The power of a beautiful photograph

The power of a beautiful photograph

Nowadays, with smartphone cameras, practically everyone’s a photographer. But not many people can achieve the beautiful images created by leading architectural photographers like Simon Devitt.

Words by Justine Harvey
Hahei House, Coromandel, designed by Studio 2 Architects.
Hahei House, Coromandel, designed by Studio 2 Architects.
Bivvy House, Queenstown, designed by Vaughn McQuarrie Architects
Bivvy House, Queenstown, designed by Vaughn McQuarrie Architects

With the invention of Kodak’s Box Brownie camera in 1900, photography started to become a democratic activity for the masses. Camera phones first started appearing in 2000, ensuring that, today, practically everyone’s a photographer. But, few can achieve the beautiful images created by experts like Simon Devitt, one of the most celebrated architectural photographers in New Zealand.

For the past 22 years, Simon has photographed homes and buildings across the globe and in every nook and cranny of our country for publication in countless magazines, books and awards programmes. He has also produced five books of his own authorship and, in the past decade, his passion for the medium has led to lecturing, public speaking, and running an awards programme for budding photographers. 

Justine Harvey spoke with Simon about his love of photography and sought advice for anyone preparing their home for a photo shoot.

Heke Street House, Freemans Bay, Auckland, designed by Mitchell Stout Architects.
Heke Street House, Freemans Bay, Auckland, designed by Mitchell Stout Architects.

Justine: What led you into photography as a profession?

Simon: When I was growing up, my dad took a camera wherever we went and made slide shows with some of the photographs for us to watch. Most kids would become very bored, but I loved it – I was enthralled. 

How do you approach shooting architecture?

Architecture and photography are great friends – they have a rare and special bond that I really love. If I don’t learn something from doing this job every day, then I feel ripped off. That involves investigation and hanging out with the work for a day, sometimes two days, because shooting architecture shouldn’t be a tick-list exercise.

It’s important to let the architecture speak. Architecture creates the dynamism. It feels calm and meditative, which is often the most beautiful thing about architecture, that I like anyway. I have found that if you attempt to impose yourself on the photography, then you assume that you know more than the architecture. I try not to make any assumptions; I just capture the moments. 

Architecture and photography are great friends – they have a rare and special bond that I really love
Te Kaitaka House, Lake Wanaka, designed by Stevens Lawson Architects.
Te Kaitaka House, Lake Wanaka, designed by Stevens Lawson Architects.
Wyuna House, Wyuna Reserve, South Island, New Zealand, designed by Mason and Wales Architects.
Wyuna House, Wyuna Reserve, South Island, New Zealand, designed by Mason and Wales Architects.

What are a few of the things you have learnt from photographing houses?

Photography offers a broad view of the world and, personally, it allows me to study and meditate on that. Photography is always about what’s happening now. Holding a camera makes you thoughtful, focussed and present in the moment. 

Creating my books, Portrait of a House and Rannoch, has taught me a hell of a lot about my own view as a photographer. I believe that a picture can transform our view of the world outside and within ourselves. It can say something about our experiences, and architecture is certainly mostly about experiences. Photographing the architectural realm is not just about the built environment, landscapes and the relevant context, but telling a rich and fulfilling story through pictures.

Photography is always about what’s happening now. Holding a camera makes you thoughtful, focussed and present in the moment
DNA House, Coromandel, designed by Crosson Architects.
DNA House, Coromandel, designed by Crosson Architects.

What kind of responsibility do you feel when you’re photographing people’s homes?

The responsibility of photographing people's homes is giving readers the opportunity to experience a house that they will most likely never have the chance to visit in the flesh. The pictures travel but the house doesn’t. So, I have this opportunity to tell the story of the home and I see it as a big responsibility to capture that moment, because we often don’t have the chance to go back.

What advice do you have for homeowners who are having their homes photographed?

Most homeowners are very proud of their homes and will make an effort to tidy up, put away any clutter, vacuum the floor and make things look good. Although, some people will tidy up too much and it can become too sterile. 

You want to avoid the distraction of detritus, but you want to gain a feeling about how the homeowners live in the home and their personalities. I like the home to feel natural, such as a bed left unmade if I’m publishing the images in a home publication; although, that wouldn’t be right for using the photographs to sell the home on the property market.

