Q&A: MARC GOODWIN
Marc Goodwin is a photographer based in Barcelona and London, specialising in architectural, interiors and landscape photography. He has exhibited in California, London and Barcelona and is currently working on his fourth architectural photography book. Marc also offers educational photographic tours through Photours.
Not having to worry about the subject blinking, what are you looking for when you shoot?
LIGHT. The vantage point has usually been worked out by the architects, and even crops are more often than not up to them. Having said that, the best advice I ever got (on my first big commission) still sticks with me: "make the buildings look even better than we'd imagined they could". Even the client that knows exactly what they want likes to be surprised and expects you to go beyond their expectations.
What’s the most spectacular building you’ve shot?
I've shot a few things for Rogers that were pretty amazing. And the regeneration project of Coventry City Centre that launched my career had some great features (plus I shot it on sheet film and worked around the clock without sleep for a few days!). But my great love is for historical buildings, so some of the churches and monestries I've shot had the greatest impact on me.
In this age of global super star architects is there still such a thing as a local style of architecture?
They started wiping out regional styles in the 20s, didn't they? So the result of big stars' influence is glass boxes from Dubai to Dusseldorf. But in terms of the vernacular I'd say there are still interesting differences to be found. I saw Abalos and Herreros give a talk at the AA in London a couple of years ago where they talked about whether the term Critical Regionalism still applied to Spain. And I think it does on the small scale. People here have kind of their own way of working and thinking about things. The same is true if you look at the difference in places like California, where there are earthquakes, versus places like Finland, where the cold has more to do with the design and construction of buildings.
The most important trends in modern architecture?
The buzzwords change: 'sustainability' becomes 'carbon-free', 'cladding' becomes 'skin', and so on. Hopefully buildings really are getting greener, cleaner, more efficient, but more use of prefab would probably be the only real way to make that happen on a large scale. Some of the organic shapes, like Toyo Ito's tower on Gran Via in Barcelona, wouldn't have been possible before Gehry and as such are quite interesting, but if you look at most buildings going up, you realise the majority of it is still made using Roman technology! I guess there are technological updates all the time, but from a purely aesthetic point of view, buildings now undergo plastic surgery to look good on film. Height for implants. LED for botox.
You also do photography tours with travelers. How different is that from shooting yourself?
It's harder but more rewarding. I started Photours with a colleague from Goldsmiths a few years ago because of several gaps in the market that amounted to a nice niche. Photography schools are static and site based. Tour companies are awful, packaged nightmares that people return from with awful pictures. Why not fix both problems by fusing the two, letting art students travel to learn and travellers learn a bit of art? There's also the social networking part, of course. It's exhausting but also lots of fun and very gratifying when people advance thanks to you.
You call Barcelona home. What would you say is the most underrated aspect of Barcelona?
The version you get of this city depends upon whether you talk to a local, expat or tourist. I think a lot of locals don't realise cultural diversity is a good thing, whereas a lot of foreigners have no notion of Catalan culture. Both are really missing out on what makes this place interesting in a way that reminds me of Bradbury's Martian Chronicles.
I think Barcelona's brand as this sort of Bohemian centre for the arts, design, architecture is well overrated. People here are pretty conservative on the whole. You see a lot more innovation in London and New York.
You live in El Born. Is that also your favourite neighbourhood?
I live in El Born but I love Gràcia. If it were by the sea I'd move there. It has everything else: local feel and a vibrant mix of people, good buzz on the streets, great restaurants, bars, shops and orginal language cinemas, beautiful old buildings, markets, nice squares. Apart from Gran de Gracia, you hardly see any corporate chains and the tourism of the city centre is just far enough away.
And you go to London all the time. What's your favourite hood there?
In London there are weird corners of the City like St Dunstans I love, as well as a few old pubs like the Seven Stars and the Counting House. I love the Canals and the Heath. I lived on the joint between Clerkenwell and the Angel for a while, which has lots of gorgeous Georgian squares, similar to Bloomsbury but a lot more peaceful.
What should visitors know about Barcelonians?
They love it if you speak a bit of Catalan and aren't exactly fond of being called Spanish.