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architectural photography

Going Places

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Going Places

At Gate B10 is Mezzogiorno, an Italian eatery created by Nomad Pizza founder Stalin Bedon.

At Gate B10 is Mezzogiorno, an Italian eatery created by Nomad Pizza founder Stalin Bedon.

Some of you may remember a movie from a few years ago called “The Terminal.” It starred Tom Hanks and told the story of a traveler’s worst nightmare – getting stranded at an airport through no fault of one’s own and then having to find a way to literally live at the terminal. The film’s tagline was “Life is Waiting” and, having experienced quite a few delays at airports myself, I could definitely relate.

I thought about that movie and of seemingly endless cycles of waiting as I made my way to Philadelphia International Airport for one of the more unusual assignments of my career.

Late night travelers passing Mezzogiorno.

Late night travelers passing Mezzogiorno.

As part of a massive redevelopment effort, good old Terminal B – dependable but uninspiring – was scheduled for a major facelift.  The Philadelphia Business Journal described it as “a $30 million game changer” – a big, bold blast of the future while you’re waiting to catch a flight to Chicago. And the folks behind the first phase of the project, EP Guidi Construction, wanted me to document the results. 

Three new restaurants had ushered in this new era. My challenge was to show the quality and details of each in the context of a place in which people are always going somewhere else.

The aptly named Germantown Biergarten at Gate B9 – a true taste of Philly.

The aptly named Germantown Biergarten at Gate B9 – a true taste of Philly.

No time for a beer, but the selection was tempting.

No time for a beer, but the selection was tempting.

Oh, did I mention that this all had to be done in the middle of the night? Oh, yes. No restaurant employees or consumers – only a handful of travelers passing through. Plus, I was assigned my own personal security guard. 

Yet the airport is a vibrant community of its own at night – a secret world populated by maintenance workers, construction workers and “third watch” airline personnel. Some we had to work around, some we had to wait for, and some had to wait for us. But it all seemed to work. 

Each seat has an iPad for ordering, paying and tracking when your flight is scheduled to depart.

Each seat has an iPad for ordering, paying and tracking when your flight is scheduled to depart.

Boule Café, la cuisine française in Philadelphia at Gate B-14.

Boule Café, la cuisine française in Philadelphia at Gate B-14.

No cheesesteaks at this bistro. 

No cheesesteaks at this bistro. 

But the thrill of the night? Getting to drive my Honda minivan across the tarmac, right beside the planes. Terminal velocity, to be sure.

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Playing All the Angles

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Playing All the Angles

The original house (on the left) inspired the new structure’s composition (everywhere else). 1100 Architect

The original house (on the left) inspired the new structure’s composition (everywhere else). 1100 Architect

I love being able to see the same thing in new ways – especially when the geometry of a structure like the Perry World House lends itself so well to this passion. 

For three different clients and on three different occasions I was chosen to photograph this uniquely designed global policy research center on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

For the Architecture Firm: The building’s architects, 1100 Architect, elected to keep portions of an original 1851 brick-and-stucco cottage and fuse them into a thoroughly modern limestone building. In what’s been described as a “blunt collision” of old and new, its singular mission is to bring the entire University – all 12 schools – together to debate and explore global issues.

1100 Architect commissioned me to photograph a multitude of exterior and interior views, looking at the building from all sides, at a range of distances, and in both daylight and at twilight.

 Perry World House, Philadelphia, PA.

One of the challenges was to show the street-facing façade of the building without the clutter of cars and food truck normally parked there. While I arranged with the Philadelphia Film Board to get the block designated a “No Parking” zone for the shoot, I knew that signs alone would not deter Philadelphia drivers from parking. So my assistant set up more than a dozen orange traffic cones to keep any and all vehicles out of my shots – and my resident photo editor later zapped out the cones and signs.

Research shot of 38th Street façade; the food truck really annoyed the architects.

Research shot of 38th Street façade; the food truck really annoyed the architects.

38th Street façade, with and without signs and traffic cones. Here’s where great lighting and the perfect time of day change everything!

38th Street façade, with and without signs and traffic cones. Here’s where great lighting and the perfect time of day change everything!

Thank heaven for connections at City Hall and Photoshop.

Ultimately, Perry World House was selected as one of “The 9 Best New University Buildings Around The World” by Architectural Digest – and I’ve been told that my photography had something to do with that!

For the Development Office: Penn’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations asked me to shoot images of the house that would be used as mural-sized displays for “Our Penn,” a traveling presentation hosted by the University’s President that highlights new developments on campus. For this assignment, I focused on the building in use by a variety of students and organizations.

Perry World House with people (for “Our Penn”).

Perry World House with people (for “Our Penn”).

Global conference center or space age sun room?

Global conference center or space age sun room?

The gateway to Perry World House's World Forum, the artfully designed lobby is often the scene of catered receptions.

The gateway to Perry World House's World Forum, the artfully designed lobby is often the scene of catered receptions.

The multi-level Global Policy Lab is a model of versatility, accommodating workshops, conferences, seminars and other events.

The multi-level Global Policy Lab is a model of versatility, accommodating workshops, conferences, seminars and other events.

For the Alumni Magazine: Then Pennsylvania Gazette, the university’s alumni magazine, asked me to capture the essence of the house, as well as photograph its director, William Burke-White.  For this outing, I sought out more heroic images of the building, focusing on light and space, and less on the people using it.

