris + Company
What are the key factors that influence your architecture?
We’re not singularly interested in architecture for architecture’s sake. Landscape, art, sculpture – all the different media come into this, with a focus on the narration of spaces through people.
What was the concept for London office building R7?
The idea was, “How do you build a workplace for the next generation?” How about just flowing the city through the building? It’s a curatable space, a cultural space, a boundary that doesn’t have any real ownership. There’s a cinema, a restaurant, a mixing studio and a fitness area. Anybody can walk in and experience it.
How do you go about making it human and organic?
Once you’ve realised the optimum scale on the site, the human aspect comes from what you can then use. How can it be exploited to bring a human dimension? Every single floor plate gets a substantial loggia or terrace. Beyond that there’s the way in which the building breaks down into a unit, much like Le Corbusier’s Modulor: a space in which you occupy an area as an individual. You own that windowpane and it’s your relationship with the city.
What is your architectural vision when you think of London?
It’s about understanding where the interface between the preserved condition and the new exists. How much intervention should take place? I like to see us sometimes as being like US artist Gordon Matta-Clark: cutting and removing bits of buildings, threading new stories through. It’s a continuous lineage of influence and being influenced by the city.
1 Start small
“Model-making – the idea of ‘eye to hand to brain’ – is fundamental to what we do. The built form, on any scale, is an important and intuitive way of communicating ideas, not only to clients but also to ourselves when it comes to finding optimal solutions.”
2 Open mind
“Londonon, a thinktank, is in defiance of everything that Brexit and the like stand for. Morris + Company and five other practices are pooling resources and placing entry-level people – students, the newly qualified – in another city and learning from that city. We’ve been to Oslo, Milan and El Ejido.”