Edgar Martins – Latest

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


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Keeping an eye out for the activities of Edgar Martins has become a regular delight as I  appreciate his work and regard him as an influence on my practice.

His Instagram account has recently announced two manifestations of his work. The ‘Poetic Impossibility to manage the Infinite’ is an exhibition in Leicester that I hope to visit.  It reflects Martins’ long-term work with the European Space Agency and his insightful images that capture the wonder and complexity of space flight and exploration, figs 1 and 2.

Quoted in Vice, 2014, Martins describes this current fascination “We are slowly getting a new picture of the universe that is pushing the limits of our understanding of current cosmological theories, making the confluence of the infinitely large and the infinitely small an ever more viable proposition.  I have no doubt that we are entering a new golden era of space exploration. But perhaps the most interesting realisation for me, throughout this process, was coming to terms with two simple ideas. The void and vacuum of space has become the busiest concept known to mankind. And, for all the advancements in technology and robotics, space exploration is still inherently dependent on the individual.”

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Secondly, with Martin’s relationship with Grain, the Midlands photographic network, images are beginning to emerge from his collaboration, facilitated via Grain, at a sensitive period related to the HM Prison, Birmingham. Little is revealed from this entry, fig 3, but this appears to be a fascinating body of work which I look forward to exploring.

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Figure 1 screenshot, accessed 27.5.2018 https://www.visitleicester.info/whats-on/the-poetic-impossibility-to-manage-the-infinite-p739301

Figures 2 and 3 from https://www.instagram.com/edgarmartinsphotography/ accessed 27.5.2018

Quote from Vice, 2014, accessed 27.5.2018 https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/mv59bx/edgar-martins-explores-the-limits-of-the-european-space-agency



Zine : Content

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

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Figure 1

I have made periodic references to Edgar Martins‘ practice throughout my MA studies. Meeting him at ParisPhoto in 2016 and then hearing him talk in 2017, I remain awed by his tenacious and detailed research into each body of work that he creates.

In his series ‘Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes’, 2016-2017, he introduces it thus “this project proposes to scrutinize, expose and hold in tension many of the contradictions and problems inherent in the conceptualisation, definition and depiction of death. These intentions will likely collide, overlap and blur, revealing the fragility of our perceptual and cognitive systems.” and continues by stating that it “encompasses the production of new photographic work, following both a speculative and documentary approach,  the appropriation of previously unseen archive material such as historical photographs, confidential case and medical files, crime and suicide-scene evidence, photo-installation and projection,” 

Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Martins thus captured a series of objects and photographed them in isolation from the context of the research, as if allowing the images to exude their own presence and then, by insertion back into the body of work, a rope suddenly has a sad implication, a rock too, as tools of death. His strategies for narrative are via photo-books and large-scale installations, applying the images to a build a portrayal of his study; figs 2 – 7

Whilst more modest in approach, I have, since mid-2017, been ‘liberating’ objects that summarise the Pause Project, things left behind, the abandoned items that symbolise the use that has passed, actually a form of death.  I have spent the last three days considering these items, the meaning and implications, as well as creating images of them as a way of incorporating them into the multi-media exhibition.  Today, 22nd April, I have edited the objects and cropped them all into a sqaure format (a techniue I applied for my September 2017 exhbition), fig 1.  The gaze is thus invited at parts of objects, to engage the viewer to consider their use and purpose.  They vary from a rusty fixing, to masonic regalia, signs and sex toys.

In the context of Canto‘s work as archeology, I have made images (in parallel with the visual strategy above) of a sample group of concrete shards from the demolished Conservatoire, close up, to present them as if as fossils, as the trace of reinforcing bars, paint and surface stresses are all made clear via this edit, fig 8.


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Figure 8

A Strategy

I have previously written about the potential for a zine concept and typology .  I remain of the view that the zine will be produced, but it needs to be viewed as a contingency for the exhibition and its launch; the priority is the media to be displayed in the gallery spaces.

