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Through the lens: Within the world of architectural photography with Dennis Radermacher

11 Mar 2024

Dennis Radermacher is a passionate photographer with a unique focus on capturing the essence of architectural environments. Specialising in portraying buildings and the people who inhabit them, Dennis skilfully weaves a narrative through his lens, showcasing the intricate blend of form and function in designed spaces. We spoke to Dennis to hear more about his role and journey within photography and the design world.

Tell us about your role and what you do.

I'm a photographer specialising in architectural environments. I capture spaces, and sometimes the people using them, in a way that tells a story about the feel and function of the designed environment. While buildings are the most common subject matter, landscaping and urban design can feature heavily as well.

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira. Design by Jasmax, image by Dennis Radermacher.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There are two parts to a job. The platonic ideal of photography happens when I'm out with my camera, usually on a sunny afternoon. As the light changes throughout the evening, I capture interiors and exteriors, instruct the occasional model and have an overall amazing time.

The less romantic side of the job includes all the essentials of running a small business. Job preparation in particular takes up a lot of time. Access to sites and their readiness can be challenging, project briefs wanting to be refined and there's always a battery waiting to be charged.

Weather conditions are often the bane of my existence. The right light conditions are very important in my work, and it's not uncommon to postpone a project several times until we hit the sweet spot. I sometimes joke that I must have earned my honorary degree in meteorology at this point.

Arrowtown School kitchen, painted in the stunning Resene Venice Blue. Design by BCN Architects, image by Dennis Radermacher.

How did you get into photography and what has your career path been like to get you here?

Photography was a late calling. In my mid-30s I decided that it was time for a change, and I haven't looked back since. Landscape photography was a passion of mine at the time, and in 2015 I made the leap into commercial photography. It would be an oversimplification to say that architectural photography is just landscapes with houses, but there is a degree of truth to it.

While I started my business as an omnivore, I deliberately marketed myself towards architectural photography, which suits my personality really well. The first few years of acquiring clients was equal parts excitement and terror. These days I work almost exclusively work in the field.

A lot of projects have been labours of love spanning years for my clients, and even after almost nine years in the industry it still feels special that they trust me to capture the spirit of their work. I'm a lucky guy!

Skylark Cabin by Barry Connor, Barry Connor Design. This project uses Resene Pitch Black and Resene Vesuvius. Image by Dennis Radermacher.

What is it about design and architecture that interests you?

As a cave-dwelling species we spend large parts of our lives in built environments. I love how architecture occupies the intersection of utility and art in a tangible way that every single one of us can experience on a daily basis. No need to visit an art gallery! The quality of a space has such a huge impact on our wellbeing, and it will literally set the tone of human interaction. In the end, those are really big words for expressing how exciting our caves can be!

An excellent example are modern New Zealand educational buildings, and how they compare to the facilities that I had the doubtful pleasure of inhabiting in the 80s and 90s. It was notably miserable back then, both in terms of the functionality of the spaces (unhealthy, cold, army barracks-style frontal teaching), and the lack of light and colour did not encourage a sense of joy in learning.

I have photographed a lot of school and university buildings over the last few years, and it is obvious how far we have come in their design. I see a lot of vibrant, joyful learning spaces that allow the big and small humans within to express themselves. Be that in group learning settings, in connection with the outdoors, or in quiet corners for introspection.

Exploring these buildings makes me very happy for today's kids and maybe a little jealous. 

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. Design by Woods Bagot in association with Warren and Mahoney, image by Dennis Radermacher.

Do you have a favourite project that you’ve captured?

Whenever I'm asked that question, it is tempting to share a high-end home or a large public building. Instead, let's stay on topic and look at a charming school building.

The new block at Arrowtown School sits in a fairytale landscape of mountains and forests and exhibits all the qualities previously mentioned. It provides a warm, bright, colourful environment with varied architectural spaces that mould themselves to the needs of pupils, instead of forcing them into certain modalities of learning.

Wet areas in arts spaces are often a somewhat messy afterthought in schools, and I greatly appreciated the extensive efforts made by the school and Baldasso Cortese Noordanus to create unique and exciting areas with a unique sense of space. Guess who provided the lovely blue paint for the kitchen and art spaces!

Tupuānuku, University of Canterbury, painted in an array of vibrant Resene colours including Resene Hippie Blue, Resene Spotlight, Resene Geronimo, Resene Highball and Resene Clockwork Orange. Project by Jasmax, image by Dennis Radermacher.

What is your favourite Resene colour?

Some might consider my sense of colour infantile, but I take great pleasure from vibrant tones. A standout project of recent years was Tupuānuku, the University of Canterbury's new student accommodation hall. Value engineering plays a big role in these projects, and what could have easily been a drab corridor was turned into magnificently accented artworks by the team at Jasmax. A simple dab of colour gave every corridor its unique character. It was so simple and enjoyable, I remember standing in each corridor, just taking in the vibrancy and how it made me feel.

View more of Dennis’ work at or on Instagram @lightforge

Published: 11 Mar 2024