Laurian Ghinițoiu doesn’t call himself an architectural photographer. The typical staged stills of recently completed buildings, featuring people blurred in motion and pristine surfaces, might encompass much building documentation, but Ghinițoiu’s lens has a much wider angle.
Ghinițoiu, a self-described "nomad" since 2019, began his career as an architect but picked up the camera after nearly a decade in the field—eight years in school and one year in practice. Acknowledging that photography is a tool for documentation, his work doesn’t focus on buildings themselves, but the social, political, and physical contexts of the built environment. Ghinițoiu is most interested in the built environment in a state of change. “Photography gives you a freedom that architecture can’t. And I think at the same time that the practice of architecture is a bit too rigid and probably doesn’t understand enough of the context,” he says. “So, photography pushes you to observe in a different way.”
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghinițoiu embarked on a voyage capturing materials: an opportunity to document the transformation of one piece of marble from its point of origin in Portugal to its final resting place at the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at New York’s Ground Zero site. According to Ghinițoiu, the marble moved across Europe, and was processed at various factories. Using video and photography, he captured this two-year, transcontinental journey in what will become a one-hour documentary.
The film “show[s] all the process and the humanity around it and all the details of transformation—how material becomes construction material,” Ghinițoiu says. “So it is about architecture, but at the same time, it’s about space and time.”
This type of long-term work marks a relatively recent shift for the artist; the pandemic provided him with time to focus on new projects, but the longevity of attention and observation, he says, is, “built into [his] DNA.”
Recently, Ghinițoiu began a documentation project that addresses the Eastern NATO border shared between Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. While the border has remained relatively innocuous for 70 years, the recent war, he says, has changed its power. “As a first step, I went on the Romanian segment on both sides in Ukraine and Moldova and Romania, in order to visualize the reality of the territory with all its human and spontaneous moments,” he says. “It’s a different type of documentation that takes into consideration bigger forces—politics, which are carried through the territory—a contradiction, I would say, from a fictional line that was drawn on paper; you see the actual reality in the territory.”
Ghinițoiu’s work will continue to traverse landscapes, continents, and timescales to expand upon the capacity of photography as a tool to both document the built environment and better process transformation as conflict, environment, and politics—the nuances so often unconsidered by conventional architecture photography—exert their influence.
This article first appeared in the October issue of ARCHITECT.
This post has been updated since intital publication.