In Focus is Archinect's series of features dedicated to profiling the photographers who help make the work of architects look that much better. What has attracted them to architecture? How do they work? What type of equipment do they use? What do they think about seeing their work in blogs?
In this feature, we talk to Tokyo-based German architect Thomas Volstorf.
Archinect: What is your relationship with architecture? What drew you to architecture, as a photographer?
Thomas Volstorf: I studied architecture, and work as an architect. So, the question should really be the other way around. Knowing about the process of designing architecture, I think, helps me to go beyond depiction of mere buildings. For me urban life and specifically how people interact - or don't - with their built environment is most interesting. Isn't architecture meant to be interacted with?
Naturally, living and working in Tokyo Metropolis did fire up my photo-taking ambitions.
Describe how you work... who are your clients?
TV: I am doing street photography exclusively. In general, I find post-production more exciting than the comprehensive preparation needed for studio photography or professional architecture photography.
My camera is always with me, even on the way to work. The worst thing that could happen is when I see something interesting and did leave my camera at home for some reason.
I don't usually work on commission. This is one of the downside of my profession as an architect. It is simply impossible to pursue photography at a more professional level AND work as an architect at the same time, at least not in Japan... though I do get licensing requests or commissions once in a while through my flickr page and friends of friends which I happily accept.
Do you mostly work in a specific region? What is your travel schedule like?
TV: I work in Yokohama and live in Tokyo. Both places are great for what I want to capture. Through work I frequently travel to Europe. I always have some kind of camera with me.
What is your goal when capturing buildings in photographs?
TV: As part of my work as an architect I take pictures of buildings and building details for personal inspiration and as reference. I think as an architect you often look at buildings from awkward angles or in strange contexts. I found that this can be interesting for non-architects as well especially when capturing "no-name" buildings.
What are your thoughts about including people in your photos? Is it important to photograph a building in use, or by itself?
TV: Essential. You can gain so much insight into why different cultures have different architecture by just looking at how people interact with their built environment. It explains almost everything. It uncovers the greatest flaws and discloses the greatest chance. It doesnt matter whether it is anonymous or star-architecture. Paradoxically, you need to let people get out of the frame sometimes to transport the meaning.
What are your favorite pieces of equipment?
TV: My standard Olympus E-520, 14-42mm, is all I need... and a certain software.
Do you work alone?
TV: Yes. On my photowalks, I prefer to be alone. It's a very chaotic and spontanous process that doesn't work out if I distress myself with a companions supposed schedule.
How do you feel about seeing your photographs on blogs and websites?
TV: My interest in photography was elevated by flickr and the instant feedback you can receive to your photographs. I also get license requests for photos through flickr, which is amazing.
If nobody looks at a picture, it is probably not that interesting, simple as that. This was very important for my motivation at first.
I also met a couple of photographers through flickr in real life which really helped to put my work in perspective. So, I think the internet in general is a good thing.
Of course, I would like to know what people think about my photos, when they think about them. This sometimes gets lost when links to my photostream make a career in bloggersphere without me getting a chance to know about it.
born 1978 in Neubrandenburg, Germany
studied architecture in Weimar, Germany and Tokyo, Japan
works as an architect in Yokohama, Japan