It’s easy to fall in love with Rafael Gamo‘s work. If you aren’t familiar with it already, I’d recommend checking out Rafael’s photographs of the San Nicholas Club House by SMA which won our 2021 Project of the Year Award, or the Project of the Week post of Tlalpuente house deep in the Mexican forest. In this iteration of Project of the Week, we’ll be looking at Rafael’s amazing imagery of the San Blas Pier by Colectivo C733.
Rafael always does a stellar job of showcasing projects from a myriad of perspectives — from the air, from the sea, and everywhere in between. Always steeped in great light and shadow, well-presented forms, and full of life and purpose, Rafael’s photographs tell the complete story of a place.
We started out with an establishing shot of the pier, helping us understand the place and space. In this next shot, Rafael brings us back down to earth and places us in front of the wooden arch structure. We get a good idea for the form of the structure.
Rafael tells a bit about the project, sharing “The San Blas Pier is one of several hundred projects that the Mexican government, through SEDATU (Secretary of Agricultural, Territorial, and Urban Development), has undertaken over the last 4 years all across the country.
The Secretary is working on projects aimed at enhancing the public infrastructure in some of the most needed areas of the nation. This specific project, undertaken by C733, involves the construction of a pier intended for a ferry that will transport tourists to the María Islands and serve as a departure point for local boat excursions. The elongated structure of the pier is complemented by a range of sports facilities, green spaces, children’s playgrounds, and small commercial areas, thereby adding diverse activities to the project.
What stands out to me is how the design of the building and the surrounding landscape have been harmoniously integrated into the fabric of San Blas and the surrounding estuary. I appreciate how the building’s structure mirrors the hull of a boat (upside down), connecting it to the traditional fishing heritage of the town.”
Rafael shows us the arched pavilion in use, with well-timed bikers and families strolling by. The San Blas pier is filled with rain gardens, marketplace areas, passageways, and recreational spaces. Rafael photographs these areas from a variety of perspectives that help us understand the amenities, the use of the pier, and the landscape surrounding it.
As with his other projects that I just love, Rafael’s photographs are awash with late golden light that communicates warmth and gives us a sense of the time of day we are viewing the San Blas Pier.
Rafael mentions “I believe this photo shoot went quite smoothly, and I didn’t encounter any significant issues. If I had to mention one challenge, it would be managing time. Time is always a very challenging aspect when photographing public projects. Since one cannot control whether people will be actively using the space or not, it’s always somewhat unpredictable.
In this particular project, there was a considerable increase in activity during the late afternoon and sunset, which was when I managed to capture most of the photos featuring people and boats. Having fewer people during the day concentrated most of the shots during the golden hour, adding pressure to the photo shoot.”
Long stretching shadows add texture and dimensionality that translates this 3D space beautifully through the 2D medium we’re viewing it via.
Well-composed details like the roofline of this pavilion create a nice rhythm and leading lines that help communicate the length of the structure.
Up next we see the rain gardens and pathways being enjoyed by passerbys and pier-goers.
Rafael always does a nice job of including figures for scale and purpose. They breathe life into these public spaces and help us understand the functionality of the spaces we are viewing.
Now we’re talking! Rafael shows us the pier from the water. Again, the boat in the foreground adds a little something something while reminding us the pier’s intended use.
I love this next shot, where we see the roofline of the pavilion immersed in the foliage and its proximity to the waterway. Boats coming up the channel from the sea make us feel as if they are returning to port at the pier, communicating its welcoming atmosphere.
Rafael also comments on this image, noting “[One photo] that stands out [to me] depicts a scene where numerous fishing boats are returning to the harbor after a night at sea. I’m drawn to how this photo encapsulates the early morning activity that envelops the project. It not only showcases the pier building but also offers a broader view of the natural surroundings and human engagement. To capture this shot, I employed the zoom lens on my drone. I appreciate the sense of spatial compression that the longer lens imparts to this particular scene.”
Time for a little ambiance!
I was really taken by this next photograph. Rafael perfectly times a flock of birds cruising over the gardens of San Blas Pier. We can place ourselves in the scene and imagine what it’s like to be present there.
I told Rafael that one of the aspects I particularly enjoy about this photoshoot is the depth of context he’s managed to capture. The cyclists and their elongated shadows, the graceful movement of the flock of birds, and the boats cruising by – I was curious to know if he actively sought out these elements for his shots, or did these moments unfold serendipitously?
Rafael answered “In the case of public projects like this one, I have limited influence over the elements within a photograph beyond framing and lighting. It contrasts with scenarios like homes or restaurants, where furniture or decor can be adjusted to compose an image. With projects like this, what you observe is what you get. There’s an element of serendipity in the presence of individuals, such as the kids on bikes or the woman with the long dress walking on the pier, as I have no control over their appearance and movements. However, there’s a deliberate intention to capture these situations. To achieve this, I spent time at the project site, keenly observing its activities.
Being fully present during the photography process is crucial, as it enables you to seize the perfect moment. While I didn’t anticipate the flock of birds in my early morning shots, I quickly framed and captured the scene when they appeared. They dispersed shortly after. The next morning, before departing San Blas, I attempted to capture another shot featuring the birds with a different framing, but they were not there. This underscores the importance of being connected to the surrounding space while photographing it.”
More golden airy light streams across this scene in the garden. The warm color palate perfectly suits the clay structures and elements found throughout the park and pier.
This nice one-point perspective creates strong lines that lead our eye down the pier toward the pavilion.
With the pavilion aglow at night, Rafael’s photographs have beautiful contrast through color, with the orange hues popping out against the blue twilight sky.
We’ll wind this project down with this closing image, which is one of Rafael’s favorites from the shoot. He explains what he loves about it, sharing, “[I hold this image in high regard] after sunset, where the alignment of the pier building, the estuary, the island, and the Pacific Ocean is beautifully accentuated by the presence of a boat and its wake. Although it was a straightforward shot, waiting for the perfect moment when the boat sailed against the backdrop of the stunning sunset hues truly enhanced the image.”
What a tranquil and harmonious photograph.
A giant thank you to Rafael for sharing his photographs with us!
If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.