Behind the Lens: Iwan Baan gives impromptu photo workshop

Over two dozen students crammed into the newly opened photo studio in the basement of Gund Hall on Wednesday for a hands-on workshop with one of the world’s premier architectural photographers. Iwan Baan, who has documented some of the most famous buildings of our time, kicked off the GSD’s spring lecture program the night before with a discussion of his recent work documenting informal settlements.

“I don’t really photograph models,” said the unassuming Dutchman, who proceeded to share a selection of stunning, interactive images of architectural models created for such A-list clients as Rem Koolhaas and Stephen Holl. The immersive panoramas weren’t created with the latest 3D modeling software. They were done the old fashioned way—with a handheld camera, tungsten light, and a series of tiny, high-tech mirrors manufactured exclusively for the artist and installed throughout the interior of the model.

GSD photo studio

While it’s unlikely any of the attendees will pioneer the next wave in photo optics (or rent a helicopter to get the perfect aerial shot), Baan offered plenty of practical advice that anyone at the GSD could employ.  

Through simple manipulation of lamps, backgrounds, and diffusers—all available in the new studio—Baan demonstrated how to harness the transformative properties of light to produce a range of visual effects. He also offered solutions to common problems such as how to create depth through back or side lighting and how to eliminate glare on highly reflective services.

When asked what equipment he uses, Baan demurred. “The camera isn’t really important,” he said. “The best camera is the one you have with you because it’s capturing the moment.” 

The photo studio is located in Gund L41 and is available to GSD students for photographing models (spring hours TBD). For help photographing your project, contact [email protected].

Photos: Maggie Janik