James Newton


90for90 – Vajrasana Buddhist Centre 03.2022


I was recently asked to select a building as part of the Building Centre’s 90th Anniversary celebrations which brought to life a major initiative, ‘90for90’ which celebrated the last 90 years of the built environment throughout the UK.  They invited 90 leading figures from across Britain – from architects, engineers, planners and developers to actors, architectural historians, photographers, broadcasters, writers and artists – to select their favourite examples of our nation’s built environment.

Each contributor was asked to select what, for them, had a special significance, and their choices create a fascinating snapshot of the built environment over the past 90 years. Their choices ranged from theatres to public houses, refurbished industrial buildings to transport hubs, iconic structures to high tech offices, a sculpture parks to a retrofitted hospital, art galleries to sporting venues. Some of the choices are world famous, others are comparatively unknown.

I chose the Vajrasana Buddhist Centre by Walters & Cohen.

I first visited the Vajrasana Buddhist Retreat Centre as a photographer. Whilst this means looking at the building closely it also means looking at it in a very specific way – looking for photographs. Surfaces, materials, forms, light and how it behaves and interacts with the materials and how this all adds up to creating an atmosphere – these are all the things that I am trying to take in. But I felt such a strong feeling of calm and serenity and a sense that time moved at a different pace here that I made a resolution to return as a visitor.

The building is beautifully designed and built. A small palette of simple materials is used to create a series of spaces made for communal living, a sangha courtyard at the centre and a strong connection/integration with the surrounding landscape. The hierarchy of materials places emphasis on the spiritual elements, living quarters are stripped back and basic but comfortable enough to not be austere. In the key spaces the use of dark brick and timber give a feel of real quality but remain modest, emphasis is on the spiritual symbols in the Stupa and Akshobhya courtyards before culminating in the imposing gold leaf buddahrupa in the shrine room.

As a place for retreat it works beautifully. The architecture functions very well but has the modesty to step aside as one’s perception changes and focus shifts inward. The building seems to dissolve allowing the natural surroundings come to the fore; I now remember it not for how it looks but for how it feels. I remember it by the warmth of the timber benches, the smoothness of polished concrete underfoot and the sense of enclosure in the courtyard with the plants gently moving in the breeze. But above all I remember it for the sense of community that it nurtures and supports.

This is architecture at its best, designed to work, built to last and enhancing the experience of the people who are there. For all of these reasons I am nominating it as my favourite building, but I also choose it to represent this type of building that can easily be overlooked – simple, quiet, without fuss, carefully considered and very well made. I hope to go back.

The Cinema at Selfridges 05.2021

Recently photographed for ASLight, the Cinema at Selfridges is now a permanent feature located in the iconic department store on Oxford Street.  It comes complete with three state-of-the-art screens, a cocktail lounge and a private members area.

Illuminated River Phase 2 05.2021

Phase 2 of The Illuminated River has gone live, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Golden Jubilee, Westminster and Lambeth Bridges all now illuminated as part of Leo Villareal’s artwork and it is now the longest public art commission in the world (3.2 miles!). Many more images will be published in the coming weeks by @illuminatedriver.

Westminster Abbey 08.2020

I am pleased to be able to share the first few photographs of the re-lighting of Westminster Abbey by Speirs + Major.  Phase 1 of the project sees the Nave, Quire, Crossing, Transepts and Sacrarium re-lit using a full LED installation. The lighting does a wonderful job of enhancing the colour and details of the interior, particularly the golden elements of the Quire and High Altar.  It was an absolute pleasure to spend a couple of evenings photographing there last December.

Thames during Lockdown 05.2020

Never has the Thames been so quiet and still, early in the lockdown I was in the City to photograph some views of the Thames to look at the impact of lockdown on occupancy and lighting levels, the reduction of which these images clearly show.  A lot of the office lighting was off, the Shard crown was blue for the NHS and the Southbank was empty.

What really struck me though was the lack of sound, there was near silence, the occasional bus and pedestrian. At one point next to London Bridge I could hear people talking on the other side of the river, eerie!

