Therme Vals Tryptich, at Fragments of Light exhibition (main photo)
© Hélène Binet, courtesy ammann//gallery, Cologne
Last Saturday in Los Angeles London-based artist Hélène Binet received the prestigious Julius Shulman Award of Excellence 2015 in conjunction with the opening of her new exhibition Fragments of Light at the Woodbury University Hollywood Gallery. As an architectural photographer she has produced a large archive of images documenting buildings by leading contemporary architects such as Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and Peter Zumthor. Some of her most personal works focus on the play of light with form.
Binet continues shooting on film, which gives her images a certain richness and a depth in the details, something that is not possible to achieve in digital photography. She works with a large format camera, or a Hasselblad which is slightly easier to carry around, and likes the intensity and restriction that comes with the process of taking photographs on film. “I believe photography is about celebrating an instant. You say yes to it and commit yourself to that moment”, she explained at the preview of the exhibition Constructing Worlds at the Barbican in London. The exhibition, which opened in Stockholm last month at the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design, is an in-depth survey of the different ways the built environment has been used as a subject in documentary, fine art photography and photojournalism.
From Binet’s archive a series of images of the Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind was selected for Constructing Worlds: “The curators chose the subject and they had a very precise idea – that’s why the show is so good”, she explained. Libeskind was an important inspiration for Binet at the start of her career and she was thrilled when she got the opportunity to photograph the Jewish Museum: “It’s an interesting program, the void and the light, something you experience very strongly in the building.” The display of black and white images include a series of nine small photographs, handprinted by Binet herself. “I like to do things by hand, to create an object, not just files. In the darkroom it’s a creative moment. For a big print I might do some digital adjustments about the contrast or the amount of light or dark, but it’s very strict”.
Binet’s work has been exhibited widely and includes also historic architecture (a series on Hawksmoor buildings, at Venice Biennale in 2012) and Le Corbusier. Her photographs demonstrate a particular understanding of architecture, inspired by the abstracted forms of Lucien Hervé, Le Corbusier’s trusted photographer, as well as paintings by Giotto and Vermeer. Of the many buildings Binet has photographed and experienced one of her favourite ones is the Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor (in the top image) in her native country Switzerland: “One of the structural elements there is the water – it’s quite amazing”