“London Office” by James Attree (Or It’s Color That Pulls Us In)
When speaking of her many children, a mother will tell you that she loves them all equally. But her relationship with each is unique and somewhere in the back of her mind, one will stand above the rest. It’s only by a tiny bit – splitting hairs, really – but there’s always one that stands above the rest. She’ll never admit it, of course. In the same way, a photographer must realize that all of the building blocks of design are equal. Unlike a mother, though, I’ll admit it: Color stands above the rest – at least for me. This week, I’d like to share with you London Office, a photo created by photographer James Attree.
Focusing on a single building block is not going to create a great photograph in and of itself. If this photograph was of a single color filling the entire frame, it would not be of any interest to anyone viewing it. And so James had to have a well composed photograph to begin with – before he considered pushing the limits of one of those building blocks. Sure, color is what sells the shot. Color is what catches our attention. And of course color is the reason I bring James’s work before you today, so that we can talk about how color has made London Office an inspiring photograph. But color is the proverbial cherry on an ice cream sundae: It’s not a sundae alone, but it’s not a sundae without one.
So let’s start with a good composition: James created a great one. The pattern of the windows in the building is a strong one, and it’s not monotonous thanks to the curvature of the curtain wall. The water is a strong ground for the composition as well. It has just enough movement so that we know it’s water, but not so much that we lose the appealing reflections. I love how it softens as it gets further from the eye, both in textural and light quality. There is also good balance in the photo. Remember that balance is a bit more abstract in artistic compositions. The building is a very “heavy” form within the photo. So we need to balance it somehow. That could, in theory, be another heavy feature, but it could also be whitespace. James’s whitespace is in the form of the water and the sky, which frame the building on three sides. and the framing of the building.
And then we add the color.
Purple is not a color that we see often in natural light. There is only a short window on a day with the right conditions that we’ll see something like this. It’s mesmerizing, but alone won’t hold the interest. What really pulls the image together is the bold yellow light from the first floor of the office building. It’s only emanating from the first floor, and that’s what pulls us in. Yellow and purple are opposites on the color wheel, and of course yellow is the brightest of the two. So what James has done here is focused our attention towards the office by contrasting it’s light against the deeper and contrasting sky. In the end, the composition of the photograph was good enough on its own. But it was the color that really finished it off. Color is what turned a good photograph into a great one.
James Attree is an architectural photographer living in London. His background in architecture shows through his work as a photographer. He understands the lines, shapes and of course the intent of a building’s creator. But as you browse through his portfolio, you will find that he has a natural understanding of composition and colors. Color is a major aspect of each and every one of his photographs. You can also find James’s work at his personal website: JZA Photography.