A Better Understanding

On a recent road trip I reconciled a significant disparity in my personal conflict with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. As is frequently the case, understanding the root of the problem is an important perspective to know.

Welzheimer/Johnson House Oberlin Ohio

I had told friends about my upcoming trip to Oak Park Illinois to visit Frank’s home/studio & explore some of his early work. They told me of one of his Usonian homes in Oberlin Ohio, which was on my way. That brief stop to begin my journey proved to be very worthwhile.

The Weltzheimer/Johnson House itself had the strong horizontal & vertical lines I see in much of his work. Designed with floor to ceiling windows they reflected the outside world. The result, along with the other dark earth tone materials, integrated the man-made structure with nature.  This reinforced of a trait of his that can be seen in Fallingwater and the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Unfortunately my schedule & visiting hours of the interior did not sync. I only got to walk around the spacious lot.

It is my distaste for strong lines & 90 degree angles that is a symptom of why I am confused about being inspired by his work. The remaining miles to my destination outside of Chicago gave me time to ponder more deeply about why I always try to soften angles when framing a shot with a camera. Form is a major inspiration for my photography. Sailboats & dance being two examples of subjects with few harsh angles I always want to explore.

After, arriving at my B&B I walked around the neighborhood to stretch my legs & find a place to eat. The architecture of the homes in the community was grand. While none of these homes were designed by Frank, that was in another part of town, they were spectacular with significant landscaping featuring old trees.  Many had wonderful large porches & lots of detailed accents. It wasn’t hard to see the Prairie Style in much of the accent work of many of the homes. It was obvious I was in a community where the homes reflected a different era. The Chicago Fire of 1871 motivated the move of families to the outskirts of Central Chicago. Frank & his new bride moved there where he designed & experimented with his own living space.  I found it interesting that within 1 block of his home many neighbors hired him to design their homes. The influence of one person can be dramatic.

I had a full day of immersion touring his home, the Unity Temple & doing a walking tour of many of the houses he was the architect for. The diversity caught me a bit by surprise. This is where he was developing his unique ideas, some of which became known as the Prairie Style, which is somewhat synonymous with his name. I also became much more aware of how he incorporated natural light into his plans. In Unity Temple the high windows as well as stained glass windows in the roof bathed the interior of the building with soft light. Additionally the 4 tiers for the congregation were a bold layout I had never seen in any meeting place. I really appreciate that in his home & the temple photography was allowed. Thank you to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

It was on the lower level seating of the church as I was thinking how I could crop the image in my viewfinder that all of the pondering I had done came into clarity. My challenge with Frank’s lines was because I was always working within the Horizontal and Vertical lines of my camera. Those were boarders I couldn’t soften & I recognized they conflicted with his lines. I remembered a critique of my work which was to make the shot wider. Thank you for the simple advice Marth Rial. When I try to put a tight frame around a design or detail of Frank’s it diminishes the power of the image.

When I reexamined the original subject of my inspiration it was plain as day. The boarders of the image need to be away from his work. I can’t let my lines compete with his. With much of his work the natural world offsets the harsh lines of the structure. The space around the subject can be an important part of the visual story.

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I believe his work needs to be experienced in a context where the viewer is in the actual environment.  Hmm. Sounds like the next chapter in Chasing Frank will be an overnight stay at one of his homes in Polymath Park.

In addition to my epiphany about Frank I also got to spend some time with friends in Chicago & family in Waukesha. Road-trips are good!

Inspired by Quality

01Each of us has unique skills, knowledge, interests & experiences that define what we like. For Dave Taylor, diverse & broad are two adjectives I would use to describe the artistic influences of his life & his home. We share an appreciation for Frank Lloyd Wright as well as interests in perspectives of mass communication. I am glad to call him a friend.

02I first met Dave working on HBO Boxing sometime in the mid 90’s. He was one of the first “next-gens” that understood the mechanics of Remote Live TV. He had recently graduated from the ASU/Walter Cronkite school. Years later I found out he indeed met “Uncle Wally” He also had the digital perspective to quickly utilize a new tool called EVS. This Hard Drive Replay device would rapidly change the formatting of Live TV Remotes. The device picked up the nickname of ELVIS. Dave could make it sing.

03Unlike many mid-life singles, he has a keen sense for integrating style with function in his home. By his own admission, he’s an UberGeek. He is designing & building a programmable home theater. As an example, ifyou want to watch Kubrick’s film 2001 Space Odyssey…he likes Stanley as I do…he has programed a 20-minute mix of music from that era.  Monitors, mounted vertically, show posters of other films from 1968.  All of this is to set the mood while enjoying a cocktail. The Prairie style columns with Frank Lloyd Wright inspired inserts are a design touch that can’t be ignored.

