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Beyond Form: The Art and Impact of the Human Figure in Architectural Photography

Architectural photography does more than just documenting buildings and spaces. It is a medium through which the architect’s intentions and creative endeavours are brought to life through the photographer’s lens. Still, there have been many debates on whether during an architectural photo-shooting figures should be included or not. Especially during the modernism era, architectural photographers were divided between those who captured buildings in their pure, clean, sculptural form, while others used the human figure as a way to convey a sense of scale and functionality within the space.

Antiparos Property | West Valley Design & Development

Electra Palace Rhodes

The presence of people within the frame provides viewers with a tangible reference point, allowing them to comprehend the true proportions of the architectural space. Whether they are climbing a spiral staircase, walking through an atrium or simply occupying small, designated corners, individuals become vital indicators of scale. This approach not only humanizes the space but also enables the audience to better appreciate spatial relationships, offering a more immersive understanding of the architect's design. | A&M Architects

Villa Aimilia | AVW Architects

Villa in Oropos | Architect: Kostas Kalaitzakis

In addition, including people in shots essentially fabricates a narrative and shapes a story. Going beyond traditional architectural occupancy, people also become cultural conduits, by showcasing how individuals engage with and shape the architecture in accordance with cultural practices and social dynamics. Through this lens, architectural photography transforms into a storytelling medium, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between design, function, culture and society. | A&M Architects

Paros Residence | Studio Seilern Architects

Hellenica HQ | MD Architects

Naturally, there are more than one way to incorporate human figures in architectural photography. Varying from spontaneous compositions to close-ups or alternating between static and animated photography, the way in which people occupy space literally brings architecture to life. Although populated architectural photography is not a newfound trend, its “popularity” has risen immensely in the past decade. Promoting the playful nature of human imperfection, including people in architectural photography stops viewing buildings as merely sculptures, but rather as part of wider cultures and vibrant urban fabrics.