Martino Zegwaard has always been drawn to the art of photography. As a young boy, he made sure to bring a camera along on all of his family's travels. Later in life, he continued to embrace this passion as he pursued an education in the arts. He serendipitously discovered urban exploring, which led to a keen interest in contemporary architecture. This fascination evolved into a driving force, leading Zegwaard to compile an ever-growing list of all the structures he one day hoped to see.
Over the years, the photographer's bucket list grew into a diverse visual collection of locations and architectural structures. An undeniable constant in his portfolio is his apparent appreciation for architecture, photography, and traveling. One particular trip to a castle he refers to as Castello di S (Martino requested that we maintain the castle's anonymity as much as possible, in an effort to preserve its untouched beauty) caught our eye. To find out more about this location and his body of work, we reached out to Zegwaard with a few questions. Scroll down to read the exclusive interview, below.
How do you choose which architectural structures to photograph?
There’s no particular architecture that I “chase,” I pick them because I think they’re beautiful or photogenic or unique buildings. I am constructing a database of brutalist buildings which have drawn my recent focus. I have some favorite architects like Santiago Calatrava, Frank Ghery, UNstudio, and Meyer & van Schooten (MVSA). To view what I've published online of contemporary architecture, click here.
What drew you to the Castello di S?
Believe it or not, but Castello di S is abandoned. It has been standing empty for years and years. A friend of mine checked this place out while he was on vacation nearby and found out it was abandoned. Unfortunately, there was no way into the building. We tried to track down the owners and found out a company based in England had recently bought it. We had a trip planned to England and decided to go and try to talk to the CEO of the company to get permission for a photoshoot at Castello di S.
We did have our talk with the CEO and he promised us he would let us know in a week or two if permission would be granted. We never heard from them again, although we did make several attempts to get an answer. After more online research in which the castle was described as being “designed as a Disney fairytale on LSD,” we decided to have another go at trying to get in.
The castle was abandoned at the time we visited. It might still be although I know there are plans to convert the place to a luxurious hotel with a golf course alongside.
Can you explain your process and any difficulties you may have come across during this shoot?
The main difficulty of the shoot was the fact that we were one of the first to visit the castle and there were wild stories about an alarm, mafia connected security, and so on and so on. After we pushed each other through a small hole in the wall at the side of the castle at 5 o'clock in the morning, we had to wait for the sun to come up, be careful not to trigger the alarm (which was there), and we had to be as stealth as we possibly could be. The light conditions were very poor and I have to say, this isn’t my best work. Since that time I’ve upgraded my gear dramatically, now using a level, better camera, better lenses, better tripod, better post-processing software and skills. Photoshopping these images now made me realize how much I’ve grown as a photographer since then.
The park outside the castle is public and people walk their dogs and jog. If they spotted us, they could call the police or security or whomever cares about the place. After a couple hours, there were some people outside talking and some rumbling noises by some of the doors. We decided to sneak out as quietly as we could the same way we got in. Nobody saw us getting in or getting out. But a permitted shoot would’ve been way less stressful and would’ve given us more time.
What would your advice be to those who want to pursue architectural photography?
Decide what you think is beautiful or what provides a reasonable challenge and go out and start taking pictures. Look at other images and try to figure out what it is you like and what you don’t like. Do some research and try-outs with different techniques and try to create your own style. See what happens with different light conditions and types of weather. Personally I love using my ND110 filter (Neutral Density Filter).
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Martino Zegwaard.