“The Walls” – Photographs by John Cole at Cross MacKenzie Gallery

April 9, 2013  |  Walls  |  No Comments

Opening Reception May 3, 2013. 6-8pm

Cross MacKenzie Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by up-and-coming architectural photographer John Cole, who is showing in our gallery for the first time. The images in this series, “The Walls” are all about observing mindfully, seeing thoughtfully, paying closer attention and looking anew. Cole teaches us about our relationship with our surroundings and through his subtle framing of the seemingly mundane, the artist’s philosophy is on display. Walls are not just facades of buildings, barriers or supports, they are inviting tableaus for the unpredictable – they are non-linear time-lines. These walls are pages from autograph books inviting the signatures of weather, accident, sunlight and serendipity. The viewer must be present in order not to overlook the “writing on the wall” and to realize that there is more to be seen.

A graduate of Virginia Tech, John Cole has applied his art and art history degree in his practice of formal architectural photography – the art of interpreting the large-scale forms in two dimensions. Cole’s “Wall” photographs are an outgrowth of that study and his affection for our built environment remains evident in these intimate views.

Exhibition on view through June 5th, 2013.

Cross MacKenzie gallery
2026 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009
202.333.7970 crossmackenzie.com

1828 L Street

August 24, 2011  |  Architecture  |  No Comments

New entrance and facade

So it’s been quite awhile since I’ve written here. I’ve got to say that this summer has been a busy one. Quite a bit has been going on, including getting a puppy, renovating our bathroom, throwing a house-warming party, researching wedding locales and venues, and yes even finding time to photograph some really cool projects.

All of those things will be something I’ll write about, but first I figured I’d showcase a project I photographed by a newer client of mine. I shot one job for Sigal Construction earlier this year, and I must have done something right because they called me back. The project is 1828 L St, and they had renovated the lobby, elevator lobby, entrance facade and canopy, as well as the loading dock. I think the project looks terrific, and that the photos turned out nicely as well. Sigal agreed, as did the architect since Dep purchased licenses to several photographs. I hope you like the photos as well.



Foggy Wilmington Morning

Foggy Morning on the Inter-coastal Waterway.

Foggy Wilmington Morning

July 12, 2011  |  Architecture, other photos  |  No Comments

So recently Katie and I went down to Wilmington, NC (my parent’s hometown). We were really there for my Grandmother’s 100th birthday! but we also got a chance to look around the place and scope out potential wedding venues.

Anyway, while there we stayed at a friend of my Mom’s vacation home on the Intercoastal Waterway. They didn’t have their boat out yet, but just having a nice pier in the back was great. The first morning there we woke up to an amazing foggy morning, the fishing must have been great.

To give a little more perspective, here is another shot of the same place. This photo features Jimmy and Martha Cole, lookin good Mom and Dad!

Photographs for Donald Lococo Architects

Photographs for Donald Lococo Architects

June 6, 2011  |  abandoned houses  |  No Comments

It’s been a while since I posted on here, and thankfully it is because I’ve been crazy busy. Work for me picks up around this time of year, I just need to find time to update my blog, and here it is.

One of the projects I’ve been busy with this spring was a job for a new client, Donald Lococo Architects. Donald had recently fished up this amazing house and thankfully contacted me to photograph it. The house will be featured in an upcoming issue of Architectural Digest (photographs by another photographer) and Donald needed portfolio shots. I will certainly let you know when AD features the house, I’m looking forward to comparing my work to AD’s photographs.

On a side note, the interior design is by Darryl Carter.

Here are a few of my shots, enjoy. For more of my residential work, please visit my website. All images © John Cole


the BIG 3

Self Portrait with models and his wife. © Helmut Newton.

the BIG 3

May 12, 2011  |  Architecture, other photos  |  No Comments

Of all the great photographers there ever were, I would have to say that my three favorite are Ezra Stoller, Richard Avedon, and Helmut Newton (in no particular order).

What’s interesting is that the three of them had many similarities, other than my fondness for them. Avedon and Newton certainly shot very similar subjects in people and fashion while Stoller shot architecture, but all three chiefly shot in black and white, had strong graphic sensibilities, and by all accounts were masters of composition. They were all roughly the same age (within 8 years of each other) and oddly enough, happened to pass away in the same year, 2004.