#onephotochallenge 05.2020

I am happy to say that this photograph of the Turner Contemporary in Margate (David Chipperfield Architects) has been selected as one of ten commended entries in the Architizer one photo challenge, the idea is to “capture the essence of a place” in one image.

One Photo Challenge juror Ema Peter — an award-winning photographer herself — reflected on her winning selections: “Regardless of the profile of the project, [these photographs] manage to stop you, make you look twice, and feel. They are anything but typical architectural shots. They have so much soul, and richly embody how architecture impacts our life. Architecture in photography cannot stay impersonal; we cannot rely on the perfect light and perfect angle, we need to show the unexpected and tell a story.”

Olympic Way 04.2020

A couple of views from a recent commission to photograph Olympic Way (formerly Wembley Way) and Bobby Moore Bridge for Speirs + Major.

Uren Building 01.2020

Very much looking forward to photographing the new Uren Building, on the Imperial College White City Campus, for architects Allies and Morrisson. The building is nearing completion internally and a full set of images will be posted soon.


Kingsbridge 12.2019

This is the first phase of a huge redevelopment of the infamous Gascoigne Estate, one of the top entries on Google simply reads “I’ve been robbed here multiple times.”

These images are from a recent commission by Allies and Morrisson to show their work at the new Kingsbridge Estate which is phase one of the overall masterplan. As well as looking at the housing in relationship to the estate in its current condition the aim was to show the relationship to context and illustrate ideas such as the reintegration with the surrounding Edwardian Terraces and the animated gable ends which provide an ‘animated’ rather than closed facade to the street.

Fortunately I wasn’t robbed.

The (un)Illuminated River 03.2019

I am really pleased to have been commissioned to photograph the Illuminated River project, many more details (and light and colour) will follow later in the year but initially it has consisted of scouting locations for photography and discovering another world down on the beaches of the river Thames after dark. Hello to all the Mudlarks!

The Royal Opera House 03.2019

Some images from a recent commission by Studio Fractal showing their illumination of the new and refurbished elements of The Royal Opera House, the exteriors were recently photographed following documentation of the interiors late last year, the project will be published on my website soon.

Return to Bloomberg 01.2019

It was a privilege to be able to photograph the new Bloomberg HQ prior to its opening last year, and I was delighted to be asked to go back and document the interiors again now that the building is operational and full of Bloomberg employees. Witnessing the ‘Pantry’ (first image below) in full swing is quite an experience, the heart of all activity in the building is buzzing with energy morning noon and night.


Fortnum & Mason at The Royal Exchange 12.2018

The latest branch of Fortnum & Mason has opening at The Royal Exchange in the heart of the City of London, the central atrium provides a stunning setting for the bar and restaurant. Photographed recently for Speirs + Major with a focus on the change in atmosphere from day to night as the bar and seating become more intimate with a real sense of enclosure, despite the scale of the space.

Fortnum & Mason 11.2018

You know Christmas is coming when you find yourself in Fortnum & Mason! Well luckily for me I got a chance to get in there before Christmas and before the crowds to photograph the recently upgraded lighting design on the ground floor carried out by Speirs+Major.  The products are now leaping off the shelves and looking grander than ever, with all those famous Fortnum’s colours proudly on show.

HIDE 10.2018

HIDE is a new restaurant on Piccadilly in London, a collaboration between Hedonism Wines and chef Ollie Debbous.  I was commissioned by Speirs + Major to capture some of the atmosphere of their lighting to the restaurant interiors, specifically the different moods seen between the areas above ground (over looking Green Park) and below ground where the lack of daylight allows for a moody and theatrical experience.

Interiors are by These White Walls and the staircase design is by Atmos Studio.

Architectural Photography Awards 2018 10.2018

I am really pleased to have been shortlisted for the Arcaid Images Architectural Photography Awards 2018.  One of the photographs of ‘The Vortex’ entrance area of the Bloomberg HQ by Foster & Partners has been included in the Interiors category.

The full shortlist can seen here: archphotoawards.com

The Ram Quarter 09.2018

On the site of the old Youngs Brewery next to the River Wandle in Wandsworth lies The Ram Quarter, a new development by EPR Architects, who have commissioned me to photograph the scheme as it progresses on site. Phase 1 is complete and soon to follow will be some of the more historical elements including the conversion of the former brewery buildings and pub.


