The following dissertation attempts to approach the issue of what consists an “official” image of a signature building such as a Museum from Photography’s point of view. Why are the professional photographs presenting museums in architectural books and magazines so different than the actual experience of an every day visitor? Apart from technical skills what differentiates the informed professional from the average spectator of a museum who points and shoots his/her camera in order to capture the experience of a visit?
Three museums have been selected to work as case studies: Tate Modern in London, UK, The New Benaki Museum in Athens and The Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki. All three are building designed by Influential contemporary architects: Herzog and de Meuron designed Tate Modern, Andreas Kourkoulas and Maria Kokkinou designed The New Benaki Museum and the late Kyriakos Krokos was the architect of the Museum of Byzantine Civilization in Thessaloniki.
Each building is initially approached in historical and architectural terms, following a step-by-step brief analysis of its style and function. Their basic characteristics are addressed in order to lay the path for the photographic analysis that follows suit.
Then all three buildings are approached through the “gaze of somebody else”, the professional photographers who are responsible for the official image of a Museum, and the average spectator, which is currently represented in this essay by my own personal photographic practice. In Tate Modern’s case photography participates through a literature review whereas in the case of Benaki and the Byzantine Museum the photographs were taken during visits in both buildings in Athens and Thessaloniki, respectively.
To conclude, some personal thoughts are expressed addressing the issue of professional photography of architecture. It is argued that each photographer presents his or her work based on an assignment or an order, thus trying to depict the building in its “top form” regardless of his or her own personal experience. On the other hand the average visitor is deeply and personally involved in the process of photographing a Museum in an attempt to immortalize his/her presence in it and hardly the building per se.