Often, it’s just me in the houses but if people are available to be seen in the home, that would be my preference rather than it appearing like a showroom.

To be good at photography, you have to really love what you do to the point of being obsessed; that is important – and I am obsessed
Spitaki House, Wellington, designed by LO'CA Architects.
Spitaki House, Wellington, designed by LO'CA Architects.
Cantilever House by Sumich Chaplin Architects.
Cantilever House by Sumich Chaplin Architects.

Is photography an obsession for you and, if so, did it start that way?

At first, you just make it up as you go along and, then, after 22 years, hopefully you become pretty good, but you have to put the time in – and I'm still making it up as I go. 

I need to be engaged and present every time, at every shoot and, as time’s gone on, I’ve become more in love with what I do to achieve the best outcomes I could hope for. I keep asking myself, ‘how can I be better?'

To be good at photography, you have to really love what you do to the point of being obsessed; that is important – and I am obsessed. So, I feel pretty lucky and really grateful that I get to do something I love. 

Samoan Parliament House, Apia, Samoa, designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects.
Samoan Parliament House, Apia, Samoa, designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects.
Sky Tower, Auckland, designed by Moller Architects.
Sky Tower, Auckland, designed by Moller Architects.

Simon Devitt Photographer

I am a photographer with a strong practice focus in Photography of Architecture, currently based in Auckland, New Zealand, with an established international practice...

Recommended reading
Done tagging
Full screen
The power of a beautiful photograph
The power of a beautiful photograph

The power of a beautiful photograph

Nowadays, with smartphone cameras, practically everyone’s a photographer. But not many people can achieve the beautiful images created by leading architectural photographers like Simon Devitt.

Words by Justine Harvey
Hahei House, Coromandel, designed by Studio 2 Architects.
Hahei House, Coromandel, designed by Studio 2 Architects.
Bivvy House, Queenstown, designed by Vaughn McQuarrie Architects
Bivvy House, Queenstown, designed by Vaughn McQuarrie Architects

With the invention of Kodak’s Box Brownie camera in 1900, photography started to become a democratic activity for the masses. Camera phones first started appearing in 2000, ensuring that, today, practically everyone’s a photographer. But, few can achieve the beautiful images created by experts like Simon Devitt, one of the most celebrated architectural photographers in New Zealand.

For the past 22 years, Simon has photographed homes and buildings across the globe and in every nook and cranny of our country for publication in countless magazines, books and awards programmes. He has also produced five books of his own authorship and, in the past decade, his passion for the medium has led to lecturing, public speaking, and running an awards programme for budding photographers. 

Justine Harvey spoke with Simon about his love of photography and sought advice for anyone preparing their home for a photo shoot.

Heke Street House, Freemans Bay, Auckland, designed by Mitchell Stout Architects.
Heke Street House, Freemans Bay, Auckland, designed by Mitchell Stout Architects.

Justine: What led you into photography as a profession?

Simon: When I was growing up, my dad took a camera wherever we went and made slide shows with some of the photographs for us to watch. Most kids would become very bored, but I loved it – I was enthralled. 

How do you approach shooting architecture?

Architecture and photography are great friends – they have a rare and special bond that I really love. If I don’t learn something from doing this job every day, then I feel ripped off. That involves investigation and hanging out with the work for a day, sometimes two days, because shooting architecture shouldn’t be a tick-list exercise.

It’s important to let the architecture speak. Architecture creates the dynamism. It feels calm and meditative, which is often the most beautiful thing about architecture, that I like anyway. I have found that if you attempt to impose yourself on the photography, then you assume that you know more than the architecture. I try not to make any assumptions; I just capture the moments. 

Architecture and photography are great friends – they have a rare and special bond that I really love
Te Kaitaka House, Lake Wanaka, designed by Stevens Lawson Architects.
Te Kaitaka House, Lake Wanaka, designed by Stevens Lawson Architects.
Wyuna House, Wyuna Reserve, South Island, New Zealand, designed by Mason and Wales Architects.
Wyuna House, Wyuna Reserve, South Island, New Zealand, designed by Mason and Wales Architects.

What are a few of the things you have learnt from photographing houses?

