Architects have long been inspired by nature when designing buildings that bring functional and aesthetic benefits. Just think of the symbolism of Ancient Greek and Roman architecture, to the globally renowned visions of Frank Lloyd Wright, Antoni Gaudi and Zaha Hadid.
It is this enduring link between nature and architecture that Mark Reeves ARPS set out to explore when creating his portfolio for his Associate Distinction.
He calls Fife home, but Reeves – who received a Fenton Medal in the RPS Awards 2021 – also spent years living in London before moving to the Wirral. He originally pursued a career in photojournalism before being pulled in another direction.
His passion for photography was rekindled after joining the RPS in 2009. He helped launch the Landscape Group in 2016, becoming its Vice-chair and Professionally Led Events Manager before achieving his Associate Distinction in October 2019.
Here, Reeves describes how the landscapes in his successful submission reflect and combine his dual love of architecture and nature.
“As a keen hillwalker and skier, it’s only natural that I was drawn to landscape photography – although I’m more interested in producing abstracted, impressionist styles of work than capturing traditional landscape photography.
“I draw inspiration from the impressionist painters, mainly JMW Turner, and I’m influenced by photographers including Noel Baldewijns, Chris Friel, Bruce Percy and many of the contributors to the Instagram feed @mindtheminimalism.
“I often focus on capturing plants or modern buildings, and I’m always struck by how they share similarities of form, lines, shapes and textures usually found in nature. This really piqued my interest and I knew I had to explore this connection further through my Associate Distinction submission.
“Trawling my Lightroom catalogue as part of the initial research stages of this project, I came across previous shots of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, and some other shots of hosta plants. Despite being taken on completely separate occasions, when I saw the images side-by-side the similarity of the form and lines of the plants and architectural elements was undeniable.
“I ran my images of plants through Google image search and was fascinated to find that Google brought back all architectural shots in the results. This is when I knew my project exploring the links between architectural structures and the natural world had legs. Having combed through my back catalogue, I had about 12 images to use, so I set out to the botanical garden and palm house nearby my home to capture some new pictures for my submission.
“The difficult part of this project lay in putting the images together in a way that showcased the similarities between nature and architecture in a clear and cohesive manner. I really focused on organising the arrangement of the panel and editing the images to make them consistent. At first glance of the panel, I don’t think it’s obvious that there are two different subjects being portrayed – and that was the trickiest thing to do.
“Interestingly, one of the assessors said that when they heard my statement of intent, they didn’t think plants and buildings would work together as interlinked subjects. But when they saw my panel, they thought it was really successful. I enjoyed this feedback because it confirms just how striking and immediate the visual relationship between plants, nature and architecture is when you scratch beneath the surface.
“Having submitted two unsuccessful portfolios previously, I was over the moon at achieving my Associate Distinction. With my earlier submissions, I don’t think I really appreciated the step-up to Associate from Licentiate, but I learned a lot throughout this project and would highly encourage others to take part in the Distinction process. It’s such a valuable way of improving your work and is a hugely rewarding experience.
“Now I’ve set my sights on achieving Fellowship one day.”
All images from a successful Associate portfolio by Mark Reeves ARPS