Principal Babak Eslahjou’s other passion…photography

Babak Eslahjou, principal at CORE Architects, has a second great passion: photography. For over 47 years, he has been photographing the world around him. While his imagery has an understandable architectural focus, the urban landscape features prominently in his work as he explores the unique relationships between light, shadow and colour.

Q. When do you start taking pictures?

I started taking pics on my summer school trips to Europe. My parents started sending us to summer school when I was seven. They also bought us the little snapshot cameras with the attachable and disposable flash. I wanted to record my trip for them. I couldn’t afford the film so they also used to mail me that.

Q. What was the first camera you received?

Things got more serious after my father’s trip to Japan in 1972 where he bought himself a Nikon F2 and gave me his old camera. That gift got me inspired to follow it more seriously.

Q. How did you learn about photography?

I learned by trial and error and by reading books. I was lucky that my dad was into photography, and so, he started me early. In my teen years, I started reading books on photography and darkroom techniques. I did a lot of my own printing.

Q. What type of subject matter do photograph besides architecture?

Recently, I have gotten into nature as a result of golf and my travels.

Q. Why do you photograph buildings?

Images of buildings are a big part of my life. I draw them as my work, and I take pictures of them as my hobby.

Q. How has photography as a medium changed for you over the years?

There is a big contrast between photography and architecture. In architecture, it takes four to six years to see the result of your work. Photography is instantaneous. As such, I have had a different growth pattern in each of these disciplines. Architecture takes such a long time, sometimes I appreciate the immediate gratification of photography.

Q. Are there any photographers who work inspires you?

Henri Cartier Bresson is the classic one but also people like Franco FontanaHerb Ritz, and Willie Ronis.

Q. Does being an architect impact how you photograph a building?

Possibly. I prefer taking pictures of buildings with no people around. This could be the result of how I draw my buildings too.

Q. Why do you photograph empty spaces?

I like buildings and the scene to be the only thing that the viewer sees. It forces the viewer to feel the emotion that the building or collection of built elements creates.

Q. What equipment do you use now, what is your favourite lens or gadget?

After my first Agfa, my father gave me a Nikon, and Nikon is all that I have purchased ever since. I am still nostalgic about 35mm film and darkroom, but I have come to appreciate what the new digital Nikon cameras offer.

Q. Do you have a favourite photograph that you took?

In spite of all the buildings that I ever photographed, if I had to choose one favourite shot, it would be of the migration of wildebeest and zebras in Masai Mara, Kenya.

Q. If you could go anywhere in the world to photograph, where would it be?

Aside from more Africa, Antarctica is on my immediate radar.