Moody Bible Institute / Chicago, IL / AJ Brown Imaging

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to photograph at the Moody Bible Institute downtown Chicago.  They had just completed a remodel of their Culbertson Hall.   It is a beautiful space and we had a blast shooting it.

In todays architectural photography world if you are shooting a space with no people in it then you are doing it wrong.  It has been a trend in the industry for years and for good reason.  These spaces were designed specifically for people.  Showing off projects with no people make them seem a little bare and lifeless.  Adding people to the photographs also helps the viewer understand the scale of the space and imagine themselves in it.

Adding people to architectural photographs is a completely different animal.  Not only do you have to light the space well, you have to light the people in the space in a complementary way too!  This raises many challenges in the positioning and power of the lighting.

We were scheduled to shoot the week before students got there so finding people to include in the shots was rare.  We ended up using a couple students we bumped into,  a few young looking staffers, and my assistant Payton (who still looks 19.... his words not mine) in several of the shots.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, in the image above you will find the extremely rare appearance of yours truly!!!

Shive Hattery Iowa City Design Office / Architectural Photography / AJ Brown Imaging

I photograph Shive Hattery's projects all over the Midwest and beyond, but this opportunity was a rare one.  They recently asked me to shoot their own brand new office in Iowa City.  Of course, I am honored and consider myself lucky to continually work for such a great company.  Naturally, they designed it themselves and it is beautiful!

Over the years I have been able to visit countless architecture and design firms.  This time I was really thinking about how important it is for a design firm to have a great space to work from.  It really does shape who they are and it also impacts ideas they bring to their clients.  The spaces need to promote collaboration and inspire creative problem solving.  Designers do not want to bring their potential clients into an out of date space and then pitch them new and interesting ideas that their office is unwilling to try.

It was obvious to me that the employees in the Shive Hattery's Iowa City office are genuinely excited to be working in there new office.  I have to admit, I was excited too!  It almost makes me want to trade in my self employment status and go work for them in Iowa City just to be able to work from this space (and whoop them all at ping pong over lunch).

Retail Architectural Photography / Von Maur Oklahoma City

Von Maur has officially opened it's 27th location! The newest is in the Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City and I was honored to be asked to photograph it a couple days before the grand opening this fall.  In typical Von Maur fashion this store is huge at 150,000 square feet and is now the anchor store in the Quail Springs Mall.  I absolutely love shooting these stores!  They pay so much attention to details in the lighting, I only have to do minimal supplemental lighting during the shoots which works out great because it affords me time to make more photographs than I typically would if I had to do extensive lighting for each shot.

I spent a lot of time studying the entry to the store from inside the mall.  It has so many features it was hard to decide what to focus on.  I settled on this angle above because it highlights the storefront as well as the escalator which tells the story of the busyness of the mall.  The escalator ads motion and life to the photograph which is always an appealing thing to incorporate if you are able to.

Dry Goods / Rochester Minnesota / Architectural Photography

   Dry Goods is a relatively new store that has been popping up all over the malls in the Midwest.  It was created by the well known Midwest based department store called Von Maur.  You may remember reading about the (at the time) newest Von Maur store in Rochester, NY on my blog late last year. I was asked to photograph their 13th and newest Dry Goods location in Rochester, MN a couple months ago.  

We had a very limited time to shoot this project as it was opening at noon the day of the shoot.  Luckily I had my trusty assistant Joel to help me out moving lights and do some staging.  That's actually the striking handsome/blurry Joel walking by the storefront in the image above.  I really owe a lot of the success of this shoot to him.  I probably could't have got it done in time without his hard work.  So here is a post dedicated to great assistants, something every photographer should have and never take for granted.  Cheers Joel!  Thanks a ton buddy. 

Von Maur Rochester New York / Architectural Photography

I recently traveled to the Rochester area to photograph the first Von Maur store to open in the state of New York.  Von Maur is a upscale department store that has around 30 stores located mostly in the Midwest but has recently opened stores in Tulsa, Atlanta and this one in Rochester.   

I spent 3 days studying and photographing this extremely large store.  Most of my time was spend shooting the interiors.  Not only did my clients want traditional exterior and interior photographs, they also were interested in images that captured Von Maurs specific display design style, color pallets, and unique features of this particular store.  This store specifically was interesting to me because photography was the theme.  Rochester was the corporate home of the Eastman Kodak Company.  Von Maur put a lot of thought into the interior decorating of this store to incorporate the photographic history of this region.  I was drooling over some of the old cameras displayed all over the store.  This one below was my favorite.

It was a unique photographic experience and I am looking forward to making images of their up and coming stores throughout the country.

Columbus High School's Architectural Photography shoot

Here is a small preview of a recent shoot I did at Columbus High School in Columbus Junction, Iowa.  The above image is the new administration building as well as an off site outreach center for Muscatine Community College.   The project was designed by Shive Hattery Architects and Engineers who were recently named one of the top firms in the US by Architectural Record. 

To go along with the new admin building the school also added a new sports facility that includes a gym, locker rooms, and wrestling facility.    

Short blog post this time as I have a lot of work to catch up on after returning from my fishing vacation to Minnesota.  Talk to you soon!