Perry World House without people (for  Pennsylvania Gazette ).

Perry World House without people (for Pennsylvania Gazette).

Natural light and artwork are everywhere.

Natural light and artwork are everywhere.

Being the photographer of choice is a great feeling. Being the photographer of choice three times for the same gorgeous building is the best feeling.

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Adventures in Arch-itecture

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Adventures in Arch-itecture

Dick McDonald in New Hampshire. © Greg Benson

Dick McDonald in New Hampshire. © Greg Benson

Recently, I went to see the movie “The Founder,” starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the man who turned a California roadside burger joint into the worldwide fast food franchise known as McDonald’s. Kroc expanded the Speedee Service System started by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald beyond their wildest dreams.

I had the opportunity to meet and photograph Dick McDonald on an assignment for the McDonald’s Corporation’s in-house magazine. Dick was the person who had dreamed up the Golden Arches, so photographing him in front of that iconic logo was the only choice!

Bright lights, big city.  57th Street, Midtown Manhattan.

Bright lights, big city.  57th Street, Midtown Manhattan.

On assignments with Mickey D’s, I traveled to more than 30 states capturing the architecture of the company in the country, the suburbs and in cities. And always—there were always those golden arches attesting to Dick McDonald’s original vision.

A McDonald’s in rural New England or Virginia Beach?  Exactly!

A McDonald’s in rural New England or Virginia Beach?  Exactly!

I learned a lot from my work photographing fast food restaurants. During one shoot I had to climb onto the roof to replace burnt out light bulbs. (We didn’t have the luxury of Photoshop retouching then.) And wow, that’s when I learned to appreciate pre-planning, calling ahead and asking managers to check a list of things that could derail a shoot.

Being an advocate for my client’s needs while on location made my crew, the workers in individual locations and my clients happy with our results. And ensured that we “got the shot.”

I learned to make the plain and ordinary look exciting. Not every building is the Taj Mahal, so knowing how to bring drama into any architectural image is an important part of my craft. Great lighting, smart angles and the talent in finding the perfect p.o.v. were my tools.

I understood trusting my instincts. I was secure knowing that I had nailed the shot before flying a thousand miles back home—something absolutely critical in those non-digital days.

During this work, my portraiture skills increased as I worked with lots and lots of people—both in planning and scheduling, as well as having them in front of my camera.

And, let’s face it, I learned to appreciate the occasional Big Mac with fries and a Coke.

More dining destinations:

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Much Obliged

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Much Obliged

Gratitude comes in many colors.

Gratitude comes in many colors.

I’ve been doing what I do professionally for quite some time now.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned (and, at times, have had to relearn) it’s that no man or woman is an island.  As a creative professional, the folks I’m honored to count as clients count on me to make the buildings they build and the spaces they design shine as boldly and brightly as possible.  And I count on them to keep food on my table and film in my camera. Digitally speaking, of course.

So, as we move into the holiday season – and at a time of uncertainty – I’m determined to keep my attitude one of gratitude.

I’m thankful for all the good work and projects I’ve been able to be part of throughout 2016.  The worlds of real estate and architecture in and around Philadelphia are active and vibrant.  When I travel through the city’s streets, I see new constructions that are enhancing Philadephia’s story, rather than detracting from it.

Light Play weaves color into the fabric of the city.

Light Play weaves color into the fabric of the city.

The interactive Light Play installation at Southstar Lofts is a prime example.  Built as part of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s “Percent for Art” program, I was asked to photograph it by Mags Harries and Lajos Heder, the Boston-based artists who designed the project.

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     Pools of color light the way to work or school.

Pools of color light the way to work or school.

Projecting color onto the building and street in synch with the motion of the sun, the effect is a literal representation of the connection between art and commerce – a flourishing rental market helps fund the art, while a vibrant art scene helps create a place where people want to live and businesses want to locate.

I’m grateful to Harries/Heder for choosing me to shine a light on their work.  I’m also grateful for long-standing relationships with companies including CBRE, Jones Lang LaSalle, Newmark, HFF, University of Pennsylvania and EP Henry – as well as new clients like Greystar and Bohlin Cynwinski Jackson. If I’ve left you off the list, my apologies.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express thanks for all of the people who support me in my business.  My editor and assistant, Paul (who also happens to be my son), deals with my quirks on a daily basis and makes me proud every day.  My office manager, Tanya, keeps all the behind the scenes financial and database tasks flowing seamlessly.  A shout out to all of the freelance photo assistants, Fernando, Matt, Dan, Mike and Jason, who raise the level of my game.  And shout outs to my marketing consultant, Janie Hewson, my writer, Steve Rotterdam, my designer, Aaron Vinton, and my accountant, Bill Irish.

Finally, there’s the rest of my family.  My amazing wife, Bev. My daughter, Lily, whose spirit and ambition make me proud.  My loving mother, Eva, who at 80 sends more texts than I can keep up with. And my brother, Chan, who holds the record for my longest running friendship.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

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My Trip to the Amazon

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My Trip to the Amazon

Welcome to Amazon@Penn!

Welcome to Amazon@Penn!

I’m often asked to capture the “specialness” of places that some people might consider “ordinary.”  This is usually the case with what I call “branded spaces,” locations like the interior of a Starbucks or a Target or an Apple Store that are pretty familiar to almost everyone. 

