It’s not hard to spot them, even at the massive U.S. Bank Stadium, where dozens of people are mugging for cameras — cellphone cameras, which slip easily into pockets.
These photographers look like the real thing, weighed down by SLR cameras with lenses the size of Maxwell House coffee cans, lugging telescoping tripods and bulky backpacks. Some sport those multi-pocketed vests that National Geographic photographers wear when they’re stalking wild animals.
Members of the Architectural Photography Enthusiasts are stalking, too. Something a little less wild, maybe, but just as challenging: buildings.
Jenny Herz of Prior Lake tries to capture reflected images. Vincent King of Woodbury focuses on exteriors “and how they blend with the landscape and the sky.” Debra Fisher Goldstein of St. Louis Park studies “the way people interact with man-made structures.”
The dozen or so members of the ad hoc group scour the Twin Cities, sometimes heading outstate, to photograph edgy new stadiums, grand libraries, churches, banks, orphanages, mausoleums. By working the angles, waiting for the right light, switching lenses and filters, they’re trying to tell the story of these fixed structures and the changeable world around them.
“People might think photographing buildings is static, but it’s not,” said Fisher Goldstein. “The light moves, the clouds move and we move around the buildings.”
Architectural photography is a form of what King calls “slow photography.” One that takes discipline, patience and a willingness to look for what many other people simply don’t see.
“A lot of people don’t see the beauty in architecture,” said Lisa Bond of North Oaks, “but buildings — old buildings, new buildings — they all have their own personalities.”
The group came together several years ago in a class taught by local architectural photographer Don F. Wong at the Mpls Photo Center. They liked the subject matter — and each other — so much that they continued shooting together when the class ended.
“We’re all completely different and have completely different styles, but we can all appreciate each other’s talent and approach,” said Herz.
Charles Hezsely’s challenge is to “see how the building might surprise me.” The St. Paul man credits the group with helping him “to slow down and to find the angles and the perspective. I don’t mind spending two or three hours with a building,” he said.
Jon Wilbrecht of Minneapolis values the camaraderie. “Photography is a notoriously solitary kind of thing,” he said, “so it’s nice to get out and shoot with other people.”
At first, the group met monthly. These days, it’s quarterly. The meetups tend to be all-business. One member picks a building, maybe does a little homework about it, sometimes gets special access. Members meet at the allotted time and try to spend a few minutes chatting, but one by one they peel away from the group, chasing the light or a certain detail they have to capture right away.
They’ve gone on the road a couple of times, traveling to Rochester and Owatonna. Sometimes they meet for lunch. Mostly, though, they shoot and share their photographs on a private Facebook page where they encourage each other, offering tips and suggestions
“It’s nice to have our photos analyzed, because that’s what helps us grow as photographers,” said Herz.
Indeed, many of the members work as professional photographers, full time or on the side. And nearly all of them shoot other things — wildlife, landscape, portraits, demolition derbies.
But they maintain that architectural photography offers its own rewards.
“I’m shy of people, so I decided to do buildings,” said Bond. “You don’t have to make them sit still, you don’t have to make them smile. They’re just there and you can work them. You can’t really arrange anything but yourself.”