For obvious reasons, Ezra Stoller is among my top three. He shot architecture, he had a strong graphic style, and he liked to photograph buildings from an elevation view. In fact, his style is what I try to emulate in my own photography, and what gives the name to this blog. I love the simplicity of his photographs. For more than what I’m showing, you can see more of his work here.

Ezra Stoller, photographed by Bill Maris © Esto


Miami Parking Garage, designed by Robert Law Weed - Photograph by Ezra Stoller - © Esto


TWA Terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen - Photograph by Ezra Stoller - © Esto


TWA Terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen - Photograph by Ezra Stoller - © Esto


Seagram Building, designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson - Photograph by Ezra Stoller © Esto


As I’ve mentioned in a past post, you are always responsible for whats in your frame, and Stoller was a master. As told by Robert Campbell in his obituary in the Boston Globe “In a famous photograph of another house, by Marcel Breuer, Mr. Stoller himself piled up firewood in order to contrast its rough texture with the crisp modern lines of the architecture. Then he opened and adjusted a casement window and waited until the sun cast a perfectly angled shadow on the facade.” This is a perfect of example of “making” a photograph.


Chamberlain Cottage, designed by Marcel Breuer - Photograph by Ezra Stoller © Esto



Next is Avedon. Not much needs to be said about him, he is in everyones top 3. I like all of his work, from his fashion and portraits to his more gritty art work that focused more on substance than celebrity. And, as I’ve been preaching about composition, I dare you to find something wrong with these photos. For more Avedon, go here.

Self Portrait © The Richard Avedon Foundation


Lauren Hutton for Vogue 1969 © The Richard Avedon Foundation


Portrait of Gloria Vanderbilt © The Richard Avedon Foundation


Suzy Parker and Robin Tattersall, dress by Dior, Place de la Concorde, Paris, August 1956. @ 2010 The Richard Avedon Foundation


Malcolm X, New York, 1963 © The Richard Avedon Foundation.


Last is Helmut Newton. And he certainly isn’t least. His graphic and sexually perverse images just grab viewers. And as Tom Ford says “Helmut Newton changed fashion photography. His world of glamorous, slightly twisted sexual images was both shocking and appealing at the same time.”

Newton’s images certainly are edgier than the other two, and that is what I like about him. He almost goes too far, but what I think saves him is the fact that all the women have a feeling of power to them, that despite the seemingly negative circumstance the subjects find themselves in, they look like they are the ones in charge. He was sometimes called the “King of Kink”, and you can see why. For more Newton, go here.


Self Portrait with models and his wife. © the Helmut Newton Foundation


Helmut's wife, June © the Helmut Newton Foundation


Saddle I, for Vogue Homme 1976 © the Helmut Newton Foundation


"Le Smoking" Tuxedo for Yves St. Laurent, in French Vogue 1975 © the Helmut Newton Foundation


Brigitte Nielsen © the Helmut Newton Foundation


And that’s that. I hope you liked some, if not all of these selected photographs. Each photo is different, yet they all have a power and a style. Whether its simplicity, or perversion, or elegance, or sexuality, these photos do it for me. I would put pretty much anything by these guys up on my wall, and for me, that’s the greatest compliment.


On looking for things and creativity…

Weller's Dry Cleaning

On looking for things and creativity…

April 27, 2011  |  help topics  |  No Comments

“Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.” – Daryl Zero, Zero Effect

Bill Pullman as Daryl Zero

This quote is from one of my most favorite movies of all time, in fact I would place it somewhere in my personal top 5 list. The movie is Zero Effect, written and directed by Jake Kasdan. In the movie, Daryl Zero is the greatest private detective in the world, and when he says this he is talking about looking for information or clues to help solve his cases. But, I also find this statement to be true of the creative process.

You see, as an artist, I struggle with the whats. What to photograph, what to draw, what to design? I find it to be the most difficult part of being an artist, what is it that I should create, what is it that moves me? It’s the thing that makes it almost easy to be a corporate artist. A client comes with a commission, and I do the job that they want. I do it with my style, my eye, and my skills, but the what is given to me.


Irony - © 2010-2011 *gutterface

However, when it comes to my own personal art, it isn’t quite so easy. I tend to think that I have to have the what figured out before I go out looking. I get all stressed out about exactly what my subject or theme should be, and I think myself out of going out to create. Instead, I should remember Daryl Zero’s quote, and just go out looking. Look for everything, because I’m sure to find something I want to photograph. And once I find some of those things, voila, I can find a theme within that work to start out with. The theme may go in different directions from there, but its the starting point that matters. Without the start, there is nothing to work with.