04 copyThe sound system is tuned for the back 2 seats & the distance from the 102-inch screen is set for immersive panoramic viewing. As music from the era fades the lighting dips & the movie begins. If you want he can also program previews from other films from that year. It is still a work in progress because he realizes it takes time to achieve quality. His vision blends technology & style creating a unique media experience.

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His antique electronic toys are classic home Audio Video. The Philco Predicta Pedestal set is wired to show DVD’s so we watched an episode of the Twilight Zone. Since Dave is about a generation younger than me I asked him what influenced his style. He quickly replied that Mad Med influenced his appreciation for an old school perspective. He also appreciates any endeavor where people create quality.

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With more forethought than many, he decided to set himself up to be energy independent. He did his research & installed a solar farm to meet his needs. The land between the house & the panels has recently been planted with fruit trees that will soon block the view of the panels. Fluent with technology, he likes his toys & he knows how to plan for his future with an overall style. It’s easy for me to respect a person like that.

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This is a look inside the type of office he works in. Dave doesn’t sit at the helm of the WWE Star-ship but he and the other EVS operators keep the wheels turning while keeping the engines from falling off. I have tremendous respect for ALL the WWE crew! They create one of the most sophisticated Live TV Remotes I’ve ever experienced! And they do it over 100 times a year. Dave easily fits into this very talented crew.

08In his spare time while traveling, he edited a 52 episode series of music Mash-Ups under the moniker of the Forensic Editor on YouTube. Our musical tastes differ but I can easily follow his storytelling approach to music, which on Jumping Jack Flash spans 45 years & 15 performances. These “for-fun” productions are video time capsules weaving music into a different dimension. If you enjoy music check out his work with this link.

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I believe one of the roots of Dave’s many talents is music. He understands how all of the components come together in a way that tiny details become important to the story or the event. In my mind, he is a digital wizard with the understanding that every tale is analog with a beginning, a middle & an end. Oh yea…he has that left-handed creative thing happening. The places I visited on my road-trip were enjoyable. However, spending a day with a friend I don’t get to see often enough really added inspiration to my journey.

Conflicting Inspiration

Understanding the roots of inspiration is as necessary as knowing how to use the tools in your toolbox. However, I can’t adequately explain why the work of Frank Lloyd Wright inspires me. What I do know is visiting his work is time well spent & worth attempting to sync my mind to my camera

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Understanding the roots of inspiration is as necessary as knowing how to use the tools in your toolbox. However, I can’t adequately explain why the work of Frank Lloyd Wright inspires me. What I do know is visiting his work is time well spent & worth attempting to sync my mind to my camera.

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The discrepancies began on a Jr. High field trip to Falling Water, which is a signature work of his. Even then I had awe for the natural world & believed I had a responsibility to take care of it. Building a house over a waterfall just didn’t seem right. Yet, when I saw it, I was amazed at how naturally the style, materials & design of a man-made structure blended with nature. As I got older & my own sense of composition & balance developed FLW was there to offer more perplexing influence.

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The Laurel Highlands & the Escarpment of the Colorado Plateau are vastly different. Here FLW uses juxtaposition of materials & design to the environment. Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona AZ is in contrast with the surroundings. But, to my minds eye it is powerful. The sharply angular gray building pulls strength from the random shapes & the hues of red stone mountains. The lines of the cross support the walls & go deep into the earth.

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I must give credit for part of my inspiration of architecture to my roommate at Kent State Pete Locke. Thru osmosis & interesting conversations he showed me new ways to look at buildings. I find it satisfying to examine structures like home & buildings from different perspectives. I also find this type of photography extremely challenging.

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I try to soften corners both in photography & landscaping. I also like working with stone. At Kentuck Knob, near Falling Water, is my favorite home design of FLW. Stone in the structure does not soften angles. It harshly defines separation.  Seemingly random landscape stone somehow creates a balance to the walls. Even with conflict to my preferences I admire his work & those that preserve it. The term I use of “unbalanced symmetry”likely has its roots in FLW.

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For photographers, the lines of his designs offer wonderful choices. At his homestead school in Taliesin WI,  I was initially overwhelmed at how to best capture his work. I quickly realized that with clear skies & powerful Spring light I had to let the sun be the primary motivator.