Linn-Mar High School Sports Complex Architectural Photography

The fans and players in Marion, Iowa have recently wrapped up their first season in their brand new baseball complex.  I got the impression that they do realize how lucky they are as the complex looks more like a college complex than a high school's.  Since the complex has completed its first year of use we decided to shoot it in a slightly lived in style while still keeping the images relatively clean and sleek.  The first image was made just after the softball girls finished their final game of the year.  I really love the effect this has on the field with the baselines worn and the obviously not freshly manicured infield.  The field almost appears to still be warm from the game just minutes ago. 

The shot of the locker room has much more obvious lived in effect.  We made this image just before the varsity team suited up for the game.   

Architectural Photography / AJ Brown Goes to Jail

   When I tell people I am an architectural photographer usually they conjure up images of me at exotic locations photographing outstandingly beautiful buildings and interiors.  Sure, sometimes that is true but what they don't realize is that a huge part of what I do is not that glamourous.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, and it is ALWAYS interesting!

   I would have to say the most interesting assignment of 2012 was what I referred to as "The Jail Tour".   AJ Brown Imaging traveled to three different county jails in the state of Illinois to photograph the exteriors and interiors.  I had a police escort with me the entire time while they moved inmates around to clear out the space for me to photograph.  The above image is cell block C at the Muscatine County Jail.   

   This image is the holding cells at the Mercer county Jail.  This is where people are taken when they first arrive at the station.   After they process your paperwork and find space for you they move you to an actual cell (seen below).

   Often, if I am able to, I like to go back and visit projects that I have shot and check in with the people I have met.  This project was a little different.  Although I did meet some great people, I was very clear with them that I hoped to never come back to see them!

   One thing I pride myself in is always meeting my clients needs.  A lot of photographers will only shoot the best looking or most prominent parts of a building or space.  Because of my unique style of shooting I am able to shoot a project much faster and less disruptive than many photographers in my field.  This gives me plenty of time to shoot the less desirable but still very useful parts of a space.  For example, in 2012 alone I photographed several power plants, utility closets, server rooms, empty garages, bus stops, bus washing buildings, sidewalks, interstates, and even an underground retaining wall!  But the Jail Tour was by far the most interesting.  

Here's to a fun and interesting 2013!

AIA's Iowa Architect Magazine

AIA Iowa's magazine IA Architect has selected to feature a project that I had the honor to photograph in Iowa City for their Green Issue.  I just wanted to share with you a quick post of the images that were selected for publication.  To order a copy of the magazine go to the AIA Iowa chapters website.  A big thank you to AIA Iowa and Shive Hattery Architects and Engineers!

Architectural Photography at Vander Veer Botanical Park and Observatory

This 2,700 square foot garden at Vander Veer Park in Davenport, Iowa was designed to serve as a therapy resource for people with disabilities of various kinds in the Quad City area.  The site features amazing wheelchair accessible raised bed planting areas, a wheelchair accessible water fountain, and a new sound system to play music during the horticulture therapy sessions.  Handicapped individuals will be able to plant, water, maintain, and even harvest their own projects.  Users may also include military veterans, people recovering from a stroke, those experiencing grief, and there are even planters designed to be used by the visually impaired. 

Local projects like this are one of the major reasons I love being an architectural photographer.  I get to play a part of the cultural renewal of my home town.   It is exhilarating to see and aid in bringing the  community together around innovative design with an important purpose.  
This is another amazing project designed by landscape architect Sandy Doran at Shive Hattery Architects and Engineers. 
As of Tuesday October 9th the park is open to the public as well. 

Architectural Photography at Illinois State University - Cardinal Court

Every project has its own unique hurdles to jump over. This is Illinois State University's Cardinal Court, their newest housing development for current students.  We had a short window of opportunity to shoot this project.  We had to shoot before the students moved because, well you can just imagine what the place would look like shortly after 894 college students took over.  We wanted to be there shooting right when all the construction was completed.  It came down to a one day window as the students were moving in the next day.  The landscape developers were still planting trees, shrubs, and watering the sod when I arrived to shoot the project,  it was obvious what my hurdle would be this time.  

At first this is a tiny bit frustrating, but no matter what the hurdle is it always results in exercising creativity muscles forcing me to look for new perspectives and ways to present a space or structure.  For example,  I really love the image at the top of the page.  The unique crop and height of the camera angle makes this image compelling.  I would have normally shown the ground and landscaping in an image like this, but the trees were freshly planted, the grass was dying from this years heat/drought, and the sprinklers were on in attempts to bring the grass back to life.  This resulted in me composing a unique perspective on the building. 

It looks like a great place to live!  The students should be very excited.

Project landscape designed by: Shive Hattery Architects and Engineers
Construction by: Weis Builders

Recent Interior Architectural Photography Shoots

  Over the past few weeks I have had several smaller projects I wanted to share with you.  The first one in the new Ryan Companies offices in Davenport, Iowa.  Ryan's corporate offices are in Minneapolis, MN.  They also have offices in IA, IL, FL, AZ, and CA. They are an amazing construction and design company and it was a pleasure working with them.  Congrats on the new office interior design! 

This is a new Trinity Express Medical Clinic in Bettendorf, Iowa.  They recently moved into an existing building and redesigned the entire interior with the help of the Quad Cities favorite interior design team, Paragon Commercial Interiors.  If you live in Bettendorf, now it is a pleasure to get sick and go to the doctor! 

This last shot is not really a desirealble place to be, although they do the best they can to make their patients comfortable.  This is an image of a newly updated cath lab.  The staff was great and very accomidating but I do not desire to ever go back.  Sorry guys!