Photography excellence earns alumnus elevation as American Institute of Architects’ fellow

Charles Davis Smith

Architectural photographer Charles Davis Smith ‘90, who expertly weaves design training and camera skills into memorable, award-winning images that illuminate a designer’s thoughts and vision, is Texas A&M’s newest member of the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows.

Membership in the college, one of the AIA’s highest accolades, honors designers who have achieved a standard of excellence in architecture and contributed significantly to the profession and society. Only three percent of the AIA’s more than 91,000 members are recognized as fellows.

Smith and the full cohort of 2018 fellows will be honored June 22, 2018 at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York.

In his photos, Smith gracefully navigates a viewer through a structure with seasonal sunlight, shading and shadows that add depth to two-dimensional images. His clients’ projects have garnered more than 250 design awards and been featured in more than 70 regional and national publications. 

As a Bachelor of Environmental Design student at Texas A&M, Smith learned how images can convey an architect’s design intent, serve as tools of learning and inspiration, and represent the experience a building’s design provides.

When he noticed an occasional disconnect between photographic images and actual projects, he started experimenting with his camera and quickly developed a passion for architectural photography.

His subsequent independent graduate studies in preservation, which required extensive documentation of structures throughout Texas, fueled his newfound passion.

After earning a Master of Architecture degree in 1993 and launching his design career, Smith continued to shoot photo projects on nights and weekends. Eventually, photography became his full-time, professional pursuit. 

He was inspired by the work of legendary architectural photographer Ezra Stoller, who “did for architecture what Ansel Adams did for national parks,” he said. He also admired photos by Norman McGrath, who documented the now demolished Penn Station in New York City. 

Smith also documented Dallas’ Modern architecture with the aid of mentor and AIA College of Fellows member Frank Welch ‘51.

He also enthusiastically embraces new technology, such as drones, to capture perspective and context in unprecedented ways. 

Smith is married to Susan Hansberger Smith ’89, vice president of Corgan Associates, a global interior and design firm. She earned a Bachelor of Environmental degree at Texas A&M in 1990 and a Master of Architecture degree in 1993.

Richard Nira

posted March 5, 2018