Profile

Fernando Guerra

Students walking along the colourful walkways of the EPFL Quartier Nord in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo by Canon Ambassador Fernando Guerra.
Architectural photographer Fernando Guerra captures beautiful, artistic shots of contemporary structures, such as his award-winning image of colourful student accommodation – EPFL Quartier Nord in Ecublens, Switzerland. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 lens at 1/13 sec, f/2.8 and ISO640. © Fernando Guerra

Coming from a family of Portuguese architects paved the way for Fernando Guerra to become a bold architectural photographer with an archive of exceptional shots of contemporary structures.

Fernando captures visions of beauty. Not natural beauty, not people, but manmade, manufactured beauty. His crystal-sharp, flawless images show off contemporary architecture. Adopting a deliberately neutral, non-judgemental approach to his shots allows the subjects of his photographs – the buildings themselves – to shine. He captures the spatiality of buildings, contextualises them within their environment and how their users move around them, and, simply, makes them look stunning.

Canon Ambassador Fernando Guerra.


Location: Portugal
Specialist areas: Architecture
Favourite Kit:
Canon EOS 5DS R
Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L

In traditional architectural photography, the 'decisive moment' never had much relevance and very little attention was ever placed on factors external to the building being photographed. Passers-by, the car that stopped in the right place, the perfect cloud; these are the elements Fernando likes to add to his images. They add scale, but above all they give the image meaning – they also create a bridge to Fernando's more personal work.

His sensitivity to the architectural process is easily explained. The child of a family of architects, Fernando studied architecture himself and worked as an architect in Macau for five years. In 1999, he teamed up with his brother Sergio, also an architect, to open studio FG+SG – an architecture firm with a focus on photographing buildings. Their work has helped to export contemporary Portuguese architecture to the world.

A man in protective clothing guides a boat through the water between the concrete structure of the Shihlien Chemical Plant in Huai'an, China. Photo by Canon Ambassador Fernando Guerra.
Fernando's work has taken him all over the world, including China where he photographed the 'Building on the Water', a large curved office for the vast Shihlien Chemical Plant in Huai'an. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II lens at 0.3 sec, f/7.1 and ISO100. © Fernando Guerra

"The camera has been part of my everyday life for more than 30 years and it's the tool that allows me to capture what interests me," Fernando explains. "Architecture was a natural calling and, as architects, we are obsessed with the preservation of our work – which is where photography comes in."

Although based in Lisbon, Fernando's work has caught the attention of a variety of international clients and he regularly jets off to capture the finest contemporary architecture the world has to offer. "With the internet, what we do and where we live reaches everywhere," he says. "Today our competition and market are global, which I like. The more we live, work and travel, the more we adapt and grow."

A man stands in the vast concrete gallery at the Saya Park project in South Korea. Photo by Canon Ambassador Fernando Guerra.
Part of a complex of three buildings surrounded by woodland in South Korea's North Gyeongsang province. The largest of the three structures, developed as part of the Saya Park project, is a concrete art pavilion that comprises a variety of exhibition galleries. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS R with a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L lens at 1/20 sec, f/10 and ISO200. © Fernando Guerra

Always ready to incorporate emerging tech, Fernando and his team were early adopters of aerial photography, and since 2011 have taken to the skies to capture a more unique point of view. "When we first started flying, tools were still very basic and we had to design part of the flying equipment ourselves. The flights were often short and didn't always end well. But it was important to start early. I realised the importance of a camera that could fly and how to fit it into a photo shoot. Clients love it, of course. It's a novelty for all intents and purposes. Over the years we have thousands of images from above that I love, but the most important photographs continue to be taken down here on the ground. I've always considered aerial photography as simply another camera, just the one that flies and shows the 'fifth elevation'."

Fernando is regularly published in various national and international publications, such as Casabella, Wallpaper*, Dwell, Icon, Domus and A+U. His studio collaborates with lots of international architects and, in 2015, he won the Architectural Photographer of the Year prize for his colourful photograph of EPFL Quartier Nord in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2017 he had a celebrated 2,000m2 exhibition in the centre of Lisbon, showing the last 30 years of his images, his work and his process.

"I have had the fortune of working with many people who inspire me daily and who have really advanced the way we think about architecture," he says. "I see my work as the messenger of a structure; which is the result of great effort, so there has to be a special and tremendous responsibility that comes with that."

Cleaners walking down a staircase in front of a bright yellow wall at the Lisbon School of Music in Portugal. Photo by Canon Ambassador Fernando Guerra.
The striking Lisbon School of Music – Fernando likes to include people in his images because they demonstrate the reality of a place and bring a building to life. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L lens at 1/400 sec, f/9 and ISO100. © Fernando Guerra

When is the best time to photograph architecture?

"I think it is essential that the building is functioning; to see it functioning gives it meaning. It creates rhythms and produces photographs that interest me."

What's the best vantage point to photograph a building?

"I base myself in the position of the passers-by, so you can see what takes place in that particular street, or building, enriching the image with an additional layer of information."

How would you describe your technique?

"I like to photograph architecture as an invisible photojournalist, as if it were for an editorial piece. I show the reality of the place, including whoever happens to be there by chance. Beyond showing the project's scale and form, people give the architecture life."

Who are your clients?

"What I photograph is very diversified: sometimes it's a house, hotel, or even a factory. My clients come from various areas linked to construction, planning, design and project dissemination. I also work on articles for magazines and books for international publishers."

How has your style changed?

"My style of shooting is the result of 30 years of taking pictures and has changed and adapted to new technology. However, one thing remains the same: the desire to take the perfect picture, one that brings together the essence of what I see."

Vimeo: últimas reportagens
Instagram: @fernandogguerra
Twitter: @Fernandoguerra
Website: ultimasreportagens.com

One Thing I Know
Fernando Guerra

"At the end of a day's work, I will have photographed the answers to three simple questions: 'Where is it?', 'What is it?' and 'What is it for?' The objectives are simple, but how to respond to them is complex because so much does not depend on me. The only thing of which I am certain is that the perfect photo is rare and does not happen every day. But if it tells the story of a particular moment well, then it is perfect in some way and it means that the day's goal has been accomplished."

Fernando Guerra's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Fernando Guerra's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.

Cameras

Canon EOS 5DS R

Designed to deliver the ultimate in DSLR image quality, with 50.6-megapixel resolution and a low-pass cancellation filter that maximises the sharpness of the camera's sensor. "It's silent and relatively small and by using the crop modes I can effectively have three different lenses with just one camera and lens," says Fernando.

Canon F1

"I use this mint condition film camera, made in 1984, because it's good fun to change the rules and go back to a time when you really had to think before pressing the shutter."

Lenses

Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L

Designed for architectural photography, the TS-E 17mm f/4L exhibits low distortion and excellent edge-to-edge sharpness, as well as independent rotation of the tilt and shift mechanisms. "This lens is almost like having a zoom – when you can't move or just need to crop fast, it's a life-saver."

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