Behind the Lens: School of Art + Design Director on His Award-winning Photography

Written by: Shydale James,
Picture perfect: A photo of the Kylemore Abbey in Ireland taken by Glenn Goldman, director of the School of Art + Design
"It all has to do with compositional sensibilities that have long ago been internalized as an architect and a designer.”

For the sixth consecutive year, Glenn Goldman, director of the School of Art + Design, has created award-winning photographs selected in the annual architectural photo competition sponsored by the West Jersey section of the American Institute of Architects (AIA West Jersey).

And for the second time in four years, one of Goldman’s photos was selected best overall and used as the cover image for the 2017 calendar featuring architectural photography: “Bruges Church,” a photograph of the 12th century Basilica of the Holy Blood in Belgium received top honors.

“As an architect, most of my photos, including award-winning ones, are of architecture,” says Goldman. “But I also have photos that have been awarded in categories of animals, flowers, abstract composition and even sports. It all has to do with compositional sensibilities that have long ago been internalized as an architect and a designer.”

These are the concepts he teaches to first-year Art + Design students in the color and composition course.

“Some of the photos I take are for the intent of using them to illustrate my lectures in classes,” says Goldman. “I always like to refresh the lectures every time I give a course—keeps the material current and me engaged, which in turn makes it easier to engage the students.”

Here, Goldman, who’s had 49 different photos awarded in 14 different competitions dating back to 2011, offers commentary about the winning photographs featured in the calendar: “Abbey on a Foggy Morning,” a photo of the picturesque Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland (June), “Rotation,” an interior photograph looking up in Oude Kerk in Amsterdam (December), and the aforementioned “Bruges Church,” which also received honorable mention in the architecture-buildings and architecture-historic categories of the 2016 International Photography Awards program in October.

“Bruges Church”

For this photo, I had to equalize the lighting in spots to get rid of glare so that as much of the visual data as possible would become visible. In addition to documenting buildings and spaces, I look for ways and perspectives to highlight attributes of a space that may not be readily obvious or immediately seen. Sometimes I use the photograph to emphasize one attribute or another of the building, space or place. In the case of “Bruges Church,” there is an enormous amount of colorful surface detail in the space and I contrasted that with a less ornamented monochromatic object in the foreground, reversing the normal expectation of detail and scale. The further away the surface was, the more colors that were evident. The reversal of expectation and the wide-angle of view provide interest for the observer.

“Abbey on a Foggy Morning"

This photo was taken on a rainy and foggy morning. It’s not a particularly novel view—it’s pretty obvious for anyone who visits, as it’s the first view one gets after parking the car. But on this morning, the green and gray created a peaceful mood emphasized by the slightly de-saturated color scheme that I felt was reflective of the countryside in Western Ireland that day.


“Rotation" is primarily a compositional piece. I was directly under the chandelier looking straight up, into a reflective surface of Oude Kerk  in Amsterdam. Using a wide-angle lens, I was able to capture the full chandelier as well as the beautiful ceiling and structure behind. Post-processing was used to remove my own reflection from the bottom of the chandelier, to emphasize the vibrancy and clarity of the materials and structure, and to crop the image in such a way as to emphasize rotational symmetry.

Two additional photographs were named as merit selections.

“Ecclesiastic Space”

“Ecclesiastic Space" is a wide-angle interior photo of a symmetrical space: St. Walburga’s Church in Bruges, Belgium. This photo emphasized the formal and powerful nature of the space as well as the variety of textures in the near monochromatic structure.

“Colored Glass”

“Colored Glass" is a detail photograph of part of a façade of a parking deck in downtown Philadelphia. This was a ‘run and shoot’ photograph I took while walking. There wasn’t much post-processing involved, as I was fascinated by the color and various reflections as I walked by. I was documenting how something as simple as a parking deck could be designed to activate the public street front.