Hélène Binet: Encounters with Cities

“Every time I photograph a space there is a history, and often this history is connected to the city.”

While busy photographing architecture over the past twenty-eight years, Hélène Binet (b. Sorengo, 1959) has unwittingly been encountering the cities in which the architecture is situated. A selection of these urban images are shown here. They are encounters, captured when Binet was occupied with other work.

Pairs of images show the juxtapositions of a detail with its urban context. The pairings suggest the elasticity of the city and the need for designers to consider multiple scales simultaneously. They also propose the agency of the city as a home for architecture: “The city is like a womb from which the building is going to be born,” observes Binet. The sole photograph of Istanbul’s cityscape masterfully captures the dance of shadow and light for which Binet is renowned.

In contrast to many contemporary representations of the city, Binet’s photographs do not aim to frighten, or shock, or show the city as a restless entity—they unpretentiously show the city as “a friend.” They are, says Binet, “full of love for the city.”

Many of the photographs were selected from a presentation especially prepared by Binet for a symposium on ecological urbanism at the Venice Biennale in August 2010. The two photographs of Mumbai were commissioned for this show. Considered one of the world’s finest architectural photographers, Hélène Binet’s encounters with cities are being shown in public for the first time.