Yet just as much planning goes into such a seemingly “routine” assignment as that required for shooting a one-of-a-kind environment or distinctive architectural landmark.  Sometimes more.

It was going to be a regular day, so we got there early.

It was going to be a regular day, so we got there early.

Such was the case when Amazon asked me to document an Amazon Campus pickup point recently installed on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  This new delivery option is Amazon’s latest effort to get customers what they want faster and more securely than ever.  These photos would be used for public relations purposes as well as to help “sell-in” the idea to other locations.

Yes, it’s as easy as it looks!

Yes, it’s as easy as it looks!

The twist here was in figuring out how to best capture a physical space for a brand best known for its online presence.  The images had to feel as if you’d seen them before when, in reality, few people actually ever did.

Working with actual staffers simplified everything.

Working with actual staffers simplified everything.

In addition to finding the most compelling angles, lighting was crucial to the success of the shoot.  Note the pickups of the warm tones, simple lines and inviting textures. 

Feels like Amazon, doesn’t it?  And that’s the point.

These students came to play.  Perfect timing for us!

These students came to play.  Perfect timing for us!

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Suburban Living

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Suburban Living

Since my blog on City Living last month, I ventured out to the Philadelphia western suburbs to photograph a Main Line makeover for architect Jeffrey Spoelker, AIA, of JMS Architecture. Jeff started his own practice in 2009 but is now pumping up the marketing volume with a new website and bigger, better photos. That’s where I come in.

Old Is the New “New”
Interior images make you think you’re looking at a brand new house. But the exterior’s Center Hall Colonial style gives away the home’s 100-year age. The couple who live here love their charming neighborhood and its historic architecture, but found themselves “making do” in a home designed for a century-old lifestyle. Jeff’s first step was to help this atypical family rethink interior spaces to enhance the way they really live.

Top floor guest room for older children when they visit.

Top floor guest room for older children when they visit.

Empty Nest? Not Yet.
This couple’s recent re-marriage spawned a hybrid style of Brady Bunch living. The husband’s grown children have flown the coop … but come back to visit. And the wife’s younger kids still live at home. So the nest is full again … fuller even. To accommodate the needs of all parties, under-used rooms were transformed into walk-in closets, computer rooms and private baths adjoining bedrooms. The attic was refashioned as a dynamic guest room with private bath. Most spaces were made sleeker, more spacious and tailored for optimum functionality with fun accents like sliding barn doors and pebble-look shower tiles.

The unfinished attic before its transformation.

The unfinished attic before its transformation.

or interior shots, I blended multiple exposures to fully express the characteristics of reflective materials like countertops, tile, shower doors, mirrors, windows, wood grain. To highlight the interesting geometries of the attic bedroom, I shot from four different angles and digitally fused the shots to span all dimensions, from ceiling shapes to rug and side dormer windows.

6-Sided Living
In contrast with “City Living” in a rowhouse or apartment tower, most houses in the Burbs have FOUR SIDES! This house’s whopping six sides compounded the challenge of timing for optimum sunlight while factoring in patios, overhangs, porches, chimneys, dormer windows, foliage, garage and neighboring houses. Exterior images show improvements like the new gable created over the front door. The house was re-roofed and re-stuccoed with wood siding inserted here and there for a contemporary touch. A small outdoor porch was stripped off and another exposed and connected to the larger back patio.

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City Living

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City Living

2116 Chestnut Street with the Philadelphia skyline.

“Life is better here” is the simple, but bold, marketing slogan for the new 2116 Chestnut Street apartment tower in Philadelphia. Working for the building’s owner, CBRE Global Investors, my challenge was to fully express this glassy, 34-story tower as “The ideal address for an urban lifestyle,” as advertised. The images are being used to show off the property to investors through marketing materials and quarterly reports.

2116 Chestnut Street lights up at night.

2116 Chestnut Street lights up at night.

Eager to tell the full story of the building’s context, I shot from several different locations and heights to capture the true, but changing, personality and spirit of this contemporary structure.

Older lower scale neighborhood surrounds the building.

Neighborhood! From the street, images demonstrate how the streamlined tower adjoins a charming, 100-year-old residence on the corner to physically and visually connect with the surrounding historic neighborhood. Stone churches, schools, trees, parks and shops accessorize the street-level appeal. At twilight, the tower shoots up over the older, low-lying buildings almost like a rocket being propelled into the future from a launching pad of the past. Dusk shots are animated by splashes of twinkling light from occupied apartments above colored streaks from passing cars on the otherwise tranquil, city streets.

Seen from the roof top of a nearby building.

Views! Images taken from a rooftop a few blocks away let you imagine how living in the tower would offer tremendous, unobstructed views in all directions. And no one is looking in (uh, except for me). So you are free to open the blinds or hang out on the balcony and savor the dynamic backdrop of skyscrapers on one side and the Schuylkill River on the other. A very close-up view activates sleek interiors and cutting-edge amenities as residents enjoy an easy, urban lifestyle.

Trails along the Schuylkill River are filled with people running, walking and biking.

Trails! I found a great shooting location on the University City side of the river in order to show how 2116 Chestnut is mere blocks from the new Schuylkill River Trail System. Being two blocks from the river also means you’re within walking distance to University City, if you take classes or work over there. You can see from here that the building is also just blocks from the city’s skyscrapers, Rittenhouse Square, shops and restaurants. This is truly an ideal location in a thriving but quieter part of Center City.