Photography offers a broad view of the world and, personally, it allows me to study and meditate on that. Photography is always about what’s happening now. Holding a camera makes you thoughtful, focussed and present in the moment. 

Creating my books, Portrait of a House and Rannoch, has taught me a hell of a lot about my own view as a photographer. I believe that a picture can transform our view of the world outside and within ourselves. It can say something about our experiences, and architecture is certainly mostly about experiences. Photographing the architectural realm is not just about the built environment, landscapes and the relevant context, but telling a rich and fulfilling story through pictures.

Photography is always about what’s happening now. Holding a camera makes you thoughtful, focussed and present in the moment
DNA House, Coromandel, designed by Crosson Architects.
DNA House, Coromandel, designed by Crosson Architects.

What kind of responsibility do you feel when you’re photographing people’s homes?

The responsibility of photographing people's homes is giving readers the opportunity to experience a house that they will most likely never have the chance to visit in the flesh. The pictures travel but the house doesn’t. So, I have this opportunity to tell the story of the home and I see it as a big responsibility to capture that moment, because we often don’t have the chance to go back.

What advice do you have for homeowners who are having their homes photographed?

Most homeowners are very proud of their homes and will make an effort to tidy up, put away any clutter, vacuum the floor and make things look good. Although, some people will tidy up too much and it can become too sterile. 

You want to avoid the distraction of detritus, but you want to gain a feeling about how the homeowners live in the home and their personalities. I like the home to feel natural, such as a bed left unmade if I’m publishing the images in a home publication; although, that wouldn’t be right for using the photographs to sell the home on the property market.

Often, it’s just me in the houses but if people are available to be seen in the home, that would be my preference rather than it appearing like a showroom.

To be good at photography, you have to really love what you do to the point of being obsessed; that is important – and I am obsessed
Spitaki House, Wellington, designed by LO'CA Architects.
Spitaki House, Wellington, designed by LO'CA Architects.
Cantilever House by Sumich Chaplin Architects.
Cantilever House by Sumich Chaplin Architects.

Is photography an obsession for you and, if so, did it start that way?

At first, you just make it up as you go along and, then, after 22 years, hopefully you become pretty good, but you have to put the time in – and I'm still making it up as I go. 

I need to be engaged and present every time, at every shoot and, as time’s gone on, I’ve become more in love with what I do to achieve the best outcomes I could hope for. I keep asking myself, ‘how can I be better?'

To be good at photography, you have to really love what you do to the point of being obsessed; that is important – and I am obsessed. So, I feel pretty lucky and really grateful that I get to do something I love. 

Samoan Parliament House, Apia, Samoa, designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects.
Samoan Parliament House, Apia, Samoa, designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects.
Sky Tower, Auckland, designed by Moller Architects.
Sky Tower, Auckland, designed by Moller Architects.

Simon Devitt Photographer

I am a photographer with a strong practice focus in Photography of Architecture, currently based in Auckland, New Zealand, with an established international practice...

Recommended reading
Done tagging
Full screen
The power of a beautiful photograph

The power of a beautiful photograph

Nowadays, with smartphone cameras, practically everyone’s a photographer. But not many people can achieve the beautiful images created by leading architectural photographers like Simon Devitt.

Words by Justine Harvey
Hahei House, Coromandel, designed by Studio 2 Architects.
Hahei House, Coromandel, designed by Studio 2 Architects.
Bivvy House, Queenstown, designed by Vaughn McQuarrie Architects
Bivvy House, Queenstown, designed by Vaughn McQuarrie Architects

With the invention of Kodak’s Box Brownie camera in 1900, photography started to become a democratic activity for the masses. Camera phones first started appearing in 2000, ensuring that, today, practically everyone’s a photographer. But, few can achieve the beautiful images created by experts like Simon Devitt, one of the most celebrated architectural photographers in New Zealand.

For the past 22 years, Simon has photographed homes and buildings across the globe and in every nook and cranny of our country for publication in countless magazines, books and awards programmes. He has also produced five books of his own authorship and, in the past decade, his passion for the medium has led to lecturing, public speaking, and running an awards programme for budding photographers. 

Justine Harvey spoke with Simon about his love of photography and sought advice for anyone preparing their home for a photo shoot.

