On Cavallo Island, France, setting up for a test photo of a Savin Couelle house, while architects Couelle and Luci Curotti open the building.

On Cavallo Island, France, setting up for a test photo of a Savin Couelle house, while architects Couelle and Luci Curotti open the building.


RICHARD OLSEN, a Los Angeles-based architectural writer-photographer born to two generations of Norwegian master carpenters, is the author of LOG HOUSES OF THE WORLD, HANDMADE HOUSES and the forthcoming Rizzoli books CALIFORNIA GREEN, a survey of the evolution of environmental consciousness in the technology, design, and construction of the single-family house from 1930 to 2018; and BRAXTON DIXON, the first appraisal of the work of the late Tennessee masterbuilder and architect known for his dwellings for June Carter and Johnny Cash. An art-and-architecture publishing-industry veteran, Richard was Amazon's Arts & Photography and Home & Garden bookstores editor, an architecture editor for Rizzoli, the senior editor for architecture and design at Abrams, and the senior editor for architecture at Architectural Digest.


"I began studying and practicing architectural photography while at Rizzoli in the late 1990s, capitalizing on the opportunity to learn about composition and technical facility from the acclaimed photographers whose work I was charged with editing (Roger Straus III, Paul Rocheleau, Roberto Schezen, Radek Kurzaj, and, later and most importantly, Julius Shulman). That went on as a sideline to each of my subsequent editorial positions through to late 2010, when I left Architectural Digest to devote myself to creating books. Since then, in the process of traveling throughout Europe, Scandinavia, and North America to complete four books, I've photographed the interiors and exteriors of some 200 buildings, in every imaginable circumstance.

It's that foundational experience as an editor that distinguishes my particular photographic approach today. After more than a decade of providing art direction to photographers, working with graphic designers to meet layout demands, and, moreoever, getting to collaborate in the act of image storytelling with a long list of personal heroes—artists, architects, designers, and other gamechangers—all for some of the world's most prestigous publishers of art books and magazines, I'm now able, as a photographer, to offer clients something altogether uncommon: an ability to find the essence and remain truthful to it in the images I produce, along with an insider's take on precisely what it is that editors of books and magazines look for from photographic submissions. This, most significantly, in tandem with my research background as an author and knowledge of late 19th- and 20th-century architectural history and fluency in subjects such as CA Title 24.

The latter is key, for in my photography the building is treated as its own ecosystem, and the cardinal directions guide the chronological sequencing of my documentation. Programmatic challenges and the designer's attendant problem-solving strategies are taken into account, as is the simple but too-often-overlooked subject of function—rooms/areas designed for occupancy in the evening, for example, aren't photographed during the mid-day or morning hours.

Overall, what I bring is the very photographic approach I learned through years of experience as an editor to want most." - Richard