This simple, state-of-the-art structure in a way represents the missing link between sparkling, sky-high downtown and a calmer, more down-to-earth community. It is all the best the city has to offer. How could you not want to be a part of that?

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Skyscrapers: Above and Beyond

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Skyscrapers: Above and Beyond

Keystone Blue Cross, Philadelphia, PA

Photographing skyscrapers is a tall order in many ways. These giant feats of architecture, engineering and construction first get conceived, then designed, then built, often over the course of years and to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. I appreciate, and am humbled by, the immensity of the challenge to show these herculean structures to their best advantage.

For many of the skyscrapers I photograph, I am working for commercial realty companies that use my imagery to sell either a whole building or available space within a building. The goal is to obviously make the buildings look as formidable and desirable as possible: large, classy, sophisticated, modern, state of the art, and featuring the latest in contemporary amenities in an ideal location. Many businesses understand that having an office in a shiny, towering edifice will positively reflect the building’s sophistication, stability and permanence onto their own company’s brand of success.

When photographing skyscrapers, I try to “read,” and then tease out, the unique qualities and individual contexts of each structure, from the ground level to the very top. Skyscrapers “read” one way from a distance and another way from closer up, gazing up at them from the street.

Mellon Bank Center, 1735 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA

BNY Mellon Center
One of the most important aspects of the BNY Mellon Center is its famous pyramid structure at the top that houses the Pyramid Club and offers space with an amazing view for parties, business meetings and other events. I was able to get just slightly above the pyramid in a neighboring building to show not only the structural details of the sky-high atrium but also bring into view the Philadelphia Museum of Art along with the Schuylkill River beyond to demonstrate the building’s impressive location.

For many of these projects, I am challenged to show a building or buildings in the context of their urban environment to let a buyer or new tenant know what a great location they’d be buying (or leasing) into. Showing the building’s surroundings, and even getting a view of the structure’s middle and top, requires “getting some height” on the building. This becomes a matter of locating a neighboring building high enough to offer up a perfect view from the middle or near the top of the subject building. The next hoop to jump through is getting permission to photograph FROM these other buildings, which in my experience is an endeavor that’s either really easy or nearly impossible.

Once I identify an ideal building to shoot from, I often show up and ask the security staff if I can go up in their building to photograph a neighboring building. Some people agree readily to my plan and accompany me on my travels through their building. Others say I’ll need permission in writing from the building managers, which may take a month at which time I’m welcome to come back. So getting some height on these tall buildings requires a little ingenuity, persistence, people skills and luck, especially given today’s concerns about security.

Penn Mutual Building, Philadelphia, PA

Penn Mutual Building
To shoot the Penn Mutual Building, I was challenged to show off the ideal urban neighborhood that the buildings are located in, just across from Independence Park and down the street from the iconic Society Hill Towers. With the Delaware River in the near distance, the Penn Mutual complex stands out as an impressive corporate structure that blends its significant architectural history with its more contemporary components that have evolved over time to represent stability and success for the long haul.

Since so many skyscrapers are faced with glass curtainwalls, “reading” each building becomes a study in what is reflecting in the building at the time. Once I’m up in an adjacent building, it’s almost like a chemistry experiment: mixing just the right amount of height, light and shadows, with reflections of clouds and other buildings. For a different perspective, I also photograph skyscrapers from the ground to demonstrate the grandiosity of the entrance and present a more dramatic “towering” view as the top of the colossal structure fades into reflections of clouds and then meets up with the wild blue yonder.

Comcast Tower, Philadelphia, PA

Comcast Tower
The Comcast Center is more than 1,000 feet tall and 59 stories high, so finding a nearby building tall enough to photograph from was a challenge. Once I found it, though, I had the perfect vantage point to capture the Liberty Place skyscrapers reflected in, and dwarfed by, the more massive Comcast Center. I managed to match up the reflected horizon and surrounding city view with the “real” horizon and clouds beyond the building. Having one consistent skyline lets the viewer focus on the building and not be distracted by too many disparate impressions of surrounding scenery.

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Tis the Season to Be Shopping

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Tis the Season to Be Shopping

High-end urban retail spaces must feel as luxurious and unique as the merchandise sold within.

Shopping is as American as apple pie. It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that the United States has over 45 sq. ft. of retail space for every person — double that of our nearest shopaholic rivals, the UK.

The “Super Bowl” of this national pastime is Black Friday, that annual stampede of savings that marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Beginning in early November, we hear the rumblings of fanfare. Stores will do everything they can to lure customers in for the biggest shopping day of the year.

A clean-lined, tidy display of products entices customers to explore at Ulta Cosmetics in Philadelphia.

With the rise of Cyber Monday and the prevalence of online shopping, it has become even more important for brick-and-mortar locations to “up” their game. Shopping has been transformed into a theatrical experience, laced with temptation and discovery.

Many shopping centers have turned into nostalgic, village-like theme parks. These pedestrian-friendly designs are meant to encourage leisurely browsing and enhance the social experience of “going shopping.”

This village-style shopping center invites consumers to make a day of it.

When I photograph retail spaces and shopping centers, I always try to convey that sense of excitement. Often, I choose to shoot at twilight to capture the dramatic glowing lights and colors designed to entice shoppers.

Lighting and color attracts shoppers.

