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Q&A with Peter Vanderwarker, one of the featured photographers in “The Vernacular & The Spectacular”, on view now at

Q: Why did you become a photographer? What most appeals to you about the medium?

A: I started shooting in high school, and loved making prints in the darkroom. I completed a degree in Architecture, which is great training for visual people. When it came time to decide on a career, the natural thing seemed to be to combine the two.

Q: What was the most significant visual moment in your life?

A: There have been a lot. Here’s a short list:

       1.   Seeing a Claes Oldenburg show at the brand new Whitney Museum in 1971.
       2.   Driving from here to Berkeley, CA and experiencing the American landscape.
       3.   Taking a photo workshop with Ansel Adams at Yosemite in 1970.
       4.   Boston’s Public Garden, almost anytime.
       5.   Doing a photo book about Trinity Church. It took a year.

Q: What’s your favorite thing, other than architecture, to photograph?

A: The natural world. My next show at Gallery NAGA will include photographs from Iceland, New Orleans, and Utah. 

Q: What image(s) are you most proud of?

A: Our buildings have personalities—almost every type you can think of: stuffed shirts, angry youths, old ladies dressed well, egotistical businessmen, obsessive artists, and even some clowns. They are fun to look at, and they even seem to jostle each other sometimes. 

Q: What is it about Boston’s buildings and architecture that make them so interesting to photograph?

A: Boston is unique in the States. The most successful moments of the city are when the historic architecture is in conversation with the new. You don’t tour the city to see outstanding new skyscrapers. You tour the city to get lost in the tangle of historic streets and pedestrian-scaled architecture. 

Q: What makes a compelling architectural shot?

A: A good shot makes you keep coming back. It brings out the soul of the building. It makes you want to be there.

Q: What is your favorite building in Boston?

A: My list is long and varied: The John Hancock Tower, The John Hancock Tower, The John Hancock Tower, The John Hancock Tower, The John Hancock Tower, The John Hancock Tower, The John Hancock Tower, The John Hancock Tower, and The John Hancock Tower.  

For a good read, google “Henry Cobb and the John Hancock Tower” — you will be amazed at the story behind the building.