Let’s say you’ve got three completed projects and you don’t have time (or can’t afford) to photograph all of them. Which one do you choose? This is a question a friend of mine asked a couple weeks ago and here’s my thoughts. (As a side note, the reason this conversation came up is because submissions for Australian architecture awards close in Victoria on Feb 14, which isn’t far away considering Christmas. So if you haven’t organised photos yet, then I suggest you get cracking.)
1. Which type of project do you want more of?
Do you know the saying “war begets war?” Well I think the same applies for projects. Good projects attract more good projects, which means the type of projects your send out to the world are the projects you’ll receive. So if you have three projects which include your mum’s deck, a mediocre house and one really awesome house then it’s better to cull the first two and stick with the best project. This is exactly the same principle that many photographers use for their portfolios. Be selective and only show your best work.
2. Focus on one project and do it really, really well.
My view is that even if you get all your projects photographed, you should focus on publicising one at a time. Work on getting that one great project out into the world and when it’s interest has expired then move onto the next. Photograph it really, really well, and allocate time to creating additional content like a media kit, video interviews, timelapse clips, story text and more. All of this takes time and money, so rather than spreading yourself thinly across multiple projects, it’s better to pool your resources around one of them.
The rationale here is that the best projects end up being seen over and over. They pop up in magazines, newspapers, blogs, TV shows and social media. A good project therefore has a story life of months , maybe even a full year. It’s not about “being published” in the singular sense and more about managing a flow of media over a longer time frame. As I said before, all of that takes time and money, so it’s easier to focus on one project at a time and doing it well.
3. What makes the project different?
When an architect asks me, “what do you think of this project” my standard response is, “what makes it different?” A project being big and expensive isn’t enough. And a project being new isn’t enough either. What the media are looking for is a story. And that generally comes down to something being different. Either in the materials that are used, or applied, or the process and people who made the building happen. A small project that has an amazing back story therefore may be the best project to focus on if it offers plenty of content and interest. Another way of thinking about it is to ask yourself why the building is remarkable? What makes it worth remarking on? If it’s just another contemporary building that follows in a long line of similar projects then it probably lacks a point of difference. As an example, when the first project to use all glass walls was built it was remarkable, but over time as more and more projects use the same approach it looses its value of difference. This is why a beautiful project may not spark the interest of the media, because it’s not just about your physical project, it’s more about how it fits into the story of architecture and the projects which have come before it.