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Community Facelift

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Community Facelift

Fresh, modern interiors in the model units appeal to upscale tenants.
Fresh, modern interiors in the model units appeal to upscale tenants.

Buildings aren’t meant to last forever — ask any homeowner! Even well-built architectural treasures need renovations eventually.

I’ve always been fascinated by how buildings change over time. Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn changed the way I look at buildings. It opened my eyes to the story and history of every building.

The sparkling swimming pool and inviting common areas beg for a late-summer party!
The sparkling swimming pool and inviting common areas beg for a late-summer party!
BEFORE: The old tennis court was poorly maintained and under-utilized.
BEFORE: The old tennis court was poorly maintained and under-utilized.

In the real estate business, “value-add” refers to an investment in an aging property to make upgrades and repairs, bringing the place back to life and make it viable again. It’s an inevitable part of the construction life-cycle — and can be a very profitable investment for those who know what they’re doing.

One particularly dramatic transformation of a “value-add” property is Yardley Crossing in suburban Philadelphia. Built in 1979, the 196-unit, 24-acre apartment complex was purchased by Relative Properties, in 2014.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to photograph Yardley Crossing twice — once in 2011 for a commercial real estate firm listing the property for sale, and again in 2015 for Paul Aschkenasy at Relative Properties, after its comprehensive makeover.

The clubhouse at Yardley Crossing was transformed into a stylish Craftsman-style multi-purpose space.
The clubhouse at Yardley Crossing was transformed into a stylish Craftsman-style multi-purpose space.
BEFORE: The old clubhouse, clad in “blah” white vinyl, was attracting no one with its outdated styling.
BEFORE: The old clubhouse, clad in “blah” white vinyl, was attracting no one with its outdated styling.

The property is nearly unrecognizable now. When I photographed it back in 2011, it was definitely showing its age — the finishes were outdated, the amenities unappealing, and structures were in need of repairs.

With a complete renovation and upgrades to the clubhouse, pool and surrounding common areas, as well as elegant and modern remodels of the unit interiors, Yardley Crossing is now able to market itself as a luxury apartment and townhome community.

Modern, upscale finishes in the newly renovated units appeal to more upscale tenants.
Modern, upscale finishes in the newly renovated units appeal to more upscale tenants.
BEFORE: Outdated “builder-grade” finishes had no personality or warmth.
BEFORE: Outdated “builder-grade” finishes had no personality or warmth.

When photographing interiors, it makes all the difference to have a talented designer styling the spaces. For our shoot at Yardley Crossing, we collaborated with the fun and talented Lisa Furie . She brings great energy, stylish flair and a thoughtful eye to every project.

What a transformation!
What a transformation!

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Always Learning

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Always Learning

Golkin Hall, Penn Law School

Golkin Hall, Penn Law School

September is a time of change, as millions of students and their families begin the new school year. The lazy days of summer are over, and it’s time to hit the books.

Educational projects are some of my favorite to photograph — and some of the most challenging! Being on campus again reminds me of my own school days, and the predictable rhythm it gave to the whole year.

Surrounded by a busy urban area, Golkin Hall closes off one side of the Penn Law School quadrangle, providing a green space for students to relax or study.

Surrounded by a busy urban area, Golkin Hall closes off one side of the Penn Law School quadrangle, providing a green space for students to relax or study.

Recently, the Penn Gazette commissioned me to photograph Golkin Hall, a major renovation and addition to the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia. This $30 million, 40,000-square-foot Kennedy & Violich Architects-designed space replaced a bland 1960s building that, by all accounts, won’t be missed.

Working with The Gazette is always a great experience. Their art director gives me the freedom to capture the essence of a place and create images that pop off the page. I’ve photographed for this magazine on several other occasions, including the Singh Center for Nanotechnology and the Lerner Center Music Building.

The spacious Fitts Auditorium features warm wood tones and a variety of lighting levels to respond to student’s and faculty’s needs.

The spacious Fitts Auditorium features warm wood tones and a variety of lighting levels to respond to student’s and faculty’s needs.

Photographing educational projects — Golkin Hall included — poses a special set of challenges. University-level construction projects are a high-stakes game. The school spends years planning for each new project, soliciting millions from important alumni, and contracting top architects and construction firms to create and implement a stunning design — all with the hopes of attracting the best students and faculty and boosting the school’s reputation with state-of-the-art facilities.

Images of these valuable projects are vital for attracting publicity, so that the University’s key constituents see the result of all that hard work. It’s our goal to capture the best possible shots while respecting the University’s ongoing teaching and research, and not disrupting the building’s occupants.

At Golkin Hall, we photographed a variety of spaces, from the undulating brick and marble facade, to the spacious new 350-seat auditorium, and the buzzing café and lounge area. For most shots, we were able to pull people into the space to give a sense of scale and life to the design.

Located on the lower level of Golkin Hall, just outside the main auditorium, this open lounge area provides space for students to socialize between classes.

Located on the lower level of Golkin Hall, just outside the main auditorium, this open lounge area provides space for students to socialize between classes.

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Jewel Box for Cars

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Jewel Box for Cars

The sophisticated design of the showroom matches the luxury automobiles on display.

The sophisticated design of the showroom matches the luxury automobiles on display.

Luxury buyers expect a luxurious environment, with high-end design that reflects a brand’s quality and style. The Audi showroom in Devon, Pennsylvania provides these buyers with the ultimate shopping experience. The metal and glass structure presents vehicles as coveted works of art in a glowing jewel box.