However, the zine concept allows the collection of a series of writings and images and remains an important tool in the armoury of sustaining the exhibition after it closes, as a tool of capture and promotion.  It too may add to the material chosen to be shown as a strategy to illustrate the liberated objects, as there is yet to be a natural place for these in the exhibition space.  If it is created for the exhibition then it has a greater visual width and sampling than simply a repetition of the exhibition.

Fig 9 states my thinking in terms of title, Birmingham Dust, flow and content, as a draft for discussion with peers.

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Figure 9


Figures 1, 8, 9 – Philip Singleton

Figures 2 – 7 and 10 sourced from Edgar Martins’ website, accessed 22.4.2018 http://www.edgarmartins.com/work/siloquies-and-soliloquies-on-death-life-and-other-interludes/

Fig 10, below, is an illustration from ‘Destinerrance: The Place of the Dead is the Place of Photography at Centro de Arte José de Guimarães, Guimarães (Portugal)‘ showing the interplay between hung images and objects in a field as an exhibiting exemplar.

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Figure 10

Careers – a Wide Reach

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 4, Sustainable Prospects; Week One

During week one of the sustainable prospects module we discussed the roles of photographically qualified people around us and the roles that we note people play in this ‘media industry’.  There are many facets to the creation, presentation, debate and application of lens based or indeed light based work. We learnt about assistants, agents, editors, researchers and set designers.

It is a useful insight to explore those around our own work arena to delve a lilt deeper into the world of variety.

We are fortunate in the city I work in to have an array of strong, highly experienced people practicing the art and science of photography, here are a few;

The Producer


Figure 1

Nicola Shipley (fig 1) describes herself as ‘Producer, Curator, Project Manager, Commissioner, Mentor and Consultant specialising in photography, commissioning, exhibitions and the public realm’.  I have been aware of Nicola’s work over the last two years.  She draws on a wide and well established network of people, organisations and institutions and delivers events such as seminars and portfolio review sessions both of which I am booked to attend, given pervious events such as  national symposia which have proved vitally important to my growing appreciation of image making that is debated with a national audience. Commissions with photographers such as the emerging Sam Irvin and the established Edgar Martins with communities and establishments draws in the creativity of the individual and an intersect with people and places to create new work.  Nicola has also produced work in the public realm which has been highly acclaimed and attracts a high level of public engagement by its very nature, she speak of linking many skills, such as fundraising through a commitment to an idea, managing the process of approval for public work, curating content and liaising with artists and gathering feedback which informs both her future practice and provides critical feedback to funders and stakeholders.

As the director of Grain Photography Hub which is the vehicle for much of the work described here.  Grain is described as ‘an arts organisation dedicated to commissioning, facilitating and delivering ambitious, engaging and high quality photography projects, commissions, events and exhibitions.  We commission and produce new work in collaboration with artists and photographers and collaborate with major partners here and internationally to reach and inspire new audiences and participants’. 

The Historian


Figure 2

Pete James (fig 2) is a photographic historian who for over 26 years was the Curator of Photography at Birmingham Library.  His work has been recognised by his fellow membership of the RPS.  Pete has an encyclopaedic knowledge of imagery archived in Birmingham from 1839.  As a fellow member of the collective Developed in Birmingham I witnessed first hand Pete’s knowledge and experience brought to bear on the programme of work across the summer 2017 which engaged the citizens of the city in history, image making, traditional techniques, photo-walks and presentations all along side Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds show.


figure 3

Pete oversaw the transfer of the enormous and precious collection of images from the existing library to the new Library of Birmingham and commissioned a body of work to capture this significant occasion which was known as ‘Reference Works’ (fig 3) and this became the inaugural exhibition at the new library, as a tribute of both the old and new libraries. The exhibition featured commissioned works by Michael Collins, Brian Griffin, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps.

The Printer


Figure 4

Steve Palm of Palm Laboratories (fig 3);Steve was a practicing photographer and now runs a large photo-lab in Digbeth, Birmingham. I have found that the relationship with Steve has been critical to the print output for my practice.  I began my links with him in 2016 when the ‘over the counter’, front of house was about simple transactional orders; it has now matured into my being able to sit alongside him at his Mac and talk about the difference of images from the screen to the paper and work with a series of individual images to maximise their appearance on Kodak Endura C-type prints.  This collaborative working has improved my knowledge of printing but also cemented the ongoing relationship where my practice can draw true value from the skills of an image factory.


