Building Stories-small photo

This photograph was taken from the Arc with the Torah in foreground of the Temple Emanu-El at 2 Lake St. San Francisco. The building was built in 1926 by the Architects Bakewell and Brown who designed the San Francisco City Hall and the restoration photographed here was done by RMW Architects and Plant Construction. The congregation was founded in 1854.


Building Stories:

The Artistry of the Built Environment;
Architectural Photography of Bob Swanson

Artists are, at least in a personal sense, whatever their medium, storytellers. Every home, office, garage, city park, power plant… even the streets you walk, the barn you admire or the garden you love to work in, have a story. The architectural photographer gets to tell that story in oh so many ways. The story can be as simple as the graphical way the built space looks with a certain light on it. It could be the way it works against the sky or its neighboring buildings or environment, but mostly it lies in how it is used and what purposes it may serve.

After more than four decades of building and photographing them, I have captured the stories in imagery of so many constructions, from places of worship, to offices, from homes to historic landmarks, from laboratories to parks and city landscapes and so much more. In this exhibition I will be showing a wide variety of the various types of architectural photography, and bits and pieces of the stories of these constructions. The images will, hopefully, show architecture and design of the built environment as the truly fine art that it is.

Yes, there is a necessary commercial aspect to this kind of work. But, in the end, the collaboration between photographer, architect, consultant, art director, contractor and owner engages the photographer to communicate the essence of the built environment to increase a greater understanding of it and to provide the esthetic understanding of its intrinsic beauty. Thus, creating a representation of the essence of all of the hard work and creative effort put in by those who designed and constructed it.

Mission Bay Housing

Mission Bay Housing

For years, I have had to deal with the idea that architectural photography is more a technical and commercial endeavor and is not a fine art. Not so much by statements to that effect, but more by the sense of a lack of understanding of what the viewers are actually seeing. I think it comes from the nature of the built space in our everyday lives. Buildings and structures are so common place that their mundaneness colors our view of the artistic rendition of it. My goal here is to show the ordinary in a new light and to peak a new awareness of the meaning of the lines and the light, the graphic relationships and the implications of use of any given space. In short, to tell a story, as only art can, of what the space is about.

Thank you,

Bob Swanson

Join Bob in the Museum on May 23rd, from 3-5pm on May 23rd, when he will be holding an informal Q&A about his photographs and the stories behind them.