Vehicles are displayed like works of art in a modern gallery.

Vehicles are displayed like works of art in a modern gallery.

Warfel Construction and Penney Design Group commissioned me to photograph the building, which reflects Audi’s signature design philosophy — sleek, modern, forward-thinking, and comfortable. From the sloping angles conveying a sense of motion and energy, to the soaring ceilings and open spaces populated with clean-lined furnishings, the customer is surrounded by an atmosphere of sophisticated design — similar to a modern art gallery.

Clean lines and angled walls energize the space and reflect Audi’s signature design aesthetic.

Clean lines and angled walls energize the space and reflect Audi’s signature design aesthetic.

Clean lines and angled walls energize the space and reflect Audi’s signature design aesthetic. Customer experience is a top priority at this Audi showroom, which is loaded with extras to make their high-end clientele more comfortable. There is even a coffee bar — with free cappuccino. Now that’s a luxury I could live with!

The Devon Audi dealership has a fleet of 55 loaner cars — one way they go the extra mile to keep their upscale customers happy.

The Devon Audi dealership has a fleet of 55 loaner cars — one way they go the extra mile to keep their upscale customers happy.

The architects suggested that we incorporate people to give a sense of life and scale to the photographs. Hiring models was not in the budget, however, so instead we used employees during a normal workday. It was challenging to shoot while the showroom was open and employees were focused on their jobs, but everyone was very friendly and helpful.

Customers take delivery of their new Audi in a custom-designed glass room — a truly special moment, above and beyond a typical car-buying experience.

Customers take delivery of their new Audi in a custom-designed glass room — a truly special moment, above and beyond a typical car-buying experience.

The metal and glass showroom really came to life at twilight. Our exterior photographs reveal the sparkling interiors and the angled lines of this clean, modern design.

At twilight, the showroom glows like a jewel box.

At twilight, the showroom glows like a jewel box.

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Time for a Backyard BBQ!

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Time for a Backyard BBQ!

Put your feet up and watch the sunset from this gorgeous private patio in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Put your feet up and watch the sunset from this gorgeous private patio in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

The days are long, the nights are warm, and invitations to backyard BBQs are piling up. Summer has arrived! After a winter that dragged on for months, I’ll take any excuse to get outside. Add the mouth-watering sizzle of food on the grill, an icy spray of foam from a freshly-cracked beer, and I’m in heaven.

Get ready to toast s’mores (or a glass of wine!) by the firepit in this elegant outdoor entertaining area.

Get ready to toast s’mores (or a glass of wine!) by the firepit in this elegant outdoor entertaining area.

One of my long-time clients, EP Henry, is a manufacturer of hardscaping materials, specializing in backyard patios and entertaining areas. Their products turn basic backyards into a summertime host’s dream party zone. When photographing these fun outdoor spaces, I must showcase their products — the tiles and walls which draw guests in and sets the mood for entertaining. My goal is to help people imagine their own backyard as the perfect place to gather friends and family.

An outdoor chef’s dream setup, this covered outdoor pavilion is the center of any party.

An outdoor chef’s dream setup, this covered outdoor pavilion is the center of any party.

Using props, creating a roaring fire, adding outdoor lighting, and by shooting at twilight, we’re able to set the mood for gatherings small and large. By scouting the location in advance, we can plan for the best angles, props, and times of day to shoot different areas.

As with any residential shoot, we must coordinate with the homeowners to get the shots we need while respecting their private space. Good communication is key.

Looking back at these images, it’s easy to start day-dreaming about my own outdoor oasis — surrounded by family and friends, enjoying ice-cold drinks and delicious food just off the grill!

A firepit sits poised for sundown, ready to draw guests into casual conversation.

A firepit sits poised for sundown, ready to draw guests into casual conversation.

Stunning underwater lights and garden torches light up this party-ready pool.

Stunning underwater lights and garden torches light up this party-ready pool.

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Twilight: Timing Is Everything

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Twilight: Timing Is Everything

Striking angles are accented by glowing windows at dusk. 1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia.
Striking angles are accented by glowing windows at dusk. 1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia.

Timing is everything when you’re shooting a building at twilight. That perfect moment — when the sky darkens to a gorgeous indigo and the artificial lights start to glow through the darkness — appears during a tiny window of just 10-30 minutes. Blink and you might miss it!

If you shoot too early, the bright sunlight will overpower the artificial lights and you’ll lose that wonderful glow. If you shoot too late, you lose the definition of the structure and will only see windows and other bright lights set against a dull black sky.

A vibrant indigo sky illuminates Endo Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, PA.
A vibrant indigo sky illuminates Endo Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, PA.

When you get a twilight shot just right, the results are truly special, providing energy and drama to a shot. The effect is amplified in an urban setting where the many hard surfaces reflect light all around.

Twilight photography can also be a great strategy when a building — such as the L2 Partridge designed office building for Endo pharmaceuticals — faces north and lacks direct sunlight for most of the year. In order to get the best photographs of this building right away, I chose to shoot primarily at twilight.

A darkened sky draws your eye to the entryway connecting these two buildings.
A darkened sky draws your eye to the entryway connecting these two buildings.

Because dusk is so fleeting, my assistant and son, Paul Benson, and I set up two cameras to maximize the number of photos we could shoot in a brief window of time. There’s no way we could set up and break down the same set of equipment for this many shots on that cold and windy night.