Nicola Shipley

Personal web site http://nicolashipley.co.uk/about/ 

Grain web site http://grainphotographyhub.co.uk/

LinkedIn Profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicola-shipley-b9a579112/?trk=public-profile-join-page

Sam Irvin https://photoworks.org.uk/interview-samuel-ivin/

Edgar Martins  http://edgarmartins.com/

Pete James

Developed in Birmingham Programme page https://www.developedinbirmingham.com/

LinkedIn Profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/pete-james-23a5a310/

Interview with Pete James https://genesisimaging.co.uk/interview-pete-james-curator-photography-collections-library-birmingham/

Steve Palm

Company web site http://www.palmlabs.co.uk/

Photo Credits

Figure 1 Copyright Jas Sansi

Figure 2 http://foxtalbot.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/2017/02/03/talbot-relics/

Figure 4 Philip Singleton





Thinking and Planning Ahead

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies

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Reflection and Anticipation

As this module, with its absorbed learning and practice draws to a conclusion, I am considering these six things as look to new horizons.

Methodology and Strategy

I was able to share my work in progress with a photographer and he made these comments;

“Moving forwards l feel something else needs to be brought into the project. I know you “Don’t do people!” but l feel a human presence may need to be introduced. I felt that in the last module where you introduced the Priest and the guide to The Freemasons Hall, it really worked… people who had a real connection to the building. 

Also, a little context may help in that you could introduce an image of the outside of the buildings to each subject matter.. as you have done with the “Icknield Port Loop” series… but with something from a little distance? Something that may help in this regard is Donovan Wylie’s work on “British Watchtowers” in Northern Ireland…. not sure whether you are familiar with his work but well worth seeking out”.

This was useful and progressive advice.  My strategy of applying the opportunities that are emerging as part of my residency in an architect’s practice will reveal people in the studio as well as on site, thus ‘personifying’ a number of the images.  The ‘Pause’ methodology prevails. Figure 2 shows work that includes a Mason, from my previous shoot.

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Figure 2

I have started to look at references to Wylie’s work, see figure 1 taken from the Guardian (accessed 17/8/17).  He shows strong consistency in terms of viewpoints, colour and exposure and expresses the context for the watchtowers globally.

Figures 3 + 4

I also met with the photographer Stephen Morgan who has exhibited at the Wapping Project and he explained in detail his strength for shooting and presenting his work and his very thorough method of editing (figures 3, 4).  Of my portfolio he said “Really loved the work, it had a real print quality to it, and I think you are right not to do wider shots of the outside. You get the feeling you are viewing something that has not been seen in a long time and is about to disappear, very intimate” So I am deciding how to arbitrate ‘outside views’ without diluting the intimacy of my work.  Morgan’s website

Making a Return

I am considering approaching the developers of Icknield Port Loop and seeking a commission.  I am pondering how to do this with the intention that I make imagery that is worthwhile for them to use in their development work.

Printing and colour

I am researching an uplift in self-printing technique to create archival prints of my work under my own control which is likely to necessitate investment in screen and printer.

Workshops and public engagement

I have written a blog here about the Developed in Birmingham Collective and there is a plan to deliver another photo walk around Birmingham city centre, expanding on the successful delivery of the workshop as part of this programme.

Figures  5, 6, 7, 8

Exhibition : Phase Two

I have surveyed the walls and hanging system at Bar Opus (figures 5, 6, 7, 8) and we have a PR meeting imminently to plan the launch event on 19th September 2017.  I anticipate delivering 18 new prints, framed, plus a large A1+ printed sheet of one image to act as a divider between the existing set and new sets of frames.


Taking a long view of future book making,  I am reading through these 4 photobooks (figure 9) for lessons on binding, narrative, editing, margins, fonts, length and paper quality.


