A striking image of the Center for Character & Leadership Development at the U.S. Air Force Academy, taken by photographer Andy Spessard (@andyspessard), is the winner of the #SOM80 Instagram contest. Organized by SOM, the public photo competition marks the firm's 80th year and celebrates the connection between architecture and photography. More than 750 entries were received, capturing the range and depth of SOM's work around the world.
Based in Columbus, Ohio, Andy Spessard is a commercial photographer who specializes in architectural, interior, and corporate photography. He approaches his work as visual storytelling. "Lighting, time of day, color temperature, composition, movement, and form are like pieces of a puzzle. It's my job, as the photographer, to mentally assemble these elements so that of all the pieces fit and tell the story," Spessard said.
Spessard shot the winning photo on a summer trip documenting architecture and landscapes across the western United States. While in Colorado, he describes being drawn to the architectural beauty of the U.S. Air Force Academy, a modernist campus nestled against the Rocky Mountains. Designed by SOM in 1954, the Academy includes the iconic Cadet Chapel and the Cadet Area, which is a National Historic Landmark. The Center for Character & Leadership Development, completed this year, is SOM's latest addition to the complex. Standing in the Cadet Area with his camera aimed at the building's 105-foot-tall skylight, Spessard captured the building's reflection in the polished stone of a ground memorial. "I aim to convey an emotion and 'feel' [with my work]," he said, "like the feeling you get when listening to your favorite song."
As the winner, Spessard will receive two books—SOM Thinkers: The Future of the Skyscraper and One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building. Bringing together members of SOM's leadership and renowned photographers, the jury included SOM Partners Leo Chow, Scott Duncan, and Mustafa Abadan, along with Hedrich Blessing Photographers and trashhand.
In his jury deliberation, Duncan noted that "the composition of [Spessard's] photo—reflection, sky, form, light, and shadow—captures the abstract and austere symbolism of Polaris Hall, the newest addition to this classic SOM masterpiece. And it’s beautiful!" Abadan observed that "abstract forms, harmonious colors, contrasting trees, black objects, and the duality of the reflection and the sky just make this image very special." And Nick Merrick of Hedrich Blessing Photographers stated that the photo "exhibits the three things necessary for a good architectural photograph: 1) deliberate framing and a careful and interpretive point of view; 2) the creation of the illusion of three-dimensional space; and 3) it is both a document of the building and an interpretation of the design intent of the architect."
SOM will highlight additional entries from the #SOM80 photo contest in the coming weeks on its Instagram and other social media.