Martina Ferrera

Martina Ferrera

“For a photographer, it is essential to fully understand the narrative of the project”

Martina Ferrera is a freelance architectural photographer who also works at Make Architects in London.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I started my career as an architectural photographer in Toronto where I moved after graduating with an MA in Architecture from Roma Tre University in Rome. I fell in love with the methodical process of architectural photography whilst being an assistant at A-Frame Studio. The experience of waking up early to photograph buildings at sunrise or waiting until sunset made me want to specialize in architectural photography even further. 

I then moved to London to complete the MA in Photography at London College of Communication and began working in-house at Make Architects. I now continue my profession as freelance architectural photographer and videographer.

London Wall Place 110, Make Architects 

It’s a rare situation for architectural practices to have in-house photographers. Can you tell us about what you do at Make Architects? Do you shoot all the completed projects of Make?

It is quite a special position to be in. It goes beyond delivering images of completed buildings. As a member of the Graphics and Comms team, I’m in charge of narrating the process of the architectural development and design of each project from beginning to end as well as the protagonists, through photography and video. Telling stories through the lens and deciding on image composition and style has become a very natural and enjoyable process which adds to the communication of the architectural design. Going further than only showing the final product increases the PR value of every project, stretching from concept to construction and completion. I also produce shoots with other photographers and ensure that the visual style remains consistent throughout all projects. These collaborations are often intercultural and stimulating.

It has always been the freelance photographers’ concern to be in relation with a few productive architectural practices to pursue their profession. You have a rare experience by working on both sides. What would be your recommendations for freelance photographers to be able to be shortlisted in practices’ preferred photographers list? 

Architectural photography is a key component of communicating the process and result of an architectural project. As such, it is essential to fully understand the narrative of the project, the brief of the client and the intentions of the architectural team. Discussing the brief in depth with the team is essential and its understanding will lead to the best result. Architectural photography is, in essence very similar to architectural drawing, a means of communication without losing artistic quality.

Recently you have announced that you’re working as a freelance photographer for other practices and designers. How is the response so far? 

The response has been quite positive. I’ve been commissioned and published on the Architectural Review at the beginning of the year, and I’ve started a collaboration with an international lighting company with promising projects to come. I look forward to the coming months, more exciting projects on the horizon.

How do you promote yourself as a freelance photographer? Do you have a representative agency?

I promote myself through social media, through keeping my website up to date, with interviews and industry events. I reach out to clients, contacting them via calls or emails and collaborating with people in the industry. I’m currently not represented by an agency, but I am considering it.

Sometimes it’s almost impossible to shoot a building or space as it was rendered due to impossible viewpoint locations without any obstructions. Do you think advanced visualisation techniques create dissatisfaction in clients, since an actual photograph is rarely faultless as a render?

I’ve had various comments on this topic. Well executed architecture most of the time can look like visualisations in real life, depending on the medium you capture it with. Although, some architects don’t necessarily want to see renderings recreated again in photographs but are very happy when the space is captured with a fresh perspective. In my experience, what makes a photograph successful for architects is showing purpose and the building in use. I enjoy telling the story of a building or a place, seeing people move through space and capturing various moments and combinations of people and light.

What was the most challenging shooting of your career and why?

The most challenging shoot probably has been at the HSBC building in Geneva a few years ago. I had very little time to take as many photos as I could of the private bank. I did that during a walkthrough with the project architect and the client representative, as one needs to be escorted at all times. Luckily, they had a lot to catch up on and I could find some extra minutes to think about the shots while they were talking. I remember asking them to press the shutter while I walked into the frame for the composition. I often model in the photos myself because it helps the story and gives a sense of scale, so I know by now where to best position myself in the composition. I think they were positively surprised by that, but I just was very nervous and eager to take beautiful pictures in a very short time. I thought that was also an interesting collaborative moment with a client and architect.

Which other photographers inspire you most?

I’m inspired by many photographers and not only architectural photographers. Just to name a few, more or less known in random order: Jeff Wall, Mark Mahaney, Rafael Gamo, Gary Winogrand, Guido Guidi, Hélène Binet (I bumped into her in Italy last year, she is truly inspiring!), Imagen Subliminal and many more!

The Temple House, Chengdu, Make Architects

Do you have personal photography projects other than the commissioned ones?

I have an ongoing project that is more editorial/ lifestyle focused, called London After Work. It is about people cooking after work in London. It was meant to be a book, but with lockdown happening, cooking at home has gained a different meaning and the focus has shifted to a more immediate digital project. Maybe It will turn into a book one day. Other projects are in the making and include my obsession with obsessions and the attachment to cities and why we love being surrounded by crowds so much.