Piet Niemann

Architectural Photographer


Piet Niemann

Architectural Photographer


«Buildings don’t come to your studio – you need to go there to shoot them, wherever they are.»

«Buildings don’t come to your studio – you need to go there to shoot them, wherever they are.»

«Buildings don’t come to your studio – you need to go there to shoot them, wherever they are.»

Please, introduce yourself.

I am Piet Niemann, Architectural Photographer based in Hamburg – but explicitly not limited to Hamburg or northern Germany. I love traveling, exploring unknown places or revisiting places I’ve been to, which are – fortunately – quite a few. Generally, I like to be out and about. In short – young and hungry. 

I am interested in many things. But architecture, history, societal snapshots and one specific connection points between them –  documentary photography – is probably what I am most excited about. Fortunately, I’ve chosen a profession were usually everything comes together. 

How did you find your way into the field of architecture and photography?

During my teenage years I was very passionate about Graffiti. Me and my friends threw all money we had and earned into cans and had all days sessions in so called ‚Hall of Fames’, which were mostly old steel or concrete plants, where we painted very colorful, large walls. The problem with Hall of Fames is, that your images are being painted over quite soon and it was rather unusual to see your work again – so we were better off if we documented our work in those gorgeous locations, created with a lot of money, time and effort, as good as we could. The tiny digital camera of my parents brought very unsatisfying results, so I bought my very first DSLR and had to master it in a short period of time in order to take proper pictures of our work.

In that time, an ill stroke of fate made my camera to an everyday mate: A close friend committed suicide and I made it a task for myself to document every moment with my camera that makes live worth living – thus, I fortunately found out that there were many many moments worth living.

I quit school after the 12th grade and began a 2½ year dual education to become a photographer. In that time – I was 19 – I registered my self-employment and started to assist for advertising photographers, who were mostly specialized in shooting advertising campaigns for car manufacturers. That came hand in hand with a lot of traveling and teached me how to master constantly changing, unpredictable and challenging conditions. It also gave me the opportunity to invest the good money I earned into my own equipment, which I needed desperately in order to start finally with my very own architecture portfolio – because it was clear since my apprenticeship, that I wanted to become an architectural photographer for a living.

Why Architecture? I experienced my childhood in the countryside. My father was a manager of an agriculture- and horse farm. We lived in the ‚managersapartment‘, which was part of a ‚brutalismish‘ mansion, where the farm owner used to live. So I grew up sheltered by lovely concrete walls, high ceilings and gorgeous wide windows, that offered splendid views on the fields. I think this building – unfortunately I still don’t know who built it – laid the foundation for an affinity in architecture.

Around being 8 years old, I used to sketch a lot – demanded proper graph paper, proper pens and was lucky enough to have an uncle who supported everything I was into. So he organized an early architecture software, so I could ‚draw‘ my houses on the windows 1995 computer my father had in his office. Even the owner of the farm had learned that I was into architecture and wanted to become an architect – so he gave me a book with all the ‚great buildings in the world‘ which I soaked up like a sponge.

However, it was told that you need to be good at maths if you want to become an architect. Well, I was really really struggling with maths so I thought I simply can’t become an architect … and so I went on to the next child-dream ‚I-want-to-become-a …‘

Luckily, being a photographer gives you the opportunity to go after your preferences. Car photographers like cars, fashion photographers like fashion, landscape photographers like being out in the wild, food photographers are into food and so on. At the beginning of my apprenticeship, I rediscovered that I have a soft spot for architecture.

But of course, there is much more to architectural photography. Buildings don’t come to your studio – you need to go there to shoot them, wherever they are. Discovering new places, experiencing great spaces, get in touch whith new people and if things work out well, you also get the chance and feel of other day-to-day lives and cultures.

And on top comes the almost meditative process of crafting a powerful, well and solid built framing to an image, which fascinates me every time I do so. And also that fact that in the end, you produce a body of work that becomes also – during the course of the years – a historic document of the always changing built environment and the society with its peculiarities – like all these folks out there with selfie sticks in front of ‚instagrammable‘ architecture.

What is the essence of architecture for you personally?

Built environment that lasts – when it’s done well and thereby is being used and accepted  – over centuries and contributes in a positive way to a culture and the people who live in this culture.

What does your working space look like? 



Amanda Levete Architects

I was so excited about this building that I decided to shoot it without being commissioned in the first place. It was mostly finished in October 2016,
I organized everything from Hamburg and eventually spend a week there in December – when Hamburg is a grey and nasty place anyway – and I was fortunate enough and faced some spare time. 
After that, AL_A  were interested in the resulting images, bought some, and had luckily quite a year with the project in 2017. It won a myriad of awards and thereby my images were published in many places. One image even made it on the cover of a South-Korean Architecture Magazine.
This set of images (shown are just a small selection) was also the reason, why I was invited to exhibit my work during the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. 

Website: www.pietniemann.de
Links: Instagram, LinkedIN
Pictures © Piet Niemann
Interview: kntxtr, 12/2018