An Interview with Architect Turned Photographer, Arnaud Marthouret

I always love learning about interesting and unusual career talented people got to where they are now; the interesting revelations they might have had or the casual conversation with someone that sparked an idea that changed their life.  While it seems to look easy in retrospect, in reality, there are usually many anxious moments, delays, and a lot of hard work along the way to the "top of the mountain", so-to-speak.  Toronto based photographer, Arnaud Marthouret is one of these people.  A trained architect, Arnaud left the world of architecture design to follow his passion of photography.  As you'll read below, Arnaud has already had several of these "inflection points" in his career thus far, leading him to where he is today.  But as you'll read, and with most people who are successful in their field, there is a lot of hard work along the way.

Before reading our interview, make sure to check out more of Arnaud's beautiful work.

Q: You are a trained architect working as primarily as an architectural photographer.  How did this transition happen?  Was there a particular time or experience where you decided to drop one for the other?

It was a serendipitous transition. I've been into photography since my teens, starting with my dad lending me a Leica R4 with a 50mm lens back in the 90's. I've gone back and forth between film and digital in my twenties, but I have been consistently shooting one way or another since I was 20.

When I left my first job, a coworker who knew I was passionate about shooting and had seen some of my work, suggested I do architectural photography. This planted the seed that changed my life. 

It took 3 years and 5 jobs until I could act on it. After I left my last job in 2013 I read the book "What color is your parachute" that a mentor of mine urged me to read. It was an eye-opener as it forced me to look within myself to find what I was really passionate about. Every mental exercise I did then brought me back to architectural photography. I just knew at that point that it was my calling, as it was the one thing that would allow me to be true to my curious, exacting and creative self.

Q: How do you feel your formal training in architecture informs your approach to photography?

It allows me to see, feel and understand architecture better than anybody who is not an architect. I can see and feel what the final picture will look like without even looking through the camera. I work with people that are trained as photographers and although they are very talented, it is sometimes a challenge for them to understand the way a space works and how to get the best pictures out of it.

Ultimately, it is a very intuitive thing for me and it is pretty rare that I take a shot without knowing before I do whether it's going to be a good shot or not. I just know and my gut feeling has never been wrong so far. It is very common for me to be about to leave a set and stumble upon a view that screams for attention. When that happens, I always stop, unpack my gear and take the picture as experience has proven this is often a money shot.

Q: Describe the vision behind Revelateur Studio.  How did it come about and where do you envision it going in the future?  

Revelateur Studio is the result of half a year of research and preparation. Once I knew I was going to be an architectural photographer, I devoured every business and design book I could put my hands on. That's my curious side.

I also interviewed about 20 architectural photographers and asked them a bunch of questions about their business. This allowed me to quickly and efficiently learn from other people's mistakes and put a business plan together. That's my exacting side.

I then started making cold calls and pitching to businesses in my area. My hook was on pricing, I would offer huge discounts in exchange for the contact information of other people involved in the projects I was shooting, and that would potentially purchase my images. It got me a lot of jobs very quickly and allowed me to prove myself. That's my creative side.

Ironically, the first paid gig I ever did, ended up being published and making the cover of a design magazine.

I am a problem solver, someone people pay to bring solutions to the table. I jokingly describe my job as a "visual problem solver" but it really is what I do. Photography is just the end result, the process is what I am truly passionate about. I love finding ways to make my clients' life easier, while delivering a better product. This is where the curious, exacting and creative nature of my character come into play. 

I see the future of Revelateur as a niche player in a global market, so good at what I do that people seek me out. That requires extreme focus on the one thing I am really good at, that is photographing spaces and places. 

Q: For readers that may be interested in doing some architectural photography on their own or during their travels, can you share a couple tips you've picked up along the way?  

I came up with this concept of the 3Ls: Lighting, Looking and Leveling. 

Lighting: It is very important to me as I only ever shoot with natural and ambient light, therefore shooting at magic hour is a requisite and always gives me the best shots. More generally, it is crucial to pick the right time to shoot your subject as it it will inform the overall aesthetic of your shot. Shooting a shaded facade is rarely a good idea for example.

Looking: Looking at your subject before you shoot will make you a better photographer. It is a deliberate practice that forces you to think what your going to put in your picture and with practice give more consistent results. Cramming it all in is rarely a good idea.

Leveling: As an architectural photographer, I am always expected to deliver images with vertical lines that are strictly vertical, as shooting up or down tends to distort the subject too much. I believe it comes from the fact that architects and people in the building industry have come to expect a photograph that is as close as possible to architectural drawings, that is flat and 2-dimensional. The only way to do so is to shoot with a tripod and a level. Doing so will dramatically improve the quality of your images.

Thanks to Arnaud for sharing is imagery and insights with us!  You can find more information about Revelateur Studio and more of Arnaud's photographs on his website.



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