The Wright Way

When you think of Frank Lloyd Wright, the first thing that pops into your head is probably not "Florida". In 1939, Dr. Ludd Spivey, who was then the president of Florida Southern College, commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to come up with a design for a small vacation home in the Las Olas Isles. Dr. Spivey was already very familiar with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright because he had earlier commissioned him to design and build the entire campus of Florida Southern College. Coincidentally, the school does not offer a degree in architecture but is actively trying to restore and preserve some of the aging buildings.

In May of 2006, I received a call from Lori Twietmeyer, then Art Director at HOME Fort Lauderdale Magazine. The project was to photograph a scale model of a home Frank Lloyd Wright had designed. It was the model of the Spivey home.

Really? You want me to photograph a Frank Lloyd Wright design?
Yes, I want the job!

I remember first seeing the scale model and wondering how I would duplicate the look of the sun. As I looked at it under the flourescent light of HOME's office, it became clear that this wasn't going to be as easy as I had planned. I could easily set up a single light with some bounce to fill in some shadow but I still thought it would just look like an aerial view of a scale model. Not interesting.

I decided the model needed some life. Enlisting the help of Lori and the publisher of the magazine, we carefully carried the model (about the size of a small dinner table) up onto the roof and into the sun itself. Since I needed a clear view of the sky without obstructions, the resulting image was shot from the top of 2 stacked tables and a tall ladder. I also decided to utilize a very selective focus on just the house, which I think adds to the look of it being 'real'.

The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society recently contacted me about an upcoming exhibition of Frank Lloyd Wright and his Florida connections. They wanted to use the image for promoting the event. I gladly sold them the usage rights and I'm honored to have my own small connection to the great architect. Opening night is February 6, 2009.


The Baltz Influence

You never know when inspiration is going to hit you.  You can't really force it.  It just has to happen and the rest is up to us to do something with it.  I like to think of myself as an artist first, a commercial artist second.  However, in order to eat and clothe myself, I've found commercial work much more monetarily satisfying.
In 1974, a book was published called "The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California".  This became the basis of inspiration for a series of work I produced during college.  I knew there was some irony and detachment in what I had been photographing. Bland subjects like doorways, industrial buildings and suburban landscapes were my center of attention and I would elicit strange responses when I told people I was going off to photograph an industrial park. It wasn't until the work of Lewis Baltz was recommended to me that it really clicked and came together.  I suddenly found my inspiration and I knew there was probably at least one other person on the planet who might appreciate my efforts.
In 1975, Lewis Baltz was one of 8 artists selected for an exhibition at the International Museum of Photography called "The New Topographics:  Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape."  By studying these styles, I began to come up with my own visions.  Instead of focusing on the buildings within the landscapes, the buildings themselves became the landscape, often focusing on a single wall.  Already stark and cold subject matter to begin with, these industrial buildings became the perfect palette for me to distill a three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional one. 
Working with my Sinar 4x5 camera, every image was highly intentional.  As anyone who's worked with large-format knows, there's nothing spontaneous about it.  Each exposure is highly planned and produced.  Every image became more about the lines of the building and more minimal as I progressed.  The images I made during that time are some of the favorites I've ever produced.  Who knew you could make cool art in an industrial park on a Sunday morning?  Thanks, Lewis.  I'm getting inspired again...


The Grassy Knoll

Knoll has been manufacturing and reproducing timeless furniture design for the past 71 years. So, when commissioned last summer to photograph the new showroom and office space on Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami, I jumped at the chance. The project was to showcase the space for LEED certification with the U.S. Green Building Council.
One of my main concerns as a photographer was the use of fluorescent lighting in order to achieve the LEED certification. If you ask any photographer (or anyone with eyes that work), fluorescent lighting is about the worst lighting known to man...and camera. Not only does it look green to film or digital exposures, it robs one's soul. It's terrible. Please do not switch your incandescent bulbs those squiggly, mercury-filled-soul-stealers. This is a plea!...more on this subject later.
The new showroom is on the 17th floor of what was originally the Southeast Bank on 200 S. Biscayne Blvd.. Coincidentally, Florence Knoll herself helped design the building, something I wasn't aware of at the time. And, despite my concerns about the fluorescent light, only a minimal color adjusting was needed in the final processing of the images. Perhaps Knoll just designs fluorescent well too?