Field Trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum

 In Locations

A short trek outside of Chicago is one of our favorite photo locations, the Milwaukee Art Museum designed by Santiago Calatrava. This place is a little special to me as it’s one of the first architecture locations to really draw me into photographing this subject matter. For a long time, the image below was a favorite.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

While my post-processing has changed since I shot this in 2008, you can see my affinity for symmetry has been there all along 😉 In fact, this location is fantastic for symmetrical shots. Both inside and out. While this might be the most obvious way to compose shots of this location, they’re hard to pass up. Here are a few different takes utilizing this tool in various areas of the museum. Dramatic skies don’t hurt either. A little side note: the “wings” of the museum open and close at various times of the day. Or they stay closed when winds are too high, like you see below. Either way, symmetry works in both instances.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Once inside, the main atrium/lobby offers fantastic and dramatic photographic opportunities. It’s a great space to get a wide angle lens to capture the scale of the space. Adding a human element only enhances that perspective. In this first shot, you get a sense of the space both in scale and orientation.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Next, going a little more detailed with a lookup shot takes the viewer away from that sense of place and orientation that is given when the ground is included like in the shot above.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Another symmetrical take of the same location but a bit more detailed and flipped to create a different perspective of the space.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Getting even more abstract.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

However, not everything needs to be symmetrical to make an impact. Just a slight tilt of the camera changes the way this space feels.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Using elements of the structure to create layers adds depth to the shot.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Or filling the frame with a single element to create a minimalistic abstract full of repetitive patterns.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Using sunlight and shadow play adds another dimension and element of interest to your images. Those shadows also act as leading lines. A great way to draw the viewer into the frame.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Here, the gray sky acts as negative space allowing for a nice abstract of the strings on the exterior. Also, placing the strings in the corner creates leading lines, allowing the viewer’s eye to flow through the frame.

While the main parts of the museum, the atrium on the interior and the wings/strings of the exterior, are the most obvious areas to photograph, there are many others. The hallways off the main atrium offer many great opportunities. The cutout along the windows create great repetitive patterns when you frame just this element.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

The arches offer many opportunities. Angling the shot creates a bit more tension.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

Again using light and shadow play adds an element of interest, layering and repetitive patterns.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

The stairway between the main floor and parking garage also has some interesting areas to shoot. Getting a bit away from the harsher geometric shots with some curviness.

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

You wouldn’t typically think a parking garage is worth shooting but in this case, it’s definitely worth a visit. Both wider and detailed shots work equally as well. Especially if you’re lucky enough to visit when it’s slower and there aren’t any cars to clutter up the shot 😉

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

milwaukee art museum, santiago calatrava

I could go on and on with different interpretations of this location but I think I’ve bombarded you with enough. Pretty sure you can see why visiting Milwaukee is worth the trip. Different weather, different times of day, different areas allow for multiple visits and a long day of exploring. If you’ve shot this location we’d love to see your interpretation!

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