While earning his bachelor’s degree in architecture, Rafael Gamo took a photography course. He was smitten, but stayed true to his first love. After graduation, he worked for architecture firms in Mexico City while still pursuing photography on the side. One day a photographer couldn’t make it to a shoot and the lead architect, who’d seen some of Gamo’s personal work, asked him to fill in. One shoot led to another, and after six years of juggling both, Gamo hung up his drafting tools (or closed his CAD program) to practice photography full time.
Nearly a decade later, Gamo is based in New York City and Mexico City, and travels worldwide to document a wide range of architectural projects, from large corporate offices to small interiors to entire campuses. Gamo’s talent is being able to capture the essence of a place, as well as the architectural experience of the building, the latter being proof that you never forget your first love.
We caught up with the busy photographer and asked him about his work.
Q: How do you approach a building to photograph it?
A: I spend a lot of time at the project. Ideally, I’ll have a whole day, starting before sunrise until after sunset, to frame and choose the angles I want to shoot. Then I wait for the best light. There’s a lot of planning but also a lot of improvisation. I can predict how light will effect different areas but then I’ll be walking around and see something and shoot it right then.
Q: When people photograph buildings what is the mistake they most often make?
A: Not waiting for the right moment to shoot. If you take a photo when you first see it, it becomes like travel photography. Light is important. The right light is very important.
Q: What is your favorite time of day to shoot?
A: Sunrise and sunset. [Editor’s note: When trying to get an interview with a photographer, ask for noon.]
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting a career in architectural photography?
A: There are no bad projects to start with. New photographers say to me “you get the best projects” but your job is to get the best possible image even if the project is not that interesting. Who knows, your interesting photo of a not-so-interesting building could inspire an architect to do something better. They might see something that gives them an idea.
Q: In addition to light, what’s important to you when photographing buildings?
A: With many buildings, especially public ones, it’s important to include people in the shot. Not only does it help show the scale of the architecture, but it also helps to communicate the way space or a building works.