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Buildings Commissioner



COVER STORY

Buildings Commissioner

Paul Bardagjy's Intuitive
Interpretation of Architecture

TEXT BY ALYSHA SIDEMANIMAGES BY PAUL BARDAGJY

"I am hired to interpret design and space. My preference for either interiors or exteriors is not the issue. I must convey what the designer has to say and why. My technique is not textbook training. I learned intuitively and through the study of art. That is why my work is fine art-oriented. The realistic work of the Dutch Flemish painters has been a significant influence on image makers. We began to emulate their style. Photography is a great medium, but we owe a lot to painters of the previous century."

—PAUL BARDAGJY

Paul Bardagjy knows how to transform a house into a home, an anonymous skyscraper into a fantasy dome, a listless building into a work of art, with the push of a button.
While mortar may be the building material of some structures he captures on film, his own "material" for constructing a stunning image may be nothing more to the naked eye than bricks, limestone, wood, plaster, or glass. But enter its color, texture, proper lighting, and stark angles, and the structure is instantly transformed into a work of art.
No, Texas-based Bardagjy does not govern Austin's Department of Buildings despite his magic touch. But, for the most part, he does control his client roster, being careful to select those who will give him the most freedom. "In a perfect world, you could choose great projects over stinkers. In our world, the best way to go about this is to pick clients you want to work for and market to them." For him, marketing means a four-part series of colorful promo cards sent out to potential clients, followed up with a phone call. "But contacts leave all the time," said Bardagjy. "So it's important to keep up to date."
Explaining that problem-solving is a large part of the job, Bardagjy scopes out locations prior to most shoots to uncover the best vantage point. Sometimes he finds the best option is to shoot from a helicopter or airplane.
Today it was difficult for him to suppress excitement over a future project—photographing the home of a prominent Austin CEO. "The home is made entirely of carved and sculptured stone. I can't wait to kick everyone out for a week or two and photograph." The total construction period for the home was almost five years.
This type of assignment, for the architectural firm that designed the stone mansion, is typical for Bardagjy. In fact, 60-70 percent of his clients are architecture and interior design firms. The remainder are corporate offices and commercial companies, such as Bank One, Dell, Wal-Mart, Mercedes-Benz, and Sub-Zero. His work is also featured in Architecture magazine, Metropolitan Home, Travel & Leisure, This Old House, ESPN, Texas Monthly, and more.

THE BIG SCOOP
On an overcast day, an assignment for ESPN magazine brought him to the new Houston Astros baseball stadium. "It was a big scoop. ESPN was writing a story on the stadium even before it was finished. It was the hot new thing this spring."
Known as a "hitters stadium," the final shot had to show the proximity of the left field to the wall.
"It's a spectacular stadium. The roof opens up, so if you look from the wall over left field to the center you can see all of downtown Austin." The result was a two-page spread with one wide-shot taken from behind the dugout.
Bardagjy notes that his flexibility, patience, and willingness to take what he can get on any given day, often result in good luck. "It was pretty wild. All of a sudden the clouds cleared and the stadium grounds keeper agreed to put the bases in place even though the infield wasn't completed."
As Austin experiences an economic boom with new technological industries dotting the skyline, it's fueling the job pipeline for Bardagjy. Because people need homes built, companies constructed, and photographs taken of both, the city of Austin is teeming with new photographers, mostly from California, taking a chance at southern hospitality. But this star "architecture interpreter" welcomes the competition. "It keeps me on my toes," he says candidly.
The ability to draw the viewer into the scene is what clients search for in an architectural photographer. Like a model selling a "fantasy" along with the clothes she wears, so too does Bardagjy persuade the viewer to be in a particular setting because it is more alluring than where he or she is now. "My job is to make any project look its best. I cannot always show how a space or a building feels when you're actually there, but frankly my goal is to communicate it as an object of beauty."

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