Brunel University Advanced Metals Processing Centre 07.2018

One of the enjoyable things about working as a photographer is the variety of projects I find myself working on, this commission from Pascall+Watson sent me to Brunel University to photograph a new building within the Uxbridge campus’s science park.  The 1,500m2 laboratory supports the UK manufacturing sector by conducting world class academic research and industrial development in the processing of high performance aluminium and magnesium alloys for automotive applications.  I always enjoy industrial architecture and this is a very good example, albeit a very clean one.

Room2 Southampton 06.2018

A selection of images from a recent commission by Room2 and Project Orange. As described by Project Orange, ‘Taking advantage of the large floor to ceiling heights, the dominant bedroom type features a mezzanine deck offering flexible guest accommodation. The deck and interior features are not dissimilar to those found on board traditional cruise liners, a nod towards the importance of Southampton in cross-Atlantic travel.’

1+2 New Ludgate 03.2018

James has been commissioned to photograph 1+2 New Ludgate for Speirs+Major. The images will show the integrated lighting design carried out in the reception areas and lobbies. (Architect / Fletcher Priest).

Made of Light Too website launched 01.2017

November 2015 was the tenth anniversary of the publication of ‘Made of Light’. To celebrate this, Mark Major and Keith Bradshaw of Speirs + Major have collaborated with renowned architectural lighting photographer and filmmaker James Newton to create twelve short, abstract videos that echo the original themes of the project: Source, Contrast, Surface, Colour, Movement, Function, Form, Space, Boundary, Scale, Image and Magic. Made of Light Too – A Closer Look at Light employs digital media through an online presence to help reach a wider audience than the original project. In this way it becomes an extension of the original ideal to inspire, delight and communicate the wonder of light.


Arcaid Images Architectural Photography Awards 10.2016

I am really pleased to have been shortlisted for the Arcaid Images Architectural Photography Awards 2016.  One of the images that I made at the Serpentine Pavilion by Selgascano has been included in the Interiors category.

The full shortlist can seen here: arcaidawards.com

Personal project on Documentary Platform 01.2016

‘Cities Underneath Cities’ is a personal project I have been working on for the last couple of years whilst visiting Italian cities.  Places visited include Naples (above), Florence, Pisa, Palermo (below), Bologna, Ferrara and Venice.  The project is now featured on documentary platform a visual archive of Italian photography projects and can be seen here.


Feature in Lighting 04.2015

Restoring the Light 04.2015

The restoration of the Herkenrode glass windows has recently been completed at Lichfield Cathedral.  This seven year project was undertaken as part of a complete restoration of the East End of the building, the Cathedral’s Lady Chapel.  Over the course of the project I have managed to make several visits in order to photograph the project in its various stages.

A significant part of this work has been the removal, conservation and re-installation of the famous Herkenrode Glass.  The glass is considered to be one of Europe’s greatest artistic treasures, and was installed in Lichfield in 1803 when it was rescued from destruction during the French revolutionary wars.  Having withstood centuries of weather and pollution, emergency action was needed to rescue it once again and the race began to save the Lady Chapel and its priceless Renaissance glass.  The glass was removed in 2010 and taken to Barley Studio where the five-year renovation project commenced.

The whole project comprised renewing and repairing stonework in the South and North Choir aisles, replacing some of  the external stonework of the Lady Chapel, removing the Herkenrode glass to safe storage, installing clear isothermal glazing, the conservation and re-installation of  the glass, the renewal of fabrics.

The glass came from the Abbey of Herkenrode (now in Belgium) in 1801 having been purchased by Brooke Boothby when that abbey was dissolved during the Napoleonic Wars.  It originally dates from the 1530s.  The conservation work was undertaken by Barley Studio in York.

With thanks to Lichfield Cathedral for the access and some of the text for this post.

Creative Review Award 11.2013

I am really pleased to say that my project ‘To/From’ has been awarded best in book in this year’s Creative Review Photo Annual.