Studio Current

Out from acting as Director of Architecture at Barry Swenson Builder to starting his own firm, Jeff Current took some time to talk to me about his new venture.

Read the complete interview here Studio_Current-1628


Read more.. Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Scottish Rite Temple


Scottish Rite Temple

Scottish Rite Temple


As part of a site specific art instillation that I would hang in the lobby of a commercial building one block away from the icon building, my client came to me with a simple assignment which would make most photographers jump at the opportunity of working on. Creating art, fine art that hangs on the wall for onlookers to admire can be a good test of patience as well as a therapeutic exercise in the reason why we ( photogs) care so much about our craft.


When the client says, “ I want to see some architectural details”, I figure a simple quick shoot with a hand held digital camera, coupled with some creative postproduction work should suffice. Six trips later to the same spot, not quite satisfied with my results, it dawned on me that I was un-happy with the contrasty images that I was getting because I failed to remember what makes black and white images so beautiful. The difference between shadows and high lights is something I spent a whole quarter on in college, studying Ansel Adams zone system isn’t a common form of making images for me today but, was none the less instrumental in understanding the importance of film when trying to capture a broad range of shadows and highlights. So, as unconventional or inefficient as the idea might have sounded, I shot Tmax 400 using my low tech Holga and Pentax 67. The softness of the images along with the flat rich array of grays might have as cliché as it may sound, a “timeless” quality to it.


Read more.. Tuesday, February 11th, 2014


Departed comrade

Departed comrade! Thou, redeemed from pain
Shall sleep the sleep that kings desire in vain:
Not thine the sense of loss
But lo, for us the void
That never shall be filled again.
Not thine but ours the grief.
All pain is fled from thee.
And we are weeping in thy stead;
Tears for the mourners who are left behind
Peace everlasting for the quiet dead.

Lucretius, Roman epic poet and philosopher (ca 94 – 55BC)

Read more.. Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Bernardo Grijalva Oakland Beautiful

A constant experiment in terms of its architectural environment, the city that
was once the land of pastoral orchards and farms as Gertrude Stein remembers
it is also the land of buildings. Having gone through a gold rush, postwar
industrial growth and in the midst of a shipping era, Oakland has changed its
built environment through out the 20th century to meet its civic needs. This is
evident in the city’s early transformation during the early 1900’s from its Victorian
country like aesthetic to the more worldly architectural styles during
our country’s modernization. From it’s emerald green Art Deco edifices to it’s
highly ornate theaters, Oakland, California is a menagerie of buildings that
exists as memories, in time as well as utilitarian domiciles and office buildings
that continue to serve its residents.

The Oakland Beautiful photographs whose title pays homage to the City Beautiful
or Beaux Art movement during the 1890’s and 1900’s, was a personal
journey through the urban landscape of downtown Oakland. Having been
raised in an urban setting much like Oakland, the opportunity to explore the
city with an almost tourist like curiosity during the night was an existential
exercise. The city’s rich architectural heritage and built environment served
as ideal subject matter for my preferred work method. Often working alone,
it is sometimes during the midnight hours that I find moments of solace. The
night time hours are perfect for observing details, undisturbed by the busyness
of city life it’s during the night that shapes, light and texture can be
photographed in a manner that show their progression in time.

The photographs are meant to show the viewer an intimate, almost dream
like vignette of Oakland’s architectural history. Through black and white
photographs, mostly soft and imperfect due to their traditional film format, it
is the viewer’s responsibility to connect the images to the different areas in
and around the city of Oakland through memories and past experiences.


Bernardo Grijalva is a commercial architectural photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Please visit our website for photo licensing, commercial assignement or fine art print inquiries:

Read more.. Monday, November 5th, 2012

Oakland Romantica

Oakland Fox Theater photo by Bernardo Grijalva

I was fortunate enough to have a great deal of fun on a commercial assignment not too long ago. My client commissioned me to create a photo story of some of the historic architectural treasures in and around the Oakland, CA area. Having grown up in a city some 40 miles away and what seems like a little sister in comparison, San Jose is twice the population of the City of Oakland. With it’s large city blocks large skyscrapers and a skyline that looks like more of a metropolitan town than San Jose, it’s surprised me that Oakland is as small as it is when compared to the other two large cities around it. It’s true that for some time it was often plagued with a reputation of violence and police corruption in the not too distant past.

