Review - Les Forrester "The Art in Architecture", 14 Sep 2020

A review by Jane Tearle - Les Forrester BA ARPS, DPAGB, EFIAP, BPE3*, "The Art in Architecture", 14 September 2020
Well, there certainly is … Art in Architecture! Les Forrester proved this in every image he showed us last evening. An amazing array of photographs from various places in the world, to all of which there was almost an audible WOW. Although we were suitably muted on our Zoom screens.

Les prefaced his talk with, ‘sometimes’ my image is interpreted as a record but sometimes it is ‘more’. His acceptance into the London Salon illustrates the ‘more’ as the stated aim for the salon is that ‘only that class of photographic work in which there is distinct evidence of artistic feeling and execution’ is present. We were to be treated to that artistic feeling in abundance!

Beginning with Liège-Guillemins, a busy station in Belgium, that he could get to and from relatively easily, Les took us on a journey. Designed by the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, Liège-Guillemins’ sweeping curves and struts would gather any photographer into its aura. A photograph would have to be recorded … but with the right processing ‘the art’ would be made. Les said he had used lockdown to explore further processing by learning new skills, although his existing ones must have been pretty good too. He is self critical and pointed out errors he wished he had seen and adjusted at the time. His attention to detail was to be repeated time and again.

Hamburg came with the words of David Alan Harvey- ‘Don’t shoot what it looks like shoot what it feels like’. Les does a lot of pre-planning and investigation to discover the places he wants to photograph. He is prepared to use his Yorkshire-German to get him where he needs to be and also to take any opportunities once inside. Here, looking skywards from a place flat on his back in the middle of a courtyard gave him the view he wanted. An apartment block towering on each side of him; waiting for the sun to drop a little to even out the lighting; deciding whether to include the couple of puffy white clouds; decisions to be made. Using his Fuji X-T3 with a Chinese wide angle lens he achieved a memorable image which was then treated to his own processing ideas as well as being looked at from other angles. The wavy coloured lines to be found on another building were eye catching and treated to the same re-positioning. Amazing architecture!

And so we continued around Europe. ‘Be brave and create it, even if it gets no attention, because you might be coming up with something truly unique’ Sean Tucker. Les certainly follows this mantra! Venice next. Familiar scenes given a different look once you had avoided huge groups of photographers! A misty morning helps and using the XF 10-24 mm lens on the XT-3. A style he likes, giving a softer look by processing with a blurred layer over the top of the original. The aqua alta in St Mark’s Square, with the piazza under anything up to 155cm of water. Wanting to be closer to get the lines visible though the water. A quick trip to Singapore and then to Valencia, known for its outstanding architecture although there was scaffolding in evidence to Les, though we couldn’t really see it! Here he used the in-camera Fuji filter system by shooting in Jpeg plus a 10 ND stop filter and producing images that appeared to be night shots, but were not. So effective.

Car parks, stairwells, Dickensian London, beach huts, stations, undergrounds and metros, in London and Lisbon; lights and bold colour to produce a sci-fi look; the Vasco de Gama Bridge sweeps away into the distance; every image has a story and tips on how it was achieved. The second half gave us further insight into how Les thinks about his images and takes them to the Art in Architecture level. Once an edit has been more or less finished it always sits on his computer for several days before the final decisions are made on its credentials!

We were not finished with the travel. Berlin has provided Les with a vast number of possibilities. The Art Deco Stadium and the University Library; the Design Centre and German Government Buildings; the subway where the orange columns needed a blue floor … and so it was! Hong Kong where all the usual images needed a different approach by looking for the abstract in their design, produced in high key whites; more of the lying on his back in the middle of a square, with fascinated Germans looking down at him as he photographed the social housing disappearing into the sky above him; the processing of these images, including the pulling out the snips of colour from the washing lines scattered on the individual balconies; the stunning Stuttgart Library with its de-saturated books … in the main, but just the focus on a couple of brightly coloured spines to give the image depth.

Attention to detail, is, I would say, Les’s watchword, in his planning and image taking and processing. Discovering new places and researching them thoroughly whether through Instagram, magazines, and maps which tell you which exit to come out of at a specific station to be in the nearest place to your intended piece of architecture is an example of this. Making lists and crossing things off is always very satisfying!

Les shared everything! He took us through a series of rejects- too central, not quite central; doesn’t grab you; liked the symmetry but too busy; cut off at the side (spiral staircase); the eye doesn’t settle, needs more work; too flat ‘not floating my boat’!

Well this talk certainly ‘floated the boat’ of our members and guests this evening. Thank you Les. Inspired is how you left us feeling with promises to ourselves to try harder! Look for that symmetry! We need to find more UK based subjects in this time of COVID and then work on the processing needed to take our Architecture images into Art.


~ Jane Tearle

Go to www.lesforrester.com to see Les’s fantastic work