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.

Fallingwater Ohiopyle PA

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.