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Photography

Art Deco Facades I

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This is a the facade of the Former State Insurance Building, 143-149 Lambton Quay (Wellington, New Zealand).  The wavy facade was all the rage in Europe when the building was constructed in 1940.  A sculpture with jumbled letters rises from street level and is seen in the right hand side of the image.

A bit of history

State Insurance was established in 1903 by the then liberal government to provide competition for large foreign based insurance companies.  State Insurance was sold to Norwich Insurance in 1990.

The building itself was designed by Auckland firm Gummer and Ford who used glass extensively and introduced features such as fast lifts, fluorescent lighting and fire protection to match its innovative design.  In 1999 the controversial multi-storey rooftop addition and embedded Classical columns (carrying the former owner’s name in bronze letters) was added.

Images: Then and Now

 

*State Insurance building on the corner of Stout Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington (1942)

*State Insurance building on the corner of Stout Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington (1942)

State Insurance building on the corner of Stout Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington (October 2013)

State Insurance building on the corner of Stout Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington (October 2013)

Art Deco has really intrigued me of late and has given me a new lease of life in terms of photographic interest. I love the designs and want to capture the essence of them through photography but at the same time learn about the history of the buildings.  This interest has really made me see things through a fresh set of eyes and has made me realise how art-deco-rich Wellington is.

I’ve also quickly learnt that shooting images of buildings can be problematic and I’ve listed my main pain points below.  I’d be interested in hearing from some of you out there if you’ve experienced or encountered similar problems like this and what you’ve done to get around them.

  1. It’s hard to find interesting angles to shoot from as you’re always looking up (and it gives you a crook neck if you’re too close – my photo is above is an exception as I shot from almost directly below the face of the building)
  2. Power lines and cables get in the way (I don’t feel so bad as the photographer who took the 1942 image above had to contend with cables too)
  3. People and traffic get in the way (maybe I’ll use an ND filter to make them disappear)
  4. You need to find the right time of day to photograph your subject (depends on what effect you’re after)
  5. Dealing with exposure –  if you’re shooting quite a large building in segments, shooting towards and away from the sky will change your exposure levels and this will become problematic if you plan to stitch together your images into a panorama in post.
  6. Choice of lens – wide-angle lenses capture everything but may distort the image, a mid-range (18-55 mm) is okay but you don’t get the width of a wide-angle
  7. It’s difficult to shoot from above ground level (as you can’t just walk into a building across the street and up a few stories opposite your photographic interest – I have thought about it though)

Hope to publish some new photos and stories soon.

*Image ref: State Insurance building on the corner of Stout Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington. Raine, William Hall, 1892-1955 :Negatives of New Zealand towns and scenery, and Fiji. Ref: 1/1-018038-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22723459

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