while studying for his degree in architecture and urbanism, rafael gamo enrolled in a two-year photography program. ‘from monday to friday, I went to architecture school,’ gamo tells designboom. ‘on saturdays, I had intensive all-day image-making courses.’ later, while working for an architecture studio, gamo was asked to step in for a photographer who had cancelled at the last minute. ‘since the images were urgent, I was asked if I could take them since I had a background in photography,’ continues rafael gamo. ‘that was the trigger of a 16-year career in this field.’
dicotomías del poder by dellekamp + schleich | top image: matamoros market by C733
all images © rafael gamo
to deepen his knowledge of photography, rafael gamo later studied at the international center of photography in new york — where he has a base in addition to his office in mexico city. ‘the built environment has always been a big part of my work, regardless of whether it is a commissioned shoot or a long-term personal project,’ the photographer shares. gamo has extensively documented projects in mexico and beyond, with his work ranging from private residences to large-scale public installations. to learn more, we spoke with rafael gamo to discuss his working practices, the role of instagram, and his advice for young photographers. read our interview in full below.
la quinta by PPAA + DLCARQ | read more about the project here
designboom (DB): can you please start by telling us a little about your background and how you became involved in architectural photography?
rafael gamo (RG): I have a bachelor’s degree in architecture and urbanism from the universidad iberoamericana in mexico city. in parallel, I enrolled in a two-year photography program, so from monday to friday, I went to architecture school. on saturdays, I had intensive all-day image-making courses. the combination of both interests started while working for an architecture studio. we had just finished a theater, and the photographer had a last-minute problem and couldn’t make it to the shoot. since the images were urgent, I was asked if I could take them since I had a background in photography. that was the trigger of a 16-year career in this field. some years later, I enrolled in a post-graduate program at the international center of photography in new york city to deepen my photography knowledge.
estudio iturbide by taller de arquitectura | read more about the project here
DB: we’ve often featured your photography on designboom. have you always been interested in documenting the built environment?
RG: yes, the built environment has always been a big part of my work, regardless of whether it is a commissioned shoot or a long-term personal project. even before I started doing architecture photography, my personal work has always had the urban fabric as the backdrop that structures the action in them.
MoMa PS1 young architect program 2019 by pedro y juana | read more about the project here
DB: how do you prepare in advance of a shoot? and what is the first thing you do when you arrive on-site?
RG: the keyword for me in this subject is adaptability. preparation for a shoot varies immensely depending on the client and the specifics of every project. when possible, I like to scout the building in advance in order to individuate the best angles. if that is not possible, plans and construction photographs are the next best tools that I have. however, there have been many times when I have had to head straight from the airport to a building with little or no information about it. this situation translates into a lot of improvisation, and you have to be prepared for adjusting your routines and preconceptions. even though an unplanned situation like this one might not seem ‘ideal,’ it presents an exciting challenge that allows for a lot of spontaneity and awe in the documentation process.
serpentine pavilion 2018 by frida escobedo | read more about the project here
RG (continued): an essential aspect of my work is light quality, so understanding the sun path is the first thing I focus on when I arrive on site. in a few minutes, I quickly need to understand how light will evolve throughout the day and when the best moment to photograph the different aspects of a project will be.