Photography, Architecture, and the Problem of Realism

Through its analysis of a series of collaborations between architects and photographers, Epics in the Everyday proposes an alternative history of both modern architecture and documentary photography. It traces the evolution of the ever-changing and sometimes violent dialectic between abstraction and realism. Consistently, the subject matter of these collaborations is the anonymous built environment, which in different ways presents both architects and artists with a mirror that challenges their self-image. Architecture and photography are both semi-autonomous disciplines, suspended between the fine arts and the utilitarian, and because of this condition they tend to give for granted their relationship with reality: as soon as a building is inhabited, it becomes the backdrop for human drama, just like a photograph, the moment it is taken, is considered an automatic record of whatever was there at the time. Why then the fixation of these architects and photographers with precisely that which makes their art less like art?

“Jesús Vassallo has already established himself as the field’s most distinctive voice on architecture and photography. Working through a series of carefully curated case studies, his new book Epics in the Everyday demonstrates that an engagement with photographic practice enables a more nuanced concept of architectural realism to emerge. His premise serves as both a critical lens and an agenda for contemporary practice. This is architectural writing at its best: historically grounded, precise in its analysis, and generous in its assessments.”

- Stan Allen

“Many critics have attempted to disentangle the Gordian Knot that ties architecture and photography together. Jesús Vassallo’s solution is striking and unexpected: Realism. His inspiring book leads through one-and-a-half centuries of visual culture, overthrows the hierarchical distinction between Architecture and building, and anchors architectural practices in the realm of politics and economy. The result is a plea to move architecture back to the center of society.”

- Philip Ursprung

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Epics in the Everyday: Photography, Architecture, and the Problem of Realism
Park Books (2020)
328 pages
17 x 24 cm
ISBN 978-3038601623

© Jesús Vassallo, 2020