Here are a few photos from my latest outing. Maybe nothing yet (other than things that are red), but its a start.


Weller's Dry Cleaning - © John Cole


No Parking - © John Cole


Garage Entrance - © John Cole


Quarry House Tavern - © John Cole


Hedin View, Afternoon - © John Cole



Conference Rooms, the same but different

April 20, 2011  |  Architecture  |  No Comments

Recently I had to assemble my conference room portfolio for a bid I was putting together. The client was in the process of redesigning their website which would more prominently feature the amenities they have, a large part of which is their conference and meeting facilities.

Singapore Embassy, designed by RTKL, photographed for Turner Construction © John Cole

I didn’t end up getting the job, but it was somewhat enjoyable to go back through my recent work and take a look at the shots I tend to find less enjoyable than the rest.

Salesforce.com, designed by Pollack Architecture, photographed for Turner Construction © John Cole

To be honest, taking a photo of a conference room isn’t my favorite thing to do. Why? Well, basically because they are tough to do well, and even then, they aren’t the money shots. Architects and Interior Designers need the conference room shot to show the space to potential clients, but like my portfolio of images, they typically aren’t the first images to be shown.

RTCrm, designed by HOK © John Cole

What makes a conference room difficult to photograph at times is the fact that they are all basically the same. Designers do a terrific job to make them different and interesting, but at the end of the day, it’s a room with a table and chairs around it. As you can tell from some of the images here, I try to look at them from different angles. Typically, showing a part of the room is better than trying to show the entire thing. And in some ways, giving a hint of the table makes the the room look bigger as you don’t really know when the table ends.

Medtronic, designed by MS&R © John Cole

Another way to approach a conference room is to try to showcase the architecture around or adjacent to the conference room. Like before, giving a little hint of the table gives the viewer context, while focusing more on the architecture surrounding the room helps make the photograph more interesting overall. Telling the story of the space and its functionality is the main point, but doing so with a strong graphic composition is the trick.

General Dynamics IT, designed by LITTLE © John Cole

The other aspect that makes conference rooms difficult is that there are a lot of details within the photograph. Like all architectural interiors photography, it is 90% moving furniture, and in conference rooms there can be quite a few chairs to move. The proof is in the details and in all of the photos shown here, each chair is positioned to be all the same height, all the same distance from the table, all equally spaced, and when the legs can be seen, all the casters are turned in the same direction. It may seem like minutiae, but everything down to the smallest detail makes a difference.

HKS Architects, designed by HKS, photographed for BUCH Construction © John Cole

I think that I’m pretty successful with these particular conference room photographs, and I hope you enjoy them on some level. I realize that these shots aren’t exactly art, but I hope they are at least interesting. If you think to yourself, “I wouldn’t mind having a meeting in that room” then I’ve done my job in translating the work of these excellent Architects and Designers.

Experius, designed by Gensler, photographed for BUCH Construction © John Cole

Arlington Co. DHS, designed by Architecture Inc. © John Cole

Adams & Reese, designed by FOX Architects © John Cole

Bread for the City, designed by Wiebenson & Dorman Architects © John Cole


Collecting, (NOT Hoarding) as an Art

My bookcase - Lots of room to grow © John Cole

Collecting, (NOT Hoarding) as an Art

April 12, 2011  |  help topics, pop culture  |  No Comments

Let me start out by saying that no, I am not a hoarder. Nor has anyone ever accused me of hoarding (at least not seriously).

I do, however, collect things. Right now, I collect art, toys, cameras, tools, magazines, clothes, books, and dvds. Mostly its passive collecting, but there are times when I get really into something and it becomes pretty active. Passionate. Almost obsessive. (Yet not hoarding!) You might say my collecting habits are both a hobby that I enjoy and a necessary activity that keeps me inspired in my photography and design work.

Here is a shot of my Iron Man Collection - I had to have Iron Man Mark I - III © John Cole

Let me explain what I mean with an example.