Heke Street House, Freemans Bay, Auckland, designed by Mitchell Stout Architects.
Heke Street House, Freemans Bay, Auckland, designed by Mitchell Stout Architects.

Justine: What led you into photography as a profession?

Simon: When I was growing up, my dad took a camera wherever we went and made slide shows with some of the photographs for us to watch. Most kids would become very bored, but I loved it – I was enthralled. 

How do you approach shooting architecture?

Architecture and photography are great friends – they have a rare and special bond that I really love. If I don’t learn something from doing this job every day, then I feel ripped off. That involves investigation and hanging out with the work for a day, sometimes two days, because shooting architecture shouldn’t be a tick-list exercise.

It’s important to let the architecture speak. Architecture creates the dynamism. It feels calm and meditative, which is often the most beautiful thing about architecture, that I like anyway. I have found that if you attempt to impose yourself on the photography, then you assume that you know more than the architecture. I try not to make any assumptions; I just capture the moments. 

Architecture and photography are great friends – they have a rare and special bond that I really love
Te Kaitaka House, Lake Wanaka, designed by Stevens Lawson Architects.
Te Kaitaka House, Lake Wanaka, designed by Stevens Lawson Architects.
Wyuna House, Wyuna Reserve, South Island, New Zealand, designed by Mason and Wales Architects.
Wyuna House, Wyuna Reserve, South Island, New Zealand, designed by Mason and Wales Architects.

What are a few of the things you have learnt from photographing houses?

Photography offers a broad view of the world and, personally, it allows me to study and meditate on that. Photography is always about what’s happening now. Holding a camera makes you thoughtful, focussed and present in the moment. 

Creating my books, Portrait of a House and Rannoch, has taught me a hell of a lot about my own view as a photographer. I believe that a picture can transform our view of the world outside and within ourselves. It can say something about our experiences, and architecture is certainly mostly about experiences. Photographing the architectural realm is not just about the built environment, landscapes and the relevant context, but telling a rich and fulfilling story through pictures.

Photography is always about what’s happening now. Holding a camera makes you thoughtful, focussed and present in the moment
DNA House, Coromandel, designed by Crosson Architects.
DNA House, Coromandel, designed by Crosson Architects.

What kind of responsibility do you feel when you’re photographing people’s homes?

The responsibility of photographing people's homes is giving readers the opportunity to experience a house that they will most likely never have the chance to visit in the flesh. The pictures travel but the house doesn’t. So, I have this opportunity to tell the story of the home and I see it as a big responsibility to capture that moment, because we often don’t have the chance to go back.

What advice do you have for homeowners who are having their homes photographed?

Most homeowners are very proud of their homes and will make an effort to tidy up, put away any clutter, vacuum the floor and make things look good. Although, some people will tidy up too much and it can become too sterile. 

You want to avoid the distraction of detritus, but you want to gain a feeling about how the homeowners live in the home and their personalities. I like the home to feel natural, such as a bed left unmade if I’m publishing the images in a home publication; although, that wouldn’t be right for using the photographs to sell the home on the property market.

Often, it’s just me in the houses but if people are available to be seen in the home, that would be my preference rather than it appearing like a showroom.

To be good at photography, you have to really love what you do to the point of being obsessed; that is important – and I am obsessed
Spitaki House, Wellington, designed by LO'CA Architects.
Spitaki House, Wellington, designed by LO'CA Architects.
Cantilever House by Sumich Chaplin Architects.
Cantilever House by Sumich Chaplin Architects.

Is photography an obsession for you and, if so, did it start that way?

At first, you just make it up as you go along and, then, after 22 years, hopefully you become pretty good, but you have to put the time in – and I'm still making it up as I go. 

I need to be engaged and present every time, at every shoot and, as time’s gone on, I’ve become more in love with what I do to achieve the best outcomes I could hope for. I keep asking myself, ‘how can I be better?'

To be good at photography, you have to really love what you do to the point of being obsessed; that is important – and I am obsessed. So, I feel pretty lucky and really grateful that I get to do something I love. 

Samoan Parliament House, Apia, Samoa, designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects.
Samoan Parliament House, Apia, Samoa, designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects.
Sky Tower, Auckland, designed by Moller Architects.
Sky Tower, Auckland, designed by Moller Architects.

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Simon Devitt Photographer

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