From a young age, I fancied myself a skilled engineer, an architect of great renown. Of course, instead of brick and mortar my tools were Lego blocks, but the point remains. I convinced myself that in ran in my blood. My father is a trained civil engineer, and my aunt received her undergraduate degree in architecture. Even my grandfather, a marine paleobiologist, built with the help of his children a beach house in Recife, Brazil in the 70's. Although my academic pursuits eventually drifted away from the blueprints in my head, my interest in architecture was reignited when I began studying at the Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
One might consider a handheld Rolleiflex 3.5F an odd choice for architectural photograhy, where ultra-wide angle lenses reign supreme. The Rollei features a 75mm Zeiss Planar lens, which renders beautifully, but given the 6x6cm size of the medium format negative, the 35mm-equivalent field of view is roughly equal to that of a 50mm lens. Add to that the 1:1 aspect ratio, think your traditional Instagram square frame, and the amount of a building you can capture is severely limited. Given these limitations, I chose to frame many of my shots near the top of the structures, ignoring the ground level as you would if you were peering up at them from street level.
If you do, however, wish to ground your images, quite literally, while using longer focal lengths, you're going to have to get low. The Rollei's waist-level viewfinder did, I admit, make focusing difficult at these angles, however stopping down the apertures to increase depth-of-field did give me more room for error. In scenarios such as this, a beanbag, rock, or compact tripod would certainly help hold the camera in place and prevent bumps or shakes. Having none of these on hand, I relied on the semi-fast 400-speed Tri-X film, a shutter release cable, and a steady hand.
Certain genres of photography are inherently more susceptible to saturation than others. A building is stationary, an unmoving, unchanging subject. With the advent of social media, this problem has only been magnified. On any given day, hundreds or thousands of people may look upon a certain structure with fondness, take out their phone, and snap a picture from practically the same viewpoint. The internet thus becomes filled with nearly identical pictures of the same buildings, forcing those who enjoy shooting architectural photographs to get creative in order to stand out. When it came to photographing Davis Library, one of UNC's most recognizeable landmarks, unique composition as well as quality and shape of light were essential to achieve images that were, if not entirely new, more than just another brick in the wall.