Fate Led This Aspiring Architect Toward a Career in Photography

Brad Feinknopf.jpg

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Brad Feinknopf is one of the most talented and accomplished architectural photographers around, but he didn’t initially plan to shoot the world’s most beautiful buildings. He wanted to help create them.

Growing up with a father and grandfather who were both architects, Feinknopf was inspired to follow in their footsteps. At the advice of his father, he attended Cornell University to pursue a degree in facility planning and management, knowing that architects should also understand how buildings work.

He planned to continue his architectural training in graduate school, but that changed after a number of friends encouraged him to take a photography course. At the time he had no idea that it would inspire a new career path.

“My professor imbued in me an interest and excitement in photography that made me want to give up the entire path I had been on for 21 years,” says Feinknopf.

After college, he worked for several notable New York City photographers, including Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Arnold Newman and Horst.

Feinknopf established his home base in Columbus, Ohio, and continued to build his photography portfolio. “When I first started out in the late 1980s, everybody was a generalist,” he recalls. “You didn’t have the specialization that you have today because we didn’t have the Internet and therefore it was much harder to grow your reputation beyond the local environment. So I started out doing a little bit of a lot of different things.”

Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture - Washington, D.C.

Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture - Washington, D.C.

For the past 20+ years, Feinknopf has specialized in architectural photography, earning a reputation as one of the world’s top professionals. He’s worked with a who’s who of architectural firms and signature designers on diverse projects that include offices, museums, hospitals, universities and residences.

Feinknopf likes to enter a project with as little information as possible in order to capture the true art of the structure on the day he arrives. He may not be able to control some of the variables (such as the weather), but that doesn’t deter him.

“Bad weather is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Feinknopf. “I have been able to create a lot of fantastic images by having the wherewithal not to give up on a situation just because the weather conditions were not perfect.”

Sunny days can bring another set of challenges. When Feinknopf was tasked with photographing the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in May 2005, he initially captured the museum's interior without any artwork. The client was very impressed and wanted Feinknopf to re-create that shot when the artwork was installed later that year. But when he returned for his second shoot in October that year, the sun's position had changed and it was no longer possible to replicate the image.

Feinknopf has continually embraced the challenges that come with the role. His passion for photography comes through in every picture. He cares deeply about his clients and said that he pours his heart and soul into every project.

“If you’re doing something out of a place of love, that is what motivates you to get out of bed and do what you do everyday,” he says.