The series of architectural photographers – 1: Iwan Baan


Manhattan in the dark just after Hurricane Sandy, 2012, © Iwan Baan. Taken at night with a handheld digital camera, this famous photograph demonstrates Baan’s ability to turn his exceptional technical skills into expressiveness.

The series of architectural photographers – 1: Iwan Baan

Born in Alkmaar, the Netherlands, in 1975, Iwan Ban is widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential architectural photographers in history, renowned for his “human-centered” approach to architectural photography.
Baan, who studied photography at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and has no formal training in architecture, has developed a personal approach to architectural photography quite different from the traditional one. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas was the first to realize that Baan’s unconventional, documentary-oriented way of taking architectural photos would lead to an original and new depiction of architecture. Baan, in fact, does not only focus on buildings but creates sorts of “street scenes” in which the architecture interacts strongly with people and relates to its urban/natural context.

“Baan followed his interest in documentary photography, before focusing on recording the different ways in which individuals, communities and societies create and interact within their built environment.” on the Iwan Baan website

Yet in his photos, people never look like they’re posing or being “directed” by someone else; they always act in a very natural and casual way; more than architectural photography, his work could be called “architectural photojournalism”.
Such interest in the relationship between people and architecture is particularly evident in his images of the unfinished Tower David in Caracas, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2012, the Konokono Vaccination Center designed by SelgasCano Architects in Kenya, and Herzog & de Meuron’s Morro Arena gymnasium in Brazil.

Although technically very rigorous (you will hardly find a line that is not perfectly vertical in his photos), Baan does not prepare his shots obsessively, as many architectural photographers do by waiting for hours for the perfect light and the perfect sky background; he films rather instinctively, instead, at all hours of the day – including noon, which is generally considered the worst time of day to film outdoors – he travels light and alone, without assistants, and still uses his pocket camera, without tripods. Yet he frequently hires a helicopter to photograph buildings from above and from unorthodox vantage points.
Baan’s favorite gear includes rather standard Canon 35mm digital cameras, usually paired with ultra-wide and medium-to-super telephoto lenses. He also uses an Apple iPhone to take photos and videos which he regularly posts on his Instagram page.

Iwan Baan official website –

Iwan Baan, UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo, Thomas Heatherwick

Seed Cathedral, UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo – Thomas Heatherwick, 2010, © Iwan Baan.

Iwan Baan, Arena do Morro gymnasium, Herzog de Meuron

Arena do Morro Gymnasium, Natal, Brazil – Herzog & de Meuron, 2014, © Iwan Baan.

Iwan Baan, Vagelos Educational Center, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Vagelos Education Center, New York, USA – Diller Scofidio + Renfro, 2017, © Iwan Baan.

Iwan Baan, David Tower, Caracas

Torre David, Caracas, Venezuela © Iwan Baan.

Chaoyang Plaza MAD, Iwan Baan

Chaoyang Park Plaza, Beijing, China – MAD Architects; © Iwan Baan, 2017.

Iwan Baan, Heydar Aliyev Center Baku Zaha Hadid 3

Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan – Zaha Hadid Architects, 2012, © Iwan Baan.

Makoko Floating School Branch, Iwan Baan

Makoko Floating School, Lagos, Nigeria – Kunlé Adeyemi NLÉ, 2013; © Iwan Baan.

Iwan Baan, Konokono Vaccination Centre, Kenya, SelgasCano 2

Konokono Vaccination Centre, Turkana, Kenya – SelgasCano, 2014, © Iwan Baan.

The City and the Storm, New York Aerial, Iwan Baan

Titled ‘The City and the Storm’, this famous nighttime view of helpless Manhattan just after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was taken by Baan from a chartered helicopter with a handheld Canon EOS-1D X and a 24-70mm lens , set to ISO 25600, a 1/40 sec. shutter speed and an f/2.8 aperture. After appearing on the cover of New York Magazinethe photo was also made into posters by MoMA to support Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Harbin Opera, MAD, Iwan_Baan

Harbin Opera House, Harbin, China – MAD Architects, 2016; © Iwan Baan.

Iwan Baan, Teshima Art Museum, Sanaa

Teshima Art Museum, Teshima, Japan – Ryue Nishizawa, 2011, © Iwan Baan.


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