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The rounded fields at Taliesin gave me insight to the inspiration FLW may have had as a child. A special thanks to the officer that was understanding of the fact that I had left my drivers license in Pittsburgh!

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One disappointing thing about FLW tours is that no photography is allowed inside.  Seeing the ridiculous situations people taking selfies put themselves in I understand. Selfie photographers, before you pull out your phone ask yourself 1 question. What could go wrong?

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For now I leave Frank with his design within design. Obtuse with Acute. The function of airflow incorporated into negative space accents. A small detail in a grand design. Next stop on the FLW journey TBD.  As the last posting in the 1st year of retirement I will share my resolution…I want to be better in 2017.  I wish the same for you! Merry Christmas.

Full Fram Perfection

Perfection, I believe, is an impossible objective. However I think it is a worthy goal. When I hold a camera to my eye I can’t help but imagining capturing a full frame image that is perfect. No cropping, no post-production and no change in the light on the subject. That moment when all elements come together in a cohesive story worthy of 1,000 words. Compromise is a reality everybody striving for perfection must accept. However, subjective critique of your own work should not just look at the negative or how it could be better. You must examine all that you like about the shot and weigh that against the flaws.

All of the images in this post are untouched. They are what I consider to be my best attempts at “full frame” perfection…so far.

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Kayaking on Lake Skadar in Montenegro with my daughter was part of a grand trip. In my opinion I never truly visit a place unless you get on or in the water. During our exploring we sailed, swam & kayaked. Taking photos from a kayak presents numerous challenges & limited opportunities. I don’t need to see her face, nor do I wish the sky were a perfect blue. Her journey ahead has challenges she is more than prepared for.
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Sailing in Seattle on the 70 footer Obsession was nice enough but the twilight & the reflection were an added bonus. The cityscape of this port town is almost void of signage on the buildings. I’m glad urban ordinances prevent the owners/builders from turning this great view into another opportunity for marketing. Could it be better…yes. Mt Ranier is off to the right of frame but their was clutter from the shipyards that distracted so I cropped with the zoom to eliminate the distraction.
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Although this shot was almost deleted, something made me keep examining it. I was using my new long zoom, 100-400, for the first time & pushing my skills at full tight to try & get a tight shot of the athlete’s expression. (That was a humbling failure for the most part.) At first glance this is somewhat abstract. However, it shows aspects of the sport that clearly define what is happening. The blurred feet in the air pointing up & the strong hands holding the bent pole capture a moment unique to this sport. I will do a future post about pole-vaulting.
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I am a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. Maybe not a great man but an architect that has inspired me since a field trip to Falling Water in Junior HS. We were traveling in Wisconsin in late May & I insisted on going to Taliesin which was the home of FLW & later a school for Architects. Although I was compelled by the structures, the tour & the history, I couldn’t help but also be inspired by the landscape & the farming. Somehow, the natural setting along with the man-made trellis, plowed field and orderly orchard gave me a different insight into FLW’s use of space & style of design. I can’t fully articulate what it is about his work I enjoy especially since I am not fond of hard horizontal & vertical lines associated with buildings. Taliesin West in AZ is on my bucket list for my next trip into the SW.
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I had to connect in VIE on a return trip from SJJ & (on purpose) had a 12 hour layover in Vienna. They have a quick/easy/cheap train from the airport & I hopped on to do a “down & dirty wander” around this historic center of European power. All to often I was distracted by barkers dressed in period-piece costume inviting me to concerts of Mozart, Strauss and Hayden. In my mind I kept saying…you’re here for your eyes not your ears. In one of the many parks I found this emotional statue with a wonderful floral background. The diversity of art in this city goes well beyond the music. I hope to someday go back & spend more time to enjoy the music & capture more of what Old Europe has to offer.IMG_9229 copy
Wandering thru a market in Zagreb was a wonderful opportunity for street photography. The colorful produce was a backdrop for the diversity of characters involved in the hustle of commerce. This solitary vendor appears to have sadness etched into his face but in his eyes I see a peaceful serenity. Knowing the quality of his product he has a subdued confidence a buyer will choose his apples. The cane on the edge of the frame is not to far from his folded callous hands. Although his rugged coat helps keep him warm he keeps his head uncovered defying the harshness of the world. When I first spotted him I was drawn to the character of his face and stoic expression. However, as I waited for the passing crowd to give me a window to snap a portrait, I realized the more complete story was wider and included his environment.

I found this video from PBS. It’s only 3:02 & a very choppy edit style, but I found it an interesting look at the perspective of a photographer with 6 decades of experience.