Lantern House MAWD Lobby Entry Design Desk

“Photography is not a one man show, at least, that is not how I see it. I like working with people, and I think the work [images] benefits from this collaboration.”

Tell us about yourself. What is your background? How did you become an architectural photographer?  

I went to school for photography and for my senior show I photographed a series of theaters, each represented by two counterpoint images – one facing the stage and one facing the audience. While I began this project on a more conceptual basis, what ended up most compelling was the architecture and form of the interiors. I worked with a large cumbersome, slow camera, which was how architecture was shot at the time. 

Through the guidance of one of my professors, I began assisting architectural photographers. It was a natural progression due to the technical experience and interest I had developed shooting theaters. There is an informal mentorship program within architectural photography. Assisting other photographers was the way I truly gained insight into making a life from photographing spaces and buildings. I ended up as part of a ‘lineage’ of sorts emerging from Esto – a preeminent architectural photography agency founded by Ezra Stoller. Beginning with Ezra Stoller, we can trace mentors from Stoller, to Paul Warchol, and then Albert Vecerka, my own mentor. I now make every effort to pass this knowledge on to my assistants I work closely with.

I studied with Albert Vecerka, a member of Esto Agency — which at the time — had the reputation of being at the forefront of architectural photography. Albert Vecerka was a mentor to me. He demonstrated how I could do what I love, while at the same time, build a sustainable career.

What got you interested in architectural and interior photography? How is shooting buildings / interiors different compared to shooting objects, people, landscapes? 

I’m fascinated by the impact spaces we inhabit have on our mood and perspective. I’m especially interested in how various types of natural and artificial light can change and influence our experience. While we often think of spaces and buildings as fixed and static, the interplay between materials and light constantly changes the character of a project. Finding the most opportune time is critical to finding the best expression of a space.

I try to communicate not just the impact the space has on me personally but also the impact that is intended by the architect or designer. This is where collaboration becomes critical to making the best work.

2021 04 07 Colin Miller Lantern 0034 2962 v3a
Lantern House, New York. Photo: Colin Miller. Courtesy of MAWD.

What design elements make an interior compelling to photograph? 

While I do enjoy photographing perfectly executed designs, I’ve been finding greater interest in more experimental projects which can be challenging and fun to figure out. I’m excited by work that is different: spaces that may not be “mainstream” or traditionally editorial, but work that presents unexpected and surprising choices. Though I don’t necessarily decorate my own home this way, I do love bright, rich and colorful interiors.

SM2022 11 04 Colin Miller 450 W 0006 7642
450 Washington, New York. Photo: Colin Miller. Courtesy of MAWD.

For interior photography, what are the specific considerations you take into mind, for example lighting, angle, perspective, and / or balance? How are these factors nuanced when working inside of buildings?      

When I began shooting nearly 20 years ago, I put a lot of thought into each photograph. I would try to determine where the table would work best, divide the frame into thirds, and place the most important objects along those divisions. Now it’s about natural intuition, something that has developed over time. For me, the composition of a photograph is about making small movements with my camera until everything lines up in a way that feels right. This takes a good deal of experience and a certain trust in your preferences and sense of style.

Once I’ve determined the most compelling perspective, I start to look at tools I have to give the space its ideal expression. This can take the form of adding lighting to illuminate color that otherwise wouldn’t be apparent, removing reflections from wood or glass, making sure carpets don’t betray footprints, or adding models into the interior to provide a sense of scale or movement. 

MAWD Coterie HY Private Dining
Coterie Hudson Yards, New York. Photo: Colin Miller. Courtesy of MAWD.

How have you seen interior photography change in the past several years? Stylistically, what do we expect from interior images today that might have been different 5, 10, or 15 years ago?  

Prior to current digital tools, there used to be much more manipulation on-site. It’s easy to forget that Photoshop was not always what it is today. While shooting on film, I would occasionally use over 25 lights for a single shot. Now with digital, our ability to manipulate images post-production has increased immeasurably.

However, with this new technology, our expectations of photography have also evolved. Today, there is a greater movement towards natural light, you'll see some photographers shooting even very dark spaces without the addition of lighting. I see architectural photography tending toward embracing some imperfections rather than trying to erase anything that could be seen as extraneous.