Figure 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

I choose these for their diversity of scale, quality and subject matter.

On The Night Bus (figure 12) is published by Hoxton Mini Press 2016 features  the work of Nick Turpin.  It is a singular theme – views from outside buses through the, often steamed up, moisture running, windows to people in various states of melancholic and dreamy states.  It feels like a quality object to handle.  There are margins to each image and there is a mix of an image per page with many double spreads, working across the binding. A foreword by Will Self helps seal the profile of the book. It is created in a ‘portrait’ format.

Topologies (figure 11) is published by Aperture 2008. It covers a breadth of work by Edgar Martins.  The paper used has quite a slippery sheen and images (there are 111) are placed consistency on each page with an identical margin throughout.  It is a ‘landscape’ format.  There is an interview with Martins by David Campany at the rear of the book.

Ming Jue. Photographs of Longbridge and Nanjing by Stuart Whipps (figure 10) is published by New Art Gallery, Walsall 2008.  It accompanied the exhibition of the work 4th April to 1st June 2008.  It documents the fall of MGRover (2005) and the subsequent transfer of production to Nanjing Automotive, China.  The photobook is square format throughout and each image is also square, making for consistent margins. Two essays conclude the book.  The paper has a matt feel which is very pleasant to touch and turn. The cover too has a grain about it.

Zones of Exclusion Pripyat and Chernobyl (figure 13) is published by Steidl 2003. It contains the work of Robert Polidori and records access to the aftermath of the nuclear fallout.  Its ‘landscape’ format is strident in scale, creating space on successive pages of consistently scaled images of schools, homes and other buildings all vacated for a long period (since the disaster struck in April 1986). There is an exception to the editing rule where 14 pages are devoted to a series of detached homes amongst the chaotic landscape. There are over 100 pages containing images.  The paper is glossy.  The lack of narrative leaves a space for one to translate what is seen, with the exception of a list of captions (a notable point of debate; captions per page or not?).







My Current Strategy – short term

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 2

I have launched into a round of exciting opportunities to be active in terms or presenting my work and also attending events.  This is not about producing work, but rather receiving feedback and comments about my work.

Here is a short summary;

Redeye Hothouse Sheffield 2017 – Fig 1

This is an opportunity to present with 12 other emerging artists hosted by Redeye and compered by Paul Herrmann.  I will make notes of as many of the other presentations as possible.

The State of Photography Symposium – Fig 2

This is 6 days on from Hothouse and will be a well attended and full day of work review; I am a delegate not a presenter, however I have written to Edgar Martins to ask for a few minutes to discus his work, and mine, as his practice is an influence on my work.  I have written about his work on my CRJ.

The Proposal – Fig 3

This is a new local initiative driven my local independent gallery, Grand Union.  The event will require a small payment to attend, that cumulated fund then is presented to the ‘winning’ artist’s proposal.  A form of small scale crown funding which will be a new experience simply to partake an observe.

FlakPhoto Network – Fig 4

This related to potential practice beyond the conclusion of Module 3, however it demonstrates how I need to plan a long way ahead for shoots.  In this case I am in Boston MA for 5 days and hope to meet people and visit building that I can then shoot.  Watch this space (no responses to date!).

Photocafe; Open Call – Fig 5

This is an opportunity driven application I made – the theme is ‘ground shifting under your feet’ – so my work on buildings going or being repurposed is appropriate. I have not yet heard back from the curator.


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Fig 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Influencer : Edgar Martins

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From Edgar Martins, The Time Machine 2010-11

This is a review of an interview with Edgar Martins, an artist who is presently influencing my practice.

Edgar Martins is an accomplished theorist and image maker.  I was signposted to him by a colleague who thought I would appreciate his work in the context of my own practice.  I was privileged to meet him in Paris when I was gazing at the most painterly and poetic print I found in the whole PhotoParis main Grand Palais space in 2016, which was his.  He is highly articulate, determined and technically accomplished.


