Instagram Live in English. 8 May 2020

Photography by Sara Costa

During the quarantine days, after having organised two instagram live sessions in Spanish, Marcela Grassi had the initiative of setting a new chat in English on the 8th of May, so her non speaking Spanish-audience could understand as well and she could get closer to them, one of the main objectives of these live talks during the lock down days.

The community of participants who saw the live included journalists specialized in design and architecture, architects, industrial designers, interior designers, photographers, light designers, stylists, students and also representatives of the AFPE (Association of professional photographers of Spain) of which Marcela it’s part, from cities like New York, Chicago, Moscow, Athens, Dubai or İstanbul.

The previous days to the live talk, Marcela received some questions from the participants that were covered at the beginning, like the equipment and technique when working; her point of view about the photography business; how was she coping with the confinement, and also if she had some funny anecdotes lived during 13 years working as photographer.

You can watch the whole session by clicking on this video:

The first topic that was covered was about the equipment: Marcela listed all the different devices she has and what usage gives them in every occasion.

Marcela is a Canon Professional Member, so practically all the equipment she uses is from Canon.

Her camera is a full frame Canon Pro 5D MARK IV
She uses different types of lenses:
Tilt Shift by Canon:

  • One of TS17mm (tilt shift), valid for exteriors and when the picture requires a certain height. She also uses a Vanguard Tripod of 190cm and a Benro polarizer specific for this lens.
  • A second lens of TS24mm, appropriate for interiors, more precise and with a sharp focus.

Marcela also has different kinds of zooms:

  • A 17-40mm, used for exteriors and when not using tripod. Also suitable for details which are not taken very close.
    For exteriors, Marcela also has a polarizer, which allows to enhance the quality of the image taken.
  • A 24-105mm, with wide range options, suitable for taking portraits of people. It allows you to change the point of view frequently and fast. However, this lens is not precise enough for architecture photography. 
  • A 70-300mm from Tamron, good for taking images of details of the façades, also to capture the context around the building from far.
  • A Canon 50mm 2,8, good for focusing on details.

Marcela uses two flashes from Canon, when shooting in interiors.

After going through the equipment, Marcela was asked about funny anecdotes during her years of photographer, she said she had so many after 13 years!

Actually, just two days prior to the live session, she went back to shoot after the heavy lock down, and she explained she was bitten by a bumblebee. 🙂

She was also asked about the way of approaching potential new customers. Marcela explained about her architecture background, hence she had a certain number of contacts within the sector, like old student mates who opened their own architecture studios, former teachers from university, and those became her first clients.

In order to approach new potential customers, Marcela advised to try to meet the clients always preferably in person, so she can explain the way she works and her personal point of view, and also has the opportunity to picture the customer.

Fairs and trade events are also a good moment to start a conversation with a future client. It’s always recommendable to reach the person in advance via email introducing yourself and trying to arrange a short informal meeting during the event.

Also, architects are usually invited to give conferences, so those are another moment to meet them, by attending the lecture, and after introducing yourself and your work, and try to arrange a visit to their studio.

External references from third parties, such as existing customers or other people with prestige within the sector can help very much as a presentation card.

There is also the option when you like an architect and want to get in touch with him/her, to shoot by your own initiative some of their works so you can show them your personal point of view about their projects.
That can also serve when approaching a design brand, so you can show them as well your point of view and interpretation of their objects and furnitures.

After that, Marcela talked about her point of view on photography, a topic she was asked by different participants. Marcela explained she was born in Argentina, and moved to Italy when she was 8 years. Besides her studies in architecture, she also studied fine arts. Before moving for good to Barcelona, Marcela had spent a year in the city, thanks to the Erasmus program. The architecture point of view and way of thinking has always been present in her life, and that helps to structure her mind, so when she arrives to a new space, she immediately starts to break it down into elevations and sections, like all architects do.

Marcela dreams very usually about architecture, and builds imaginary constructions in her mind. 

