In Focus: Jason O’Rear’s Captivating Architectural Photography Comes From the Eye of a Skilled Architect | Characteristics

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AUDREY IRMAS PAVILION. Architect: OMA New York; Location: Los Angeles; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

On point is Archinect’s recurring series dedicated to profiling photographers who help capture architecture and make architects’ work even more beautiful. In this series, we ask ourselves: what is their relationship to architecture? How do they work? What are their goals when capturing buildings?

For this episode, Archinect interviews Jason O’Rear, an architectural photographer based in San Francisco. With a career that includes a professional training in architecture, Jason brings a seasoned and empathetic eye to the spaces he captures with his camera. His work emphasizes the synthesis of structure, human experience and landscape.

What is your relationship with architecture? What drew you to architecture as a photographer?

I went to architecture school, both undergraduate and graduate. I practiced architecture for almost 10 years before making the full-time transition to photography. As a student, and during my architectural practice, I had a passion for landscape photography. Over the years, my interest in landscape and architectural photography began to blend. The moment of transition, however, came when the Salesforce Tower was completed in San Francisco. I previously worked for Pelli Clarke & Partners and had an enriching experience there. Since I am a San Franciscan, I have a special appreciation for the city’s unique light and climate. Given my history with PCPA, I also understood the rigorous effort their team put into the project; I could capture him in a way he deserved and no one else could. Throughout the process, I learned even more about my city. It was an adventure and instilled in me a passion for architectural photography.

SALESFORCE TOWER. Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; Location: San Francisco; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

SALESFORCE TOWER. Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; Location: San Francisco; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

Describe how you work… who are your clients?

I work with a range of clients including architects, designers, developers, businesses, general contractors…I even worked with an NBA team once, the Golden State Warriors.

007 ELEMENTS. Architect: Obermoser Architects; Location: Sölden, Austria; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

007 ELEMENTS. Architect: Obermoser Architects; Location: Sölden, Austria; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

007 ELEMENTS. Architect: Obermoser Architects; Location: Sölden, Austria; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

Do you mainly work in a specific region? What is your travel plan?

Although I’m based in San Francisco, I work all over the world. I love working internationally.

DUBAI EXPO ENTRANCE GATES. Architect: Asif Khan; Venue: Dubai World Expo; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

DUBAI EXPO ENTRANCE GATES. Architect: Asif Khan; Venue: Dubai World Expo; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

DUBAI EXPO ENTRANCE GATES. Architect: Asif Khan; Venue: Dubai World Expo; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

What is your goal when capturing buildings in photography?

To really capture the intent of the project. I like to spend time studying projects. This process takes time. For some projects, I like to arrive days before photographing them. I enjoy understanding how light and weather affect materials/form, and how people naturally interact with spaces.

AUDREY IRMAS PAVILION. Architect: OMA New York; Location: Los Angeles; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

AUDREY IRMAS PAVILION. Architect: OMA New York; Location: Los Angeles; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

AUDREY IRMAS PAVILION. Architect: OMA New York; Location: Los Angeles; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

What do you think about including people in your photos? Is it important to photograph a building in use or alone?

I think it is very important to capture the architecture that is enabled. Even if there is a person. It is important.

AUDREY IRMAS PAVILION. Architect: OMA New York; Location: Los Angeles; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

AUDREY IRMAS PAVILION. Architect: OMA New York; Location: Los Angeles; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

AUDREY IRMAS PAVILION. Architect: OMA New York; Location: Los Angeles; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

What are your favorite equipment?

It’s difficult because I don’t really like having a lot of equipment; for this reason, I like to keep my setup tight.

UNION BRIDGE PARK. Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Location: Colorado Springs; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

UNION BRIDGE PARK. Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Location: Colorado Springs; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

Do you work alone?

I usually work alone, however, for some projects I will hire an assistant. Each way of working has its own unique advantages. For many shoots, I appreciate the ability to concentrate and study a project without interruption. However, there are certain times and projects where having an assistant is very helpful and makes the process easier.

TERRA PAVILION DURABILITY. Architect: Grimshaw Architects; Venue: Dubai World Expo; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

TERRA PAVILION DURABILITY. Architect: Grimshaw Architects; Venue: Dubai World Expo; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

TERRA PAVILION DURABILITY. Architect: Grimshaw Architects; Venue: Dubai World Expo; Photograph by Jason O’Rear

How do you feel about seeing your photos on blogs and websites?

It’s always gratifying to see my work published.

Photograph by/by Jason O’Rear








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