This short interview captures Martins’ theories and methods around planning his work, usually by brokering relationships with organisations which he knows would offer fertile opportunities to make a series of images.  His series often synthesise the real with the slightly uncomfortable and ethereal.  Because he often photographs building and spaces which are absent of humanity, yet show the tour de force of the human hand, he appeals to my mode of making series of images of buildings which are empty (of seen humanity), yet worthy and often secretive or neglected.  There is a trace of humanity in what I capture.

In this clip Martins describes an exhibition in Cardiff which had installed large scale prints of his work made in Portugal having negated his way into the principal facilities owned by the national energy company.  He demonstrates the socio-economic and political statements made by power companies between the 1920-70’s as not simply functional installations but an architectural manifestation of the “ideology of the modern” and its “aspirational project” aesthetic.  He believes that what he sees is not just about power and its generation and control, but the dream of the technological utopia, yet the paradox between modernism and modernisation, that is to say how modern structures are now functionally dated and modernisation is in train.  He has developed an eye that is attuned to seeing the banal, yet enthralling; he frames the view so as to allow the eye to wonder in all directions at the array of detail within the edifice.  He specifically describes the recce he undertook to arrange his narratives and the images that would be the optimum response to his thoughts and his eye.  Interestingly he references the “saturation of the imagery of dams”, demonstrating an awareness of the cliche, and instead gathered views of the very heart of the operations, away from the heroic scale of a damn and into confined, confided spaces.  He mourns the common and captures the uncommon.

Martin uses the opportunity in this short interview to summarise his whole practice approach by describes photography as having “conceptual tensions” and uses his work to bring together “irresolvable contradictions”.  He applies it as a medium to make space look believable, countered by a disturbing suggestion “that all is not what it seems”.  He cites a “temporal manipulation” in his imagery, a term which I have contemplated and define as the often uncanny visual clues to the passage of time, both in an immediate way, the viewer may query ‘where are the people you would expect to be working in these spaces?’ a point that pervades much of his work.  But one may also question the spaces in the broader passage of time that such industrial facilities dwell.  He later speaks about a “confluence of temporalities, looking to the future” in his exhibited work on the power company. He captures the ideology of the Corbusian ideals and the ideal of “machines for living in” and the counterpoint reality of twenty-first century and the need to regenerate power generation in complex, politically sensitive, globally wired world.

He references a fascination for the topographical surveys of the industrial era and notes the investment into logistics, access, funding and communications that are vested in making a coherent series such as this.  The work was made in 2010 and 2011.  Early in 2010 Sean O’Hagan wrote a piece in the Guardian that reflected on the exhibition “35 years previously on the “New Topographics” a title that was coined by William Jenkins, curator of a group show of American landscape photography held at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York” which, and this is the phrase that caught my eye, when noting the 168 rigorously organised images “taken collectively, they seemed to posit an aesthetic of the banal”. It included work by Bernd and Hilla Becher who worked in America flowing their German documentary sees.  O’Hagan goes on “The New Topograhics exhibition in 1975 was not just the moment when the apparently banal became accepted as a legitimate photographic subject, but when a certain strand of theoretically driven photography began to permeate the wider contemporary art world. Looking back, one can see how these images of the “man-altered landscape” carried a political message and reflected, unconsciously or otherwise, the growing unease about how the natural landscape was being eroded by industrial development and the spread of cities”. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/feb/08/new-topographics-photographs-american-landscapes (Links to an external site.)

In summary, I am studying and reading more about Edgar Martins as I believe his research into the context in which he bases his work is thorough; his planning and execution clearly require the investment into relationships to obtain approval to shoot and to gain the co-operation of the people to move away for each shoot is elaborate, laborious and rewarding.  Add to this the imagery which is framed, composed, thoughtful and of the unseen, acts both as an inspiration and a parallel to my own practice and ambitions. I am driven to document spaces and respect those places in terms of their founding raison d’être, their present role, or often diminished role, in the evolving world of city development.

Above all Martins is anchored in the lineage of photographic documentary history, with a deep rigour of critical and theoretical analysis.

