“Buildings don´t move.”
It’s time to get to know one of the most recent additions to the 1x curator team. Jan Gravekamp is well known for his brilliant architectural photography and his knowledge in the field is invaluable when it comes to finding new architectural gems.
When browsing through an artist’s portfolio, we often like to know what made this particular artist create this particular kind of art. We want clear lines. After reading a few sentences about the artist´s background, we like to think we are able to draw the lines connecting the artist to the art. With Jan Gravekamp, the lines couldn´t be clearer. He is an educated engineer and is therefore photographing buildings and structures. But maybe there is more than meets the eye.
Many who watch Jans´s architectural work feel that the depicted structures represent something more than concrete and girders fused together. Some buildings look happy, some look imposing, some give a sense of the future, while others are nostalgically looking back to a time long gone. His buildings have souls.
Born and raised in the Hauge in the Netherlands, Jan studied Civil Engineering and eventually ended up as a Sr. Project Manager in the Oil and Gas industry. It was through his uncle that he discovered photography;
“My uncle was photographing and developing his films and photos in his own dark room and I was really fascinated by this. I bought myself a Pentax ME Super camera which I used for several years.”
For various reason he stopped taking photos, but the interest didn’t die out and one day he walked inside a photo store and bought a digital camera just on impulse;
“From that point on, photography became a passion. Coming from an engineering background I was almost instantly attracted to architectural photography. I started to learn more and met people with the same interest. I increased my skills by reading articles and analyzing photos of other photographers.”
Photography is by no means his only interest. Jan Gravekamp loves to listen to music, everything from pop to opera and he tries to find time to read. He is also a devoted cyclist and has participated in long distance races all over Europe.
His varied interests in culture may also be a clue to why his photos are more than just deptictions of buildings;
"When shooting architecture I don’t consider myself an observer, but more of an inspector. I look for the relationship between the environment and the subject. Or I try to extract a certain detail out of the subject, thus creating a new subject.”
When he is preparing a shot, Jan Gravekamp is meticulous. He uses Google Maps to know what time of day that will offer the best light. Then he begins by taking a walk around the building, looking for interesting angles and compositions. He is always searching for elements that can be used in the final image;
“Can you make use of reflections? The sky? Is there a special symmetry, lines from corners or diagonals that can be used? Are there street elements such as lampposts that I can use? How can I include a human element in such a way that the proportions of the building will be clear? How can I make use of the light and shadows?”
With all these preparations, it’s easy to think that Jan Gravekamp´s favorite photo is a technically perfect shot of some advanced building taken under perfect conditions. Actually, it’s not.
"If I have to choose, it has to be this one. Although it is not architecture, there is a connection. I can clearly remember that I got up early on a Sunday morning to go out shooting since fog was predicted. I did not have a clear plan but decided to drive around the city center to see if I could catch some nice moody pictures. The moment I passed this place in The Hague I was immediately caught by the scene. I parked my car, took out my gear and hurried to that location. The fog was fading away because of the sunrise and a lady was passing by. The overall mood of the scene with the modern buildings in construction against the old nostalgic lamps and scenery was awesome and the moment I pressed my button, I knew this was a picture which would be special to me and it still is.”
Jan Gravekamp is not simply photographing buildings. He is photographing scenes where the architecture is a medium through which he can convey a feeling or a mood to the viewer. According to Jan himself, there is however another, possibly less profound reason behind his choice of genre;
“Buildings don´t move!”