Wayne Thom’s architectural photography captures the shapes and textures, the contrasts and reflections of the built environment. He spoke to the LA Forum about the current exhibition of his work, Matter, Light, and Form: Architectural Photographs of Wayne Thom, 1968-2003, presented by the Julius Shulman Institute on view at WUHO Gallery through December 20.
How did working with A. Quincy Jones impact your understanding of architectural photography?
The thing about Quincy Jones is that his projects were not about the façade of the building, but a balance of form and function. In this respect Quincy was probably one the most sensitive architects in terms of design, form, shape, and the functionality of the project. This idea of balance is something I always try to convey with my photographs.
Why do you shoot your photographs with nothing more than a spot meter and natural light?
The whole secret to photography is to visualize what the final photograph is going to look like and the final statement you want to make is before you even take the picture. In order to create a photograph that has a balance of both highlights and shadows some of the things you have to understand is sensitometry, optics, and brightness control. In order to do that I use a spot meter to take a measurement of both where I want there to be shadows and highlights, after that it is just knowing how many stop differences you need for your film and what it can handle to take the image. Through development and choosing the right exposure I don’t have to use any other lights.
How do you feel about USC acquiring your archive?
I love the idea of having the archive at USC because it can both stay in one place as well as be open to the public so that anyone who maybe interested in architecture of the era can take a look. Quite few of the projects I photographed have already been torn down, such as Pasadena Plaza, or have been altered from initial creation, such as Sherman Oaks Galleria. The archive will serve as a method of preservation of what these projects were meant to be.