To ensure that we captured the perfect twilight images, we shot many frames of each scene. Light moves so quickly at twilight that two pictures shot just a minute apart can appear drastically different!

During a fleeting moment, the sun has sunk just low enough for the artificial lights to glow, but not so low as to obscure this exterior covered walkway.
During a fleeting moment, the sun has sunk just low enough for the artificial lights to glow, but not so low as to obscure this exterior covered walkway.

Twilight shots are even more dramatic when a building’s windows are uniformly lit by interior lighting. During this shoot, one section of the building had all the blinds closed — not a great look! The security staff helped us open and close dozens of blinds on five stories.

It takes a great team to get great twilight images.

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A Beacon in the Night

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A Beacon in the Night

The entrance to the Morristown Hospital Emergency Room glows brightly in the night.

The entrance to the Morristown Hospital Emergency Room glows brightly in the night.

Photographing an empty hospital or healthcare facility, you can really feel the calm before the storm. In these situations, it is imperative that we get into the facility before the whirlwind of patients, doctors, nurses and other staff arrive. Can you imagine trying to photograph an active ER?!

High-traffic areas such as these would be impossible to photograph occupied.

High-traffic areas such as these would be impossible to photograph occupied.

The healthcare industry is one of the largest drivers of our economy today — one out of every six dollars spent is related to healthcare expenses. In communities across the country, hospitals are often the largest employers, surpassing big manufacturers that were once the backbone of the American job market. These hospitals are the cornerstone of local economies, providing jobs and growth.

Reception area at Morristown Hospital.

Reception area at Morristown Hospital.

Calming colors and textures in the new facility at Morristown make hospital stays more comfortable.

Calming colors and textures in the new facility at Morristown make hospital stays more comfortable.

Hospitals are constantly expanding and upgrading their facilities to keep up with demand and changes in technology and care. The Morristown Hospital in Morristown, New Jersey hired Buckl Architects to update their older facilities as well as design new ones. When their new Emergency Room was completed, we went in to photograph it before it was occupied.

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Soar Like an Eagle

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Soar Like an Eagle

Paine Park, a skateboard park near the Philadelphia Art Museum. An aerial view highlights creative shapes and patterns in a way you just couldn’t achieve from the ground.
Paine Park, a skateboard park near the Philadelphia Art Museum. An aerial view highlights creative shapes and patterns in a way you just couldn’t achieve from the ground.

As a kid, if you asked me what kind of animal I wished I could be, I would’ve answered eagle in a heartbeat. I dreamt of soaring through the clouds, peering down at the earth far below. As an adult, I’ve come pretty close to this feeling when I’m up in a helicopter capturing aerial photographs of buildings, skylines and neighborhoods.

A wide view from above highlights suburban America’s highways, shopping malls, and office buildings.
A wide view from above highlights suburban America’s highways, shopping malls, and office buildings.

Aerials capture an important viewpoint when documenting a site or structure. When a commercial realtor is marketing an office building or shopping center, showing the location from the air gives potential buyers a clear sense of scale and context.

Shot from high up, the Cira Center in Philadelphia reflects its surroundings.
Shot from high up, the Cira Center in Philadelphia reflects its surroundings.

A view from up high can be a powerful and dramatic way to show a project in a completely different way, like an architect's scale model come to life. Sometimes when I’m hovering overhead in a helicopter, I feel like I’m looking down on my own personal model train set. What a feeling!

Aerial photography showcases the lush green campus of Glaxo Smith Kline in King of Prussia, PA.
Aerial photography showcases the lush green campus of Glaxo Smith Kline in King of Prussia, PA.

Capturing excellent aerial photographs is not easy. It requires a great deal of planning, teamwork, communication — and strong nerves, as you’re hanging out of the open door of a small two-person helicopter trying to find the perfect angle.

An overhead view captures the precise geometry of the Quadrangle and student housing at University of Pennsylvania.
An overhead view captures the precise geometry of the Quadrangle and student housing at University of Pennsylvania.

I’ve done many aerial shoots, so I’m able to accurately calculate time and cost. There’s nothing worse than underestimating the amount of time needed, or over-booking a pilot’s time. Experience matters.

Philadelphia turns into glowing pockets of light when photographed from above at night.
Philadelphia turns into glowing pockets of light when photographed from above at night.

Before I climb aboard the helicopter, I like to have a clear vision of what I’ll see when I’m up there. I first look up the location on Google Maps and study the satellite view carefully. Once the client confirms that the building I’m seeing in the satellite view is in fact the one I’ve been hired to photograph (you’d be surprised how different something can look from hundreds of feet up in the air!) I mark down the GPS coordinates and print out the satellite view to help navigate the pilot.

Time to fly...

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Business Is Beautiful

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Business Is Beautiful

500 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware.
500 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware.

I’m in the business of helping other businesses look their best through visually commanding photography of commercial buildings.

One of my favorite clients is CBRE , the global full-service real estate company. We work together throughout the year on photography projects for their numerous sales efforts — from Class A office buildings to warehouses, to shopping centers, to apartment complexes.

For one of our recent projects together, the Wayne, Pennsylvania office of CBRE commissioned photographs to market 500 Delaware Avenue in Wilmington, Delaware. As with many of these commercial projects, time is short and the client needs strong images of an existing, older building as quickly as possible to close the deal.

