Constructing Worlds: Architectural Photography

Should architecture photography look beyond documenting the built environment? This is the question raised by Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age, the latest exhibition at London’s Barbican Art Gallery. Here the curators have set out to explore the power of photography to reveal wider truths about our society. And it is an interesting glimpse into our world.

The Barbican Centre, itself a utopian statement and so much more than just a set of concrete blocks, is the perfect venue for this kind of show. This is an inspired exhibition featuring over 250 works – some rarely seen and many shown in the UK for the first time – by eighteen leading photographers from the 1930s to now, who, the exhibitors believe, have changed the way we view architecture and think about the world in which we live.

Highlights include Berenice Abbott’s photographs charting the birth of the skyscraper in New York; Lucien Hervé’s subtle evocations of modernity as found in Chandigarh by Le Corbusier; the luxury lifestyle of Julius Shulman’s images of California’s residences; the moving nature of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum as seen by London based photographer Hélène Binet; the recent dramatic growth of Chinese urbanisation recorded by Nadav Kander; and the devastating effects of war in Afghanistan as expressed in the poignant images of Simon Norfolk.

‘Photography and architecture have a long and shared history and yet amazingly this is the first major exhibition in London to throw light on this relationship,’ says Jane Alison, head of visual arts at the Barbican. It is an exhibition, she says, not only for anyone interested in how we understand architecture but equally the dramatic global shifts in society in the post-war period.

Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age is at the Barbican Art Gallery from 25 September 2014 – 11 January 2015

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