DEL RIO BANI is an architectural photography duo based in Barcelona. Gael del Río and Luca Bani have been sharing their eyes and philosophy since 2017. They are both originally trained as architects, their understanding of architecture is imprinted in their work. Lines and forms converge into soft yet direct images that highlight the project’s qualities.
Being an architect myself and having started my architectural photography career the very same year has unequivocally led me to identify with them. We have known each other digitally for quite some time and last year I had the pleasure to meet one half of the duo personally.
Gael, Luca thank you so much for making a space in your schedule for this interview. Can you tell us about your individual backgrounds and how life brought you together at a personal and professional level?
Gael: We are both architects and met when Luca did an Erasmus academic exchange — he came from Florence to my university in Barcelona. At that time we both were purely interested in architecture, and photographing it had not even crossed our minds. We lost sight of each other for six years and when we met again photography was already part of our lives. The turning point for me was an elective course I took during my exchange in Australia with architectural photographer Erieta Attali. The photos I took while exploring the city and the course itself impacted me so much that when I returned to Spain, I had it decided: I wanted to be an architectural photographer.
Luca: It was similar for me. In 2014, just before meeting Gael again, I did a construction masters at the Polytechnic University of Madrid. During that time, I enrolled in analog photography courses where I discovered architectural photography. It was a real eye-opener!
That’s quite an interesting and international background. Please tell us about your transition into architectural photography as a profession, how did DEL RIO BANI come to be?
Gael: Back in Barcelona and having completed my degree, I enrolled in yet more photography courses and searched for an architectural photographer to learn from. Soon enough I started working for Jordi Surroca, an important and experienced photographer in the region. From him, I learned not only about photography but experienced first-hand what it takes to run an architectural photography office. As soon as I felt comfortable with my knowledge and skills I looked out for clients and started my own studio. Here is where Luca comes in.
Luca: One can say that at a professional level, Gael has been my mentor. From her, I learned the digital technique and what it takes to realize an architectural photography documentation. There was no formal intention to become a photographic duo, and I didn’t even consider photography as a career. However, during the sessions with Gael, I discovered an artistic world so enriching that it ultimately lead us to create DEL RIO BANI.
Although there are other remarkable architectural photography duos, it is not the most common thing out there. Can you give us a deeper insight into the best parts and the biggest challenges that you face by working together?
Luca: The fact that we were professionally “born” together has been a big advantage and time saver. I started out as Gael’s second eyes. In the beginning, I was looking at what she was doing and with time I began to give my opinion on the documentation. There are two minds exchanging ideas, which results in a balanced image.
Of course, there is also debate! Inevitably the personal side ends up within the profession and we both have strong characters. Part of the balance in the image is that there are two minds behind it. There are things I can overlook and Gael comments on them to complement the image, or the other way around.
Gael: An image ends up being a joint vision. Lately, we bought another camera as a backup for larger projects, but even when we document a project separately there is always on-site pre-session planning. There is a constant debate where ideas complement or clash, this has led us to develop a “bi-personal” method in the way we capture images. Two individual visions synthesized into one.
Energy-wise it is also good to work as a couple, one of us might be much more inspired and energetic so it compensates when the other is not, luckily we have never been down at the same time.
Sounds like a balanced workflow during the session. What happens once you are back in the office? How are the tasks divided?
Gael: Initially the majority of the back-office was operated by me. Nowadays we are both doing the image post-processing and communicating with clients. I’m in charge of keeping our social networks updated. We are currently pursuing the documentation of projects in other countries and a natural leap would be to do it in Italy. In that case, Luca would take care of the administrative tasks for those projects.
What are the influences that define your personal vision and what do you enjoy photographing the most?
Gael and Luca: As architects, we have always been interested in the concept of genius loci – the spirit of the place – in photography is the same. We try to adapt and interpret what we see on the site and the transmitted sensations that emanate from it.
What we like best is having heterogeneity; working in various scales, types of projects, and uses. We don’t like to impose a style on what we photograph, we prefer to let the project speak for itself. Every project is unique, for example, we find truly amazing how photographing two apartments can lead to such diverse results with atmospheres of their own.
From a practical point of view, interiors with precisely designed details can create atmospheric and poetic images. On the other hand, exteriors are filled with actors and elements out of your control, yet it is still very fun and unpredictable to document these outdoor spaces.
I agree! Variety adds freshness to the creative process and forces us to explore and learn new things. Could you share some significant projects that have been defining in your career?
Gael: It’s hard to decide, but if we had to choose one then probably the Mental Health Center in Calella by MIAS Architects. Definitely a larger scale than we are used to and a curious project itself, additionally it has been published in Arquitectura Viva Spain yearbook as part of the 2019 outstanding projects. It has a particularly high level of detail and architectural quality. The project has the will of proposing something different while caring about their users, in this case, the patients.
Luca: We also had the chance to document the “Superilla” — a pilot urban project promoted by Barcelona city council. It consists of the transformation of street crossings (currently occupied by cars) into pedestrian zones by means of ephemeral interventions such as urban furniture, paint, and vegetation. Working with the young architects Leku Studio in charge of one of the projects was relatable and very satisfying. The photographs have appeared in national and international media giving us quite the exposure push.
Last question, can you share a glimpse of your personal projects and what did you do during quarantine?
Gael: Our personal projects also use photography as a medium. For these projects, we work exclusively with film and develop the photos ourselves. I have been long working on EVOCARE, a project that juxtaposes my photographs to my fathers’ engraved prints. Architecture is still present in my personal work but in a subtle way — just fragments of it
Luca: My personal photography mostly ends up revolving around artistic nudes and landscapes. I have an architecture-inspired jewelry project named HERAE, it’s currently on hold, but I am always up for handwork and exploring physical mediums. During the quarantine, we transformed our living space into a station for experimenting with sculpture, which was a very nice and much-needed break from screens.