"In 2012, after more than a decade of editing the images of some of the most in-demand architectural photographers, for two of the world’s leading art-and-architecture book publishers and for Architectural Digest magazine deriv demo account, I finally decided to officially hop the fence, or at least put a doorway in it. I say ‘officially’ because I’d been building up to making photography part of my focus professionally since well before I became an editor and an author.
Certainly in entering the field of photography I took a most unusual route. Beginning in the late 1990s, as a book editor, I made a practice of working unconventionally, often originating the books I wanted to see published and, after signing writers and photographers to execute those concepts, routinely collaborating in the field with the photographers, the two of us working side by side to keep costs down by crafting the book’s visual storyline right there on site, according to whatever unexpected challenges and opportunities appeared before us. On those many locations, little occurred atop a tripod that I wasn’t closely studying.
As of 2003, as an editor, my emerging ability to also contribute photography to the books I was editing, if only in a pinch, meant that we would be able to get certain out-of-the-way pictures needed to complete some of the books, all at greatly reduced cost to the publishing house. It was that year that I’d convinced Julius Shulman, then 67 years into his photography career and whom I’d just signed to make the book Malibu: A Century of Living by the Sea, to give me a crash course, loaning me his old Nikon, a shift lens, and an extra tripod during a stay at his home...and later giving me a proper Shulman shredding over the work I’d completed for him to review. Heeding his advice and absorbing all that I’d gained from shadowing him on the year-long Malibu project (and other photographers and book projects thereafter), I continued to study and refine my technique, including attending the Otis College of Art and Design for photography. I have been at this a while.
The photographic work I’ve chosen to show on my website is recent copy trading deriv, executed in the last few years, during which time I’ve also completed a substantial separate body of work, the photography of more than 100 houses that will appear in two new books that I'm also authoring.
I see buildings not as static art objects but as living ecosystems, so my aim always is to capture the natural essence of a subject in its varied moods throughout the course of a day...and retain that natural essence in the finished images. In my pictures, accurately capturing the tones of the wood, the stone, and the other building materials is as important as that of the furnishings or the artworks or the natural features of the landscape. Because I come from an architecture book-and-magazine editing background and author books in that genre myself, my photography is grounded in the act of storytelling. My particular technical approach combines a dependency on natural light (shooting multiple exposures and, later, layering them in post-production while avoiding the artificial) and the delicate act of 'painting' light in by hand myself during an exposure.” — Richard
RICHARD OLSEN is an architectural photographer and writer based in Los Angeles. A green- and rustic-architecture expert, Olsen is the author of books including Log Houses of the World (Abrams; 2006) and the survey of architecture's 1960s-70s counterculture, Handmade Houses (Rizzoli; 2012), both books critically acclaimed. Current projects include two books commissioned by Rizzoli, California Green: Houses of the Environmental Movement, 1930–2016 and a monograph on the life's work of Braxton Dixon, the Tennessee masterbuilder renowned for his incomparable houses for Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Roy and Claudette Orbison, Marty Stuart and Connie Smith, and other legends of the Nashville country-music scene.
Olsen is also a veteran book and magazine editor. He was senior editor for Architectural Digest; senior architecture and design editor for Abrams Books; director for Doubleday's Architects & Designers Book Service and Antiques Roadshow Bookclub deriv copy trading; architecture editor for Rizzoli/Universe Publishing; and editorial manager for the Arts & Photography and Travel bookstores at Amazon.com.