The Oakland I got to visit was far from that, the Oakland I got to photograph was perhaps that of an earlier era, a romanticized version of a city with a vibrant downtown, a beautiful lake and an assortment of historic edifices that ran the gamut in style, from Gothic churches to emerald green treasures of the Art Deco movement.

One particular favorite out-take was the Fox Theater. It was built in 1928 in a blend of Indian and Moorish aesthetic; a truly one-of-a- kind building in the Northern California area and a treasure from an era when perhaps money was plentiful and Architects and Artisans were given free reign to make their dream projects a reality.

Using a toy camera and a long exposure on traditional black and white film was pure bliss once I was finished with the final printed piece. The actual negative was a bit on the flat and dull side due to the guestimated over exposure and plastic optics of the Holga lens. Luckily, through my digital post processing and with the help of Nix Silver Efex Pro, I was able to punch up some of the contrast and toning to create an image that Henry Fox Talbot would be envious of.

Please look for some of my work from my Historic Oakland Series to be shown during Oakland’s Art Murmur Event, TBD

Read more.. Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Mentioned as the “ Queen of the California Missions” in Lane Publishing Company’s pictorial book about the missions. I find it somewhat of a contradiction or a counter archetypical description for a building that is large and bulky and has a closer resemblance to ancient Rome than to building styles that were typical for the early California Frontier.  When I think California Mission, I always think adobe, low large eves neatly adored by red tiles with a modest entryway. Santa Barbara is anything but, that. Nestled in an area rich in architectural history and its namesake being synonymous with all things “Spanish” or “Mission Style”. It is a little ironical that the Romanesque Façade, supposedly copied from a book on Architecture by Vitruvias, First Century Roman would be typified as the “Queen”. Franciscan father Antonio Ripoll can be credited for implementing the Vitruvias inspired design and perhaps was looking towards the old world when he wanted to create a permanent church that was worthy of the natural beauty that surrounded it.

With two identical bell towers, the only mission amongst the 21 to have them, it’s lush gardens, Moorish inspired fountain, well designed irrigation system and morbid reminder of our own mortality by way of human sculls embedded over a doorway that leads to the cemetery, Santa Barbara was definitely inspired by a higher calling, perhaps GOD or in this case one can easily see how the natural beauty around the area inspires one to see GOD in it.


Read more.. Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

San Jose’s Modest Art Deco Treasure

photo by Bernardo Grijalva

Hotel De Anza

Mostly nestled by a panorama of shiny new, glass facades. The modest sized Art Deco Hotel was certainly a glitzy tower amongst the semi rural and up and coming area of downtown San Jose, CA. Designed by W.H. Weeks and built a few years prior to what would be one of our country’s darkest economic times, it’s somewhat ironic to think of all of the residential buildings that were built in the same area not to long ago, some 80 years later, perhaps during our countries second economic depression. It’s somewhat puzzling how these speculative waves work but, what is certain, is that great efforts go into buildings and great works come to fruition when there is some sort of speculative motive.

I photographed this building time and time again. It’s somewhat modest in comparison to other Art Deco buildings that can be found through out some of the larger cities. It’s also somewhat conservative in it’s presentation, despite being typified with the Art Deco or Moderne style that stood for all things modern, streamlined and in their use of the human form to celebrate our modern achievements, the Hotel De Anza celebrates the leader of a Spanish expedition party. Taking into mind my mestizo heritage and slight biased perspective as to what made our bountiful valley great, the Hotel De Anza is very much a part of the downtown San Jose’s Landscape and a through back in time when anybody who was anybody would want to go uptown.

Hotel De Anza is listed on the National Register of Historic Places


Read more.. Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Who Said it had to be Brick and Mortar?

photo by Bernardo Grijalva

High style can come in all different shades or in this case; materials.

For all you architectural and design enthusiast that want to see some industrial grade materials put to good use. San Pedro Square Market is a great case study of how the old can be made new, bigger and better. Add some corrugated steel, industrial grade doors, beams and more importantly, good design sensibility and you get a space that is a real pleasure to experience.

If the human experience is the most important element considered when creating a building, simple, thoughtful design solutions like these I believe will be the new norm.

