March 4, 2014

Architecture Meets Time In a Stunning New Book


image from Here/After book

If a book can be a work of art, Here/After: Structures in Time is just that. With 38 large, emotion-inducing photos by the remarkably talented Paul Clemence and words by the poetic, inspiring writer Robert Landon, this piece of art bound between book covers is a show-stopper.

image from Here/After book

The limited-edition printing debuted during Art Basel/Design Miami a few months ago, in December 2013.  Within its Mohauk eggshell paper pages, viewers find images of well-known, award-winning architecture as well as unknown alleys and construction sites. Photographer Clemence never offers the expected view. Likewise, Landon does not bring trite wordsmithing to the project. Instead, each man explores the idea of time in a way that inspires thought, encourages exploration, and challenges perceptions.

image from Here/After book

I was lucky enough to chat with both talented artists about their wonderful new work. What a treat!

image from Here/After book

GL: The book is gorgeous! And I love that it’s a limited edition. Tell me about the book in the physical sense.

PC: The size is 9 x 11, soft cover, and this is what we call a “preview edition”—akin to an artist proof or a limited edition print series. Each of the 100 copies is signed and numbered and no more will be printed exactly like this. Once the 100 copies—printed with pride in the heart of NYC—are gone, that’s it. It’s more of an exclusive item, not something that there will be thousands of copies of circulating out there. It’s a book as an art piece.

GL: How did the two of you meet and come to be a team?

RL: I needed photos of Miami’s Art Deco architecture, and coincidentally Paul was just finishing up his beautiful book about South Beach. A friend introduced us, and our mutual passion for architecture cemented the working relationship. And over the years that has turned into a real friendship as well. And in fact, Paul has converted me into a lover of contemporary architecture that I am sure I would once have disdained.

PC: Yes we started working with the journalistic pieces, but quickly realized we had a lot in common and slowly developed a friendship parallel to the working relationship. So it is quite fortunate because we get to go on very productive work/travel excursions but ones that are also very enjoyable and inspiring. We’ve been doing this for a while and that, without a doubt, helped to bring about the book because not only do we know each other’s work very well, we know how each other works, which is important when producing a collaborative project.

GL: Is this your first major project together?

RL: We have been working together on short journalistic pieces for more than 10 years, but this is our first big project together, and our first purely creative effort.

GL: How did the idea of ‘architecture in time’ come to you? What was the discussion around the idea?

RL: At a design conference in Brazil called BOOM Design, Paul gave a compelling presentation about the challenge of capturing architecture—a 3D medium—in photography—a 2D medium. When we were asked to participate in Design Miami’s Inventory 04 show in 2013, the topic was time, and we realized time is in fact the invisible fourth dimension that is inherent in all experiences of architecture. And, of course, time is also central to the challenge of photographing not just a building but also the experience of moving through it.

GL: I am so curious about many of the photographs. Do you have a list of where, when, and the subjects of each photo? What do you see as the visual thread that links them all together? Did you take these photos specifically for this project or is it a collection of your work?

PC: Yes, at the end of the book there is an index of the where the photo was taken, when and, when relevant, the architect. The images were selected from my archives and from different periods. For me the visual thread of these images is how I see architecture—sometimes highly abstract, sometimes partial views, but always very expressive of the building, telling of those intangible ways architecture enters our subconscious. In this case, that the images also relate somehow to time was part of the filtering, whether they related to the more narrative or abstract and poetic part of Robert’s writing.

GL: The writing also intrigues me. Robert, did you write with Paul’s photographs in mind or even in hand? Are your words specific to this project? Or is this a collection of your works over time? What do you think was your major inspiration here?

RL: A little of both—sometimes I wrote with specific images of Paul’s in mind, for example our chapter called “Fog.” Other times, I wrote more abstractly about the connection of time, space and architecture, and then we had to dig into Paul’s catalogue to illustrate the concept.

In fact, probably the most exciting part of the project was the day when we sat down and tried to bring together the story of the text with Paul’s images. It was like taking a really good drug, with none of the downside! I think that process grew out of years of getting to know each other’s work, each other’s strengths, and so it happened very quickly. It really was a thrill to tell a story, sometimes a very abstract story, with images, but also to create a narrative flow—a book that makes you want to keep turning the pages. It was a bit like shooting and editing a movie, something I have always dreamed of doing.

PC: If I could chime in here, one of the things that I like about Robert’s writing (specifically his architectural writing) is that he comes to this not with an architecture background with all its dogmas, pre-conceived notions and closed-in self references and sound bites. He brings to it a fresh take, more on par with what most of the general population can relate to. And does that through his literary gift, giving it a unique flow.

GL: Do you have more collaborative projects planned or even in the works?

RL: We hope to get to Japan this year, since that is such a hotbed of contemporary architecture. We also have batted around an idea of writing short city guides that focus on architecture and urban planning. Let’s see!

image from Here/After book

Intrigued? You can preview the book before you buy. And I should mention that, not surprisingly, Clemence’s Archi-Photo has become a viral phenomenon online. Follow Archi-Photo on both Facebook and Twitter to see Clemence’s amazing images.

I wish these artists all the best in this project surveying where architecture meets time and all their future endeavors. I can’t wait to see the next collaboration between these two visionaries!

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