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Benny Chan to receive 2018 Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award

Architecture Awards West
Benny Chan to receive 2018 Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award (Benny Chan/Fotoworks)

The Julius Shulman Institute (JSI) at Woodbury University has named Benny Chan as the 2018 recipient of the Julius Shulman Institute Excellence in Photography Award. 

View of space shuttle fuel tank. (Benny Chan/Fotoworks)

Chan’s work is well-known to AN readers, as he is among one of the favored photographers for Los Angeles-area architects. In recent years, Chan has photographed projects designed by John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, Shimoda Design Group, Neil M. Denari Architecture (NMDA), Standard Architecture, Belzberg Architects, and Johnson Favaro, among many others. 

Emerson College by Morphosis under construction.(Benny Chan/Fotoworks)

Chan, a Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) graduate, also maintains an art photography practice that compliments his architectural photography work. After graduating from SCI-Arc in 1992, Chan worked for NMDA and SOM before deciding to go all-in on photography. Chan, who grew up in Hong Kong—“there’s nothing there but buildings,” he explained—was drawn to photography after a stint spent traveling and photographing buildings abroad. Loathe to return to the “really, really dry” routine of everyday practice, he instead set out to help architects capture and propograte their work via photography. In the over 25 years since, Chan has built a reputation for bold and honest representations of Los Angeles architecture and the city’s human-made landscapes.

View of Plaza Hotel under construction. (Benny Chan/Fotoworks)

A press release describes Chan’s straightforward and technically-precise work as constituting an “assembly manual for Los Angeles,” a comparison that will shine through in an exhibition that will go on display at Woodbury’s WUHO Gallery in Hollywood starting May 12. The exhibition, titled Above and Behind: The Architectural Photography of Benny Chan, will showcase photographs taken of some of the region’s most important new buildings while under construction. The works, abstract and looming, are drawn from Chan’s art practice, not the polished photos of finished architectural works we are used to seeing. Regarding his focus on in-process architecture, Chan said, “[Construction represents] a unique moment in a building’s life—It’ll never look like that again,” adding, “I see these shots as more like sports photography than architectural photography.”

Describing Chan’s virtuosity and technical focus, architect Barbara Bestor, principal of Bestor Architecture and director of JSI said, “He builds his own cameras, reframes the act of construction as worthy of portraiture, and has a mad scientist/photo studio-as-laboratory where he crafts images as small as X-rays of his own cameras and as large as wide views of urban neighborhoods shot from a helicopter in his home made camera rigs!”

Previous JSI Excellence in Photography Award honorees include: Helene Binet, Iwan Baan, James Welling, and Catherine Opie. 

Above and Behind runs through June 24, 2018, see the WUHO site for more information.

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