We’re surrounded by buildings of some sort on a daily basis and because of this, it should come as no surprise that architecture is a popular and very broad subject in photography. It encompasses everything from shiny office buildings and skyscrapers in metropolitan cities to beach shacks.
I’ve always had a sweet spot for architectural photography and how it captures cultural and demographic shifts. I stumbled upon a project “Stacked” on one of portfolio sharing sites. It focused on concrete mega buildings in Berlin, post-war social housing estates in particular. The project explored ideas of urban city life and more recent efforts to give these buildings a second life. It was enough to spark my interest so I wasted no time and immediately reached out to a Copenhagen-based self-taught photographer Malte Brandenburg.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and grow up?
I was born and grew up in Berlin. Since 2006, I live in Copenhagen.
What type of kid were you? Did you know you were visually driven from an early age?
As a child, I was rather quiet and introvert. I didn’t spend a lot of time interacting with people. I was happy to just observe the things that happened around me.
That has, of course, changed quite a bit when I got older and that’s also where I realised that I am a visual person to some extent.
But I still enjoy observing my surroundings and letting my thoughts freely circuit around the things I see. It’s typically fairly simple stuff I observe as I’m rather interested in the basic rules of life within society.
How did you get started with photography?
I never really had strong relations to art, apart from my art focused grammar school and a grandmother who did a fair share of painting.
When I was younger I played around with my father’s SLR camera while on holidays, but that was purely because I was interested in the concept and the functionality. It was never about art.
Later I bought my own camera and since, I learnt to channel my interest for simplicity and minimalism through that.
You have developed quite a distinct aesthetic. Where does your tone of voice come from? Are you inspired by particular artistic movements or artists?
I tend to be a rather analytical person, so naturally I did a lot of research and experimentation in the beginning in order to find my direction and style. And surely I came across a lot of other photographers’ work, but I never really followed any particular artists or movements, for me it was just a way to learn about the medium as I didn’t have any professional education in that field. For me, it was more important to find a subject matter I can draw my inspiration from, not a person. And since I always lived in bigger cities, I quickly realised that this is what I was looking for to turn my personality and visual interests into photographs.
How do you go about presenting and distributing your work?
I have my own website to present my work and of course, I use social media to promote that. Additionally, I always have a set of printed cards on me, which I can give to people.
How did you get interested in architectural photography?
All my life I was surrounded by architecture and I simply became interested in how we built our cities and for what reasons. I think architecture is a very elemental aspect of modern society, but maybe not the most obvious one. I wanted to explore that further. The other reason is that it’s typically very easy to work with buildings. That’s not always the case with people.
What has drawn you to focus on social housing in Berlin?
I had friends from school who lived in some of the buildings I shot. So I spent a lot of time in these settlements when I was young. They are a part of my youth. At the same time I never lived in buildings like these, so it’s somewhat a different world for me. For me, these buildings can be a somehow isolated cosmos, with own rules and habits.
What were the most challenging and rewarding bits, both professionally and personally?
It was a big challenge for me that the project took such a long time. I became a father a short while before, so there was not enough time to do some actual work on it. In the beginning it’s nice when you can really think the concept through and so, but at some point you just want to go out and do it. The other thing was that I had to save money for the right equipment and I had to travel to Berlin several times of course. It was very rewarding on the other hand when I saw the first photographs. I knew I was on the right track and that was a big relief as you don’t know if the things you put together in your head, really turn out the way you imagined. And, of course, the feedback I have received so far is also very rewarding. When people tell you that they like what you did, when you spent such a long time working on it.
Are there any projects you’re working on now?
Yes, I currently work on a project here in Copenhagen, which deals with tower block buildings, which rise up between the much smaller residential buildings and how that changes the urban landscape. I call it ‘In The Company Of Giants’.
*It took roughly a year
You can check out his work on Instagram or Behance @maltebrandenburg
Tags: architecture, berlin, copenhagen, Photography, post-war
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