At first glance, you might think that these pictures are structural details of abandoned interior architecture; tunnels, columns, and skylights—but at a closer look, you will notice they are interiors of classical musical instruments that a photographer took for a project named “Architecture in Music”.
The photographs are a result of expertise in both music and the art of photography. Charles Brooks‘ worked as a concert cellist for 20 years before starting his career as a professional photographer.
The series is a culmination of Brooks’ past and present lives, as he worked as a concert cellist for 20 years before starting his career as a professional photographer. As a musician, he can fulfill his curiosity by looking “under the hood” of instruments he’s familiar with, and as a photographer, he can get creative by looking “under the hood” of instruments he’s familiar with.
“The interior of a cello or violin was only something you only saw when being repaired. The intricate complexity of a piano’s action was hidden behind thick lacquered wood. It was always a thrill to see inside them during a rare visit to a luthier,” Brooks tells My Modern Met. “Exploring the inner workings of these instruments came naturally as soon as I was able to get my hands on the probe lenses necessary to photograph the instruments without damage.”
A Peek Into Musical Instruments Interiors
Brooks used a focus stacking effect in an unusual way to make these small spaces appear much larger. It was challenging to get the effect while keeping everything sharp. Brooks reveals, “None of the series are single shots. […] It’s hard to achieve such sharp focus in a single frame,” Instead, he captured dozens or hundreds of photos from the same spot, gradually changing the focus from front to back. Those pictures were then mixed together into a final shot that is completely clear.
When looking at the pictures, our brains are tricked into thinking it’s gazing at something massive or cavernous as a result of the result. The instrument inside appears to be its own concert hall!
Although he is a musical instruments expert because of the long years he worked as a cellist, Brooks was taken aback by what he saw inside when he first started the series. Each instrument has a unique narrative to tell and an impressive interior to show, complete with repair and tool marks that reveal its past. These musical instruments have various characteristics, ranging from an 18th-century cello to a modern saxophone. Brooks was able to renew the respect for the craftsmanship and engineering behind the design by peeking into them.
“I expected to see a bigger difference between the pianos—Steinway and Fazioli—each of which cost hundreds of thousands. I think their striking similarity, even at such a macro level, is a testament to the mechanics of a piano action having reached a certain perfection in design. But the biggest surprise had to be the didgeridoo. I wasn’t aware that they are carved out by termites, not by hand! The organic surface is so alien, I find it quite mesmerizing.”
Brooks hopes that his images will inspire music fans to appreciate not only performers but also the full chain of professionals who work tirelessly to create beautiful instruments.