The rear facade of a house, a gutter, a pleated curtain, an exterior faucet, a withered plant; photographer Mary Gaudin has a way of catching details which all of us see and a lot of us notice yet never think of depicting. Sure, Gaudin also takes pictures of more noticeable objects from more obvious angles but her very special gaze becomes apparent in the surprising details where objects, tools, surfaces, little corners and structures get extra attention through her lens. These types of images seem to be floating somewhere between pure documentation and aesthetic enrichment and this is the enigma that makes her work so captivating.
Mary Gaudin’s work represents architecture, interiors and design mainly, and she collaborates with companies, magazines, publishers and architects. Although based in Europe, throughout the last ten years she has travelled back to her home country New Zealand on numerous occasions to document and photograph a selection of modernist houses. By publishing these images in books made together with architect Giles Reid and writer Matthew Arnold, she sheds light on a distinct and regional style of 20th-century residential architecture, mostly unfamiliar to anyone outside of New Zealand.
At Bautier, we have put these books on display ever since we got acquainted with her work and publications, and just recently, we had the chance to ask her a few questions too. In this week’s Journal Post you can discover the ideas and thoughts behind her photographic output and, if you are not already, get introduced to intriguing examples of modernist homes from down under.
Can you describe your professional path to where you are today, how you got into architectural photography?
Whilst living in London I enrolled in a black & white photography night class at Camberwell College of Art which lead to a degree in photography at Westminster University. The degree was heavily based towards theory and I spent a lot of time delving into architectural journals and reading widely about architecture. The focus on architectural photography originally came from this time but it took me a long time to get there with many twists and turns along the way. After London I moved to the south of France and started gradually to begin working as a photographer. At this time, I also had a blog (remember blogs?!) to keep me focused and to record living in France for the first time. Flickr was also very important as a way of meeting people and sharing work. I became really interested in experimenting with film cameras through Flickr and tried so many different films which are sadly no longer in production. It took a good few years until I found my style and clients began contacting me because of the way I approach architectural photography.
How would you describe your personal approach to architectural photography?
I remember as a kid in 1970’s New Zealand being really aware of spaces, particularly people’s homes. As a child you don’t articulate these feelings but you do absorb them. So, I think I’m always trying to recreate that feeling of walking into a room. It’s emotional and not always about showing the whole space. I mostly use a film camera which is a way of achieving atmosphere in an image.
At Bautier, we offer several of your books as part of our selection. Many of them showcase houses from New Zealand, can you tell us about this work and the idea of putting forward this architectural heritage from your home country?
Living in France I come back to New Zealand each year. In 2010 my home town of Christchurch had a series of large earthquakes. On one of these trips back, I found that many modernist buildings were being demolished after the quakes. So initially it was a way of highlighting some of these mid-century homes which hadn’t been photographed before.
You have created several books together with architect Giles Reid, how did this collaboration start out and what is special about the work you two are doing together?
Giles is a fellow kiwi living in Europe so we connected as expats over a shared interest in New Zealand architecture. Giles is an expert researcher and architectural sleuth. I love taking photos of buildings he discovers. As we live in different countries Giles and I work together remotely, with the occasional meet up in London. For our book on the Czech architect Henry Kulka we took a couple of trips together to research and photograph some of his European buildings. A highlight was arriving at the Landhaus Khuner house in Austria just after it had been snowing for a week. The house has been run as a hotel by a brother and sister since the 1950s and hasn’t much changed since those days. We stayed in the hotel for a couple of nights and must have sampled most of the menu.
There’s such warmth in your images... Especially wooden elements, both in the architecture and in the objects, seem to play a prominent role in your frames.
Perhaps that’s because I use film to capture these wooden buildings. The images are always slightly soft when you use film. I hadn’t thought of wood as being a prominent part of my work but it’s used a lot in New Zealand architecture.
You currently live in the south of France, what do you appreciate about living and working in this part of the world?
As someone who always lived on an island, I really enjoy living in Europe; living on a continent, with the ease of country to country travel. Last summer my partner and I, plus our dog, went on a road trip to Finland. We travelled through five countries and came back with a car laden with Scandinavian goodies. The south of France is also endlessly rich in culture and the dry, sunny climate is pretty special here too.
All pictures by Mary Gaudin