My Practice : Check Point No 1

It is time to draw out the theory that has been gathering in my head and written notes and wrap it around my work, my practice.  This is the first of what will, I anticipate, roll into a series on this blog.

As a moment of ‘checkpointing’ my own work struck, I decided to delve into my array of photographs from the visit in November 2016 to PhotoParis, to pick out this example of street photography.  I consciously divide my image making into two; the carefully considered, set-piece exploration of architecture and its demise which creates a series of related images on the one hand; on the other I provide a visual running commentary on where I visit, the streets I walk around; what I  see, feel and do on a daily basis.  The former involves kit in heavy bags, significant planning and processing time, the latter the instantaneous fusion of phone/camera/Instagram and 4G and an inquisitive eye.

This example is street photography, shot at dawn on a cold and damp day around the Opera House district of Paris.  Though with an SLR.


I am reappraising this photograph; an ontological analysis.  It was taken because I am intrigued by how advertisement/billboards can often create a backdrop to a place, to alter the visual dynamic.  Hence, in this instance my photograph captured a photograph.  I see streets as ‘rooms’ often with contrived and random things colliding and making for unexpected juxtapositions.  Here we see a room in the room.  The deliberate depth provided by the commercial photographer contrives a deeper perspective into the side of this narrow street, itself a minor thoroughfare from the main boulevard.  My work often endeavours to capture depth by shadow and light; space beyond space.  That is why I was drawn to this view. I flattened the view by placing my vantage point exactly perpendicular to the other side of the street, as if to emphasise the perspective and depth provided by the billboard.

I chose the frame to contrast the posh clothing, one in workaday business garb, the other in weekend wear but sharply contrasted with the dirt on the doorway step, the cable hanging loose and the ball tapped bollard typical of Parisian streets.  The moment was captured as the moving car lit the left side of the image with its headlamps. Here is a controlled, farmed image with models ‘walking out’ of a tight board-marked concrete corner, as if striding out, but into a very ordinary, bland street (though actually appropriately dressed for the weather).  Move much more, as if out of their false world and into the real, and they would trip over the green bin.  Or out into the path of the car racing across the image.  My framing image chooses to miss out the branding, making the view a more uncanny and awkward positioning devoid of its link to the marketeer’s essential textual link.  The ad-world is projected into the real world; perhaps a hint of the cave that is Plato’s?

The men pose tall, legs astride, upright, hair gelled, beards just long enough to strike a match, like urbane morphs from the Marlboro Men.  Their gaze is ahead, forward.  The male cliche is enforced.  Just around the corner there is a female model, in a department store’s plate glass window, wearing a skimpy bikini……in November.  The ‘Admen’ are at it again.

This is a hunted image dominated by a carefully crafted farmed image.  The studio is taken out onto the street context via billboard.  This exacting commercial, studio image will feature in magazines, social media, in stores and may even be made ‘almost real’ emulated on manakins.  The studio is a faked, idealised, made-up marketeer’s world and the printing of the billboard medium is controlled and inserted into a chrome frame.  It is then spliced into the real, moving, gritty, grey street in a trendy town, outdone by the colourful trash bin.

Influencers in my thinking and composure; a current and concise list which will keep evolving and expanding;


John Szarkowski – framing, compression, vantage point –  The Photographer’s Eye. MoMA, New York, 2007

Berger – on promotion, prejudice and seeing  – Ways of Seeing. Viking Press, 1973

Sontag – on voyeurism, Plato’s cave and references to ‘trace’ – On Photography, Penguin, 1977

Peirce – on coding and indexation in photography – a useful introduction – Peirce on Signs: Writings on Semiotic by Charles Sanders Peirce.  Edited Hoopes J. The University of North Carolina Press. 2014

Barthes – to keep me on my toes – Camera Lucida New York: Hill and Wang 1981.


Edgar Martins

Uta Barth

James Welling

Laura Letinsky

William Kelin


Mondrian & Reitveld : de Stijl




Richard Long

Antony Gormley


John Pawson

Herzog de Meuron

Norman Foster

Philip Cox

Michael Hopkins

Caruso St John

Le Corbusier

Dennis Lasdon