Because of the time when she lived in Argentina, she always remembers the blue skies and the high usage of vivid colors across Latin America. That is one of the reasons why creating high color contrasts is part of her style.

The fact that she studied fine arts at high school and that she lived in a country like Italy, where art can be seen and experienced in every corner, also contributed to stimulate a special sensibility for beauty: Marcela is always looking for extract it from spaces, and show it to her audience.

Marcela named Gabriele Basilico, a photographer who’s been a valued reference to many professionals, and was very capturing the context and owned a very personal point of view when shooting the city.

Jordi Bernadó, who she had the opportunity to meet in person, is another photographer of reference for her, and since the first moments encouraged her to dedicate professionally to architecture photography.

As for more anecdotes, Marcela remembered one while was photographing Universe School in Barcelona, by ONL Architects. When shooting a building, Marcela often spends a whole day to explore which is the best light moment for every space. So she was there at night, the moment known as the blue hour (a magical moment which allows to control what to show and what to hide, or also highlight certain elements), together with a member of the architecture studio, Matthieu, who was there to help her. To switch on and off the lights, they have to access to the kitchen, without knowing there was an alarm connected, that started to ring loudly, so in just a few minutes the police arrived into the school, also by helicopter!

With great embarrassment, Marcela and Matthieu explained that they were there to take pictures of the School, with permission from the School Direction.

Then the audience asked what kind of contract she uses. She explained she is a member of AFPE (Association of Professional Photographers of Spain) and she admitted there is not much definition about architecture photography terms, like there are for weddings for advertising. At least she advised to have a written confirmation from the customer and also if possible to get the rates document signed. For example, the copyright clause is difficult to explain, especially in the Internet age.

Afterwards, a question came about the chances of seeing her work published in the media. Again, Marcela explained that since the arrival of Internet, the sector suffered a lot of changes, and publishers have less budget every time. Unless having a very interesting project, the chances are low, however having good contacts in the sector is very important. It’s also useful to follow the journalists who work in the different publications and contact them personally by email or phone call.

Marcela expressed how much she missed to travel, and shared her planned destinations for the next scheduled shootings once travelling is allowed: London, Ibiza, Italy and France.

She also shared her love and admiration for Switzerland, highlighting their great architecture and way of building, and also pointed at Basel as a city she wouldn’t mind to live in at all.

The photographer ended explaining how much she likes to get involved within the shooting process. For instance if a building is on works, she will immediately jump on any scaffold to get the best caption or even move it to wherever is necessary. 

She also talked about the two options when having a shooting, one can be alone, where you can have the opportunity to meditate, dialogue with the building and listen from it; the other is to run the session with the client, where you can interact and plan together the vision you want of the spaces. 

In photo shoots often occur situations that require a quick reaction. Marcela remembered one that was particularly complicated and funny: when she was photographing the new collections of BD Barcelona Design, faced a problem of excess of light coming from the patio, which she solved by arranging different packaging fabrics on a structure together with the customer, so as to filter the light.

Due to the tough moment we all were going through, Marcela strongly advised to encourage connections of all kinds, both professional and personal, to share worries but also motivations, in order to avoid to feel alone in such difficult moments.

Interviews and Conferences

MaMagazine. ‘Marcela Grassi, retratista de los espacios que habitamos’

Picture by Sara Costa

Interior Contraportada. ‘Marcela Grassi, la fotógrafa de arquitectura con más trascendencia en el sector’

Picture by Quim Roser

Metalocus. ‘Marcela Grassi. Serie Fotógrafas de Arquitectura en España.’

Interior Contraportada. ‘Arquitectura y Luz’ en BB Construmat.

CEIP Ruidoms, ONL Arquitectura.
Picture by Marcela Grassi.

El periódico de Catalunya. ‘Marcela Grassi: Necesitamos saber las cosas que sí van bien’

Picture by Ricard Cugat