A great organization that is currently employing some celebrity and starchitect power that is using such Design / Build methods to do some good down in New Orleans:

Read more.. Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Is it Japanese?

Gamble House photo by Bernardo Grijalva

Gamble House photo by Bernardo Grijalva

Gamble House photo by Bernardo Grijalva

I’m sure that the Green brothers drew part of their inspiration from the East when they designed the Gamble House, also known as the David B. Gamble House was constructed around 1908 to be used as a winter home for the Gamble Family.

The mild climate of Southern California along with a spaciousness of the west made this area of Pasadena an attractive retreat for the well to do from the harsh cold winters of the East. Modest in it size by today’s standards of what a single family home should feel like for an affluent family. The Gamble House has been referred to as the archetypical American Art and Craftsman example of architecture and response to the formal highly ornate Victorian aesthetic. A complete contradiction to all things spindly, covered in paint with line that mirror those of ancient Greece, the American Art and Craftsman movement was made popular by furniture designer and publisher Gustav Stickely during the early 1900’s.

Minimalist in nature when compared to the highly decorative standard of what architecture should look like for the time. The Green brother’s were forward thinking in their approach to embrace the simple natural spirit of the Orient. Leaving the materials exposed and allowing for the rugged craftsmanship of the joinery and metal work be admired, I can’t help but think of how admirable it would be to live in a chic downtown loft, with it’s exposed beams and brick work.

My quick detour from a vacation trip to the sunny south made the visit to this area of Pasadena, a real treat. Armed only with my trusty DP1 point and shoot, I was somewhat worried about the deep shadows that the eves created that morning. In a perfect world architecture always has the perfect amount of light thrown on it to create the perfect exposure but, the truth of the matter is with buildings or dwellings they are made to protect from the elements and the Green Brother realized the importance of the large eves to shade of the sunny Southern California sun. Their solution for creating an outdoor living area where the outdoors could be enjoyed anytime of the day without the harshness of the sun being a nuisance was beautifully done, their aesthetic influences of the Orient could easily be deciphered by one simple glimpse at the Gamble house and one could easily see why the question could be made: Is it Japanese?

Bernardo Grijalva

Read more.. Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Greek Prespective

I recently got a call from a fine art consulting agency that was looking for some architectural photography for a project that they were fulfilling for a client. I have to admit that I was somewhat setback that this company considered me an authority in terms of historical architectural photography in and around my hometown. Certainly not an academic in the traditional sense of what an architectural historian might look or sound like, setting all the art history jargon aside, I can honestly summarize why I shoot by simply saying that I get a kick out of making pretty pictures of the world around me. Being blessed with living in area rich in history and with a few somewhat significant contributions still standing in and around the downtown area, I thought it very prevalent to pull an old image out of the files and write a couple of thoughts about an old building that I have visited throughout the years.

The First Church of Christ Scientist built in 1905 and designed by Willis Polk has served as a literal pillar of civic and religious pride in the downtown area of San Jose. I often like to think of the building as the little mini Greek building, because of its small scale in comparison to the Iconic columns and large portico. The First Church building is a modern sample of the larger than life edifices that the Greeks were known to create. They were also known for playing on the human perspective of how we judge the size and alignment of lines, when standing near the base or in front of the building, you can’t help but follow the columns from the base all the way up to where the columns meet the frieze, ending at the portico that seems to be a huge massive triangle or pyramid that floats in the sky. I warn you, if you hold this position with your head long enough you might risk injury. All jokes aside, the Greeks knew how to convey the idea that their buildings were made for or by a higher order, I’m sure there are numerous studied arguments or theories why the Greeks chose to build there buildings in the manner in which they did, one thing is certain though, vanity or outward appearances was definitely one of the key motivators.

First Church of Christ has been abandoned for sometime now. Despite being past it’s glory, the building is owned by Barry Swenson Builder and has been included as part of a master plan to be restored and flaked by 2 huge high rises on either end in the not so distant future. It’s not certain when this project will ever materialize but, I am certain that the current downturn in downturn in the real estate market has an influential decision on postponing the such ambitious endeavors, perhaps until a time when the Greeks get their house in order.

Bernardo Grijalva

Read more.. Thursday, June 14th, 2012