I consider my most important collection to be my magazines. The longest running subscription is to Communication Arts. I’ve loved this magazine ever since I learned about it in graphic design class at Virginia Tech. It’s so great, because as the title suggests, it’s about the arts of communication. It consists of all the things that I am into, print design, web design, illustration, photography, advertising, marketing and so on. As you can tell, it’s very visual. Once I could afford it, I HAD to get a subscription. I started subscribing in May of 2002, and have 64 issues total.

Even though my subscription has never lapsed, somehow I’m missing 4 issues, and it absolutely drives me crazy! (Here is where the obsessive part comes in…) So crazy in fact that while writing this, I went online and was able to get 3 of the 4 in back issues. I guess the elusive December 2006 #349 issue will just have to go missing, and eat away at my soul from here on out.

Missing #349

My compulsion for having a complete set must go back to my baseball card collecting days as a kid. I was baseball card crazy for a few years, and having a complete set was always a good thing.

The collection also has to be in mint or near mint condition. I’m not too crazy on this topic, as I do continue to handle the magazines (and take toys out of their boxes). However, that doesn’t mean that I sacrifice proper treatment of the issues. Always read them in as sterile a setting as possible, keep them clean, and never, ever fold the corners.

I have some friends (who know who they are) that when reading a book or magazine, will fold it over on its spine! AAAGGGHHH! Whenever I see this I physically cringe, and chastise the offender for a malicious act of destroying a beautiful printed piece.  What can I say? It’s a pet peeve of mine, and another one of my many OCD tendencies. I let other peoples folded corners go without comment because that would just be taking it too far. I mean I’m not a crazy person or anything.

Communication Arts, Dwell, and Mark Magazine Covers

You see, it’s not just the wonderful content that I love in these magazines (I also subscribe to Dwell, Interior Design, Architectural Record, Architect, Architectural Digest, Mark, Elephant, Atomic Ranch, Home & Design, PDN, Digital Photo Pro, and probably a few others), it’s also the magazine itself. The titles are wonderfully printed on really good paper (in some cases extraordinary paper) and they feature great photography, design and writing. To me, they are works of art. And I treat them with the same care and respect that I would treat a great piece of art or photography. How can you destroy something like this? Something that a talented group of designers, editors, art directors, photographers, writers, and print people labored over to produce? Maybe it’s just the print designer in me, but I love print, and I have a really hard time destroying or getting rid of these things. Would you throw away a book? I wouldn’t, though if you do, please recycle.

I think I am different from most people though in that I do go back and re-look at my magazines. I say look at because unless there’s a really good article somewhere, I rarely re-read them. But I find myself looking at them time and time again. Perhaps it’s because I see the magazines as more of a work of visual art than I do a work of literary art. I re-look at my magazines for photo and design ideas. I see other solutions, to visual problems and I learn from the pieces that work for me. (Check out Austin Kleon’s blog about this topic). This is pretty typical artist practice, and while I definitely don’t want to copy anyone, I can take aspects of other artists work and work it into my own.

I guess the point of all this is that it’s not hoarding if the stuff you collect has a use and drives you creatively. Wikipedia says that hoarding is “the excessive acquisition of possessions (and failure to use or discard them).”

And while yes, I fail to discard them, I do use them over and over as a way to see or learn something new. And they look pretty damn good on my bookshelves!

One of my bookcases - Lots of room to grow © John Cole


Yes I write out the rough drfat of each post long hand. I have this weird obsession with my handwriting. I can't help it.


April 4, 2011  |  help topics  |  1 Comment

In my life I’ve found that awareness is the key to everything. I’m not talking about awareness in the vein of being alarmist, but being aware in all avenues and endeavors you take. When you’re driving, pay attention to what you’re doing and what the cars around you are doing. In your personal relationships, pay attention to your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/partner/friend/family member and what they are doing or how they’re feeling and act accordingly (it can save you a lot of grief, trust me). When you’re at work, if you listen to your boss/client/co-worker/subordinate, you’ll do better work and get better results.

My point is that no matter what you’re doing or where you are, being aware of things going on around you can only help.

I think for me this concept was mostly stressed by my dad. With school, pay attention to the teacher, and do what they ask of you. While playing sports, it was always about knowing the situation and being ready and able to act accordingly when it was my time to make a play. With driving, the lesson was to always know where the cars are around you at any given time in case you need/want to change lanes.

Great cartoon from Mike Luckovich.