A great place to wait before meeting your attorney.
A great place to wait before meeting your attorney.
Upper floor law firm conference room.
Upper floor law firm conference room.

500 Delaware Avenue houses many corporate law firms — unsurprising considering that Wilmington is home to the majority of large U.S. corporations. It can be a challenge to document the most photogenic spaces in such a large office building, with minimal disruption to the building’s tenants. Frequently, I’m accompanied by a property manager who is familiar with the building and with the tenants, and who helps me locate the best spaces and views.

Not every part of a building is glamorous, but the US Post Office pays their rent every month.
Not every part of a building is glamorous, but the US Post Office pays their rent every month.

My specialty is balancing beautiful photography with documentation. I must highlight the best spaces as well as capture the more typical spaces — visually describe the building while piquing the interest of potential investors.

The street address is hard to miss.
The street address is hard to miss.

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Philadelphia's Family Court

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Philadelphia's Family Court

Exterior of Philadelphia’s Family Court with Love Park fountain in foreground.

Exterior of Philadelphia’s Family Court with Love Park fountain in foreground.

There is never a perfect time to photograph a building. Go in too soon and the building isn’t finished; wait too long and access is difficult. This was certainly my challenge photographing Philadelphia’s new Family Court Building. Once the judges and court employees moved into their new home, tight security would have limited our access throughout the 14-story building. We managed to get in while the building was still partially unfinished and coordinate crews to clean the spaces we needed to photograph.

Corridor outside court rooms features terrazzo floors and wood trim.

Corridor outside court rooms features terrazzo floors and wood trim.

I was hired to photograph the $200 million Family Court Building by Tutor Pernini Construction, who built this modern facility designed by Ewing Cole. I was thrilled to work with Tutor Pernini once again, after collaborating on a previous project, the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

One of numerous court rooms.

One of numerous court rooms.

Located in the city center and across the street from the famous LOVE Park, the Family Court Building is a huge upgrade from their previous facilities, which were located within an historic 1920s neo-classical stone building. The court had simply outgrown the old building, and the need for more courtrooms and more office space led to the construction of this new facility.

While photographing the interiors required precise timing to avoid disturbing the soon-to-be tenants, I had the freedom to explore the best angles for the exteriors. The fountain at nearby LOVE Park provides the perfect context for the site, showing the beauty of the park and the amazing location of the new building.

1st floor lobby.

1st floor lobby.

Because of the large scale of this project, I had two assistants helping move equipment and styling the spaces so we could complete our extensive shot list. My goal was to capture the clean and bright interiors while showcasing their warmth and thoughtful details.

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Victorian Gem

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Victorian Gem

View from balcony of Lea Library, rare book room at Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania.
View from balcony of Lea Library, rare book room at Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania.

It’s not everyday that I get the opportunity to photograph such a unique space as a perfectly-preserved Victorian Gothic reading room embedded in the top floor of a modern library.

I was delighted to be commissioned by Cathy Gontarek, art director the Pennsylvania Gazette, to illustrate an article on the gorgeous Henry Charles Lea Library at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Link to PDF of Gazette article on Henry Charles Lea.

Here is another article that features my photos about renovation of Van Pelt Library, in which Lea Library is housed.

Portrait of Lea that hangs in the rare book room.
Portrait of Lea that hangs in the rare book room.

In 1925 Henry Charles Lea’s family donated his extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts to the University of Pennsylvania — along with the room in which they’d been housed since 1881.

The recently-completed Lea Library is now home to the Special Collections Center and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, and includes conference rooms, a digital media lab, seminar rooms and exhibition space for rare manuscripts, in addition to the refurbished reading room.

The double-height reading room is an impressive example of Victorian architecture and interior design — truly a treasure worth preserving for future generations of students and scholars.

Victorian bust from original Lea Library.
Victorian bust from original Lea Library.
The shelves are filled with rare volumes.
The shelves are filled with rare volumes.
Page from a book about witchcraft from the 1400s.
Page from a book about witchcraft from the 1400s.

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Adding Care to Healthcare

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Adding Care to Healthcare

Exterior of the newly opened IPEX building, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia.

Exterior of the newly opened IPEX building, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia.

Seminar auditorium with state of the art AV equipment.

Seminar auditorium with state of the art AV equipment.

I had the pleasure of photographing this unique educational project for architect Bob Little of L2Partridge, along with Turner Construction. The building boasts cutting-edge learning spaces amid green design elements such as a green roof and interiors full of natural light.

In today’s booming healthcare industry, it’s not enough for doctors and other providers to simply be trained in the science of their practice — they must also master the art of person-to-person interactions and they must be familiar with the responsibilities of the other healthcare professionals with whom they will work in the real world.

Collaboration is key. In an educational environment, bringing together multiple disciplines strengthens students’ understanding of their own professions as they learn from each other.

Main entrance to the IPEX building.

Main entrance to the IPEX building.

Clean, modern, bright and airy, the newly-completed IPEX (Integrated Professional Education Complex) building at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia is dedicated to training students with a comprehensive, interprofessional approach to healthcare.

The inspiring and energizing spaces are the ideal home for this new approach to teaching our future generations of doctors and healthcare professionals.

Main stairwell and common space with circular skylights above.

Main stairwell and common space with circular skylights above.

Detail of skylights in the ceiling.

Detail of skylights in the ceiling.

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