My dad was always going on about being functional, not being lackadaisical, and maybe most importantly to me, always, always expedite situations. He not only taught me to be aware of others, but also to be cognizant of the situation as a whole and to be prepared to be in the right place to do the right thing at the right time. He also taught me that other people’s time is just as important as my own.

I think these are truly valuable lessons, yet at the same time a source of extreme aggravation for me. Being aware has taught me to be kind and courteous, but has also made me realize that not too many other people are aware of anything around them! People live in their own little bubbles and it seems they think they are the only people that matter. It’s crazy to me and I think a lot would change in the world if people just paid attention and were aware of the other people around them.

In my own life as a photographer being aware is probably the most important thing that I do. Let’s be honest, by definition photographers are voyeurs. And as voyeurs, we watch and I am no exception. I watch everything I can. I watch movies, I watch TV, I watch people, I look at magazines, books, scenery, landscapes and anything and everything that crosses my path.

Photo © Vincent Bousserez, Comète voyeuse. His Plastic Life series is incredible


I need it, I feed off of it and therefore I have visual opinions on almost everything. And I have to! Because when it’s time for me to work, I have to be able to look at my subject, make decisions and come up with the best possible photograph at the best possible time. To do that I need to know what works and to always be aware of possibilities.

It’s funny, when I first made my career switch from graphic designer to photographer, I knew this guy who was a photo-enthusiast. I didn’t take him too seriously at the time, but he told me, “John, just study your frame. No, no, seriously, study your frame.” He just kept repeating himself, saying, “study your frame,” over and over and my response was, “Yeah, sure thing, guy.”

But he was absolutely right on. Studying exactly what is in the frame of the camera, and taking responsibility for everything that is in the photograph, or maybe more importantly, what isn’t in the photograph can be the difference between good and bad composition. Photography is many things, but other than capturing good light and the decisive moment, photography is about selective framing or composition, especially in the world of architectural photography.


I took this photograph for Washington Life Magazine. I could have shown you more, but by narrowing the subject focus, what is in the photo becomes more dominant © John Cole - House designed by Cunningham & Quill Architects

When you walk into a building, you see everything there, the good, the bad and the in-between. But when you see a photograph of architecture, you only see what the photographer shows you, or more specifically, what the photographer has decided to show you. So I not only have to be aware of what makes this particular piece of architecture successful, but also how to show it in the best possible way.

In your own life it may not be as important to see things as clearly or in a visual problem solving manner as it is for me, but looking around and paying attention to your surroundings can only benefit you. Just be aware that there are other people around you, who just like you are getting through their day, doing their best (hopefully) and that what they are doing is important as well.

Savage Chickens by Doug Savage

I think my dad was right in that, like driving, there are times when it’s necessary to merge together, or let that guy in front of you because in the end it speeds everything up. If we are aware, we can get things done better and easier and all get to our destinations in time. (Sorry about all the driving metaphors, can you tell I’m on the road a lot?)

Awareness may be an easy concept to grasp, but a difficult concept to live every day. It takes time and energy to keep up with it, but I know it will make you better at whatever it is you do. It makes me a better photographer, a better friend, a better worker, and a better fiancé. It just makes me a better me.

Thanks Dad!

Yes I write out the rough draft of each post long hand. I have this weird obsession with my handwriting. I can't help it.

New House

New House

March 27, 2011  |  other photos  |  1 Comment

So this past week has been quite eventful for me. I apparently didn’t think buying a house and moving was going to be quite enough, so I figured I’d go ahead and propose to my girlfriend of close to 4 years. I proposed to my now fiance on Saturday the 19th, then closed on our house on Tuesday the 22nd, then moved on the 23rd, and 26th. I don’t quite know what I was thinking, but it ended up working out perfectly. My fiance, Katie, naturally said yes (I knew she would as she’s been on my case about it for about 3 months), closing on the house went through without a hitch, and moving went as smoothly as one could expect, with the help of a great soon-to-be brother-in-law, and some of the best friends anyone could hope for. all I can say is, I’m a lucky guy!

Anyway, I know people want to see a photo coming out of a photographers blog so here it is. Katie and I were able to finally sit down and relax last night, and she looked out the window of our new home, and pointed out the fact that the sky and the trees looked really cool. So, being me, I jumped up, grabbed my camera and tripod and took a few shots, my favorite being this one. I was going for eerie, and hopefully you’ll approve.