Wright Through My Lens

All photos © Mark Hertzberg (2021)

I had not been to many Frank Lloyd Wright sites outside of Racine in more than two years until a week ago. I had a gracious lunch invitation from Minerva Montooth for Sunday, and a last-minute photo assignment in Sparta, Wisconsin (west of Spring Green) Saturday, so I overnighted in Spring Green. I have always enjoyed challenging myself to see new things at familiar Wright sites on return visits. These are some of the many fruits of last week’s visit.

I photographed at the famous cantilevered Birdwalk terrace from below:

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I noticed visitors taking pictures above me while photographing the Birdwalk:

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I do not plan my photo visits for a particular time of day / lighting…I shoot what is there when I am there. I explored Taliesin and the grounds of the newly-restored Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center in wonderful evening light Saturday, before dinner with Keiran Murphy and “Mr. Keiran.” I visited both again in Sunday’s morning light. I saw the familiar sign for Taliesin in a different way, thanks to the sharp angle of the morning light:

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The first thing I saw at Taliesin Saturday as I drove onto the grounds was the corn crib, dramatically lit by evening light:

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Sunday morning I saw something different with a long lens as I drove up:

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I used a powerful zoom lens to photograph Romeo and Juliet and Tan-y-deri from a distance both days:

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I continued to explore with the long lens:

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I sat on the floor to photograph through one of the fireplaces inside Taliesin:

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I explored Wright’s office – with its own cantilevered balcony – and the original drafting room:

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I photographed Taliesin itself with long and short lenses:

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Going to Taliesin means also exploring Hillside Theatre and the drafting room. The theatre is currently being restored.

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After photographing the ghost-like seats with the sheets covering them I looked for photos under the seats:

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I also looked up:

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Outside is a view of the theatre and nearby farm:

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Then I went to explore the silent drafting room, first reflected in the theatre’s windows:

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And, Hillside itself:

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I photographed Midway Barn from the road, on my trips between Taliesin and Wyoming Valley School and once from Hillside:

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The last set of photos is of the Wyoming Valley School, now known as the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center. One of the only upsides of the pandemic is that the restoration of the school was able to proceed without having to work around visitors. Many of the changes are structural and not visible. Perhaps the most visible change is that the bricks inside now approximate their original natural color…the yellow of recent years was painted over with a grayish tone.

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The desks in the classroom today are not original, but I enjoyed photographing them through the mitered glass in the evening light nonetheless. This historic black and white photo shows the original desks.

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Robert Hartmann’s wonderful 1960s black and white photos of Taliesin and the school still hang on the walls. His photos documenting the construction of Riverview Terrace are in the rear of the dining room at the Visitors Center.

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I leave you with a photo of the Marvelous Minerva Montooth and my Taliesin selfie. Technical notes: I do no “post processing” on my photos…I do not sharpen them or increase the color saturation. What I shoot is what I get. I sometimes open the midtones a bit and do a bit of dodging and burning in…nothing that could not be done in a traditional chemical darkroom. I use two camera bodies, one has a DX or crop frame sensor, the other is FX or full frame (equivalent to what would be recorded on a 35mm piece of film). The lenses used are: 14-24mm (used on the FX body); 17-35mm (on the DX body);  a 70-200mm on the FX body, and a 200-500mm, used on both bodies. When the 200-500 is on the DX body, it is approximately the equivalent in 35mm terms of a 350-750mm lens. I thank John Clouse for selling me that lens recently…I had a wonderful time exploring Taliesin and Wyoming Valley School with it!

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Hillside Drafting Room, June 2020

(c) 2020 Mark Hertzberg

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Thousands of words have been written on social media and in architecture journals about the end of the relationship between the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT), which was founded as the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The School is moving to a new life on a new campus, and the Foundation is committed to new educational programming, bringing the historic drafting room back to life. In the meantime, it is empty, awaiting its next chapter. I photographed the drafting room June 16, 2020.

This post is visual only. I am not taking sides in the often acrimonious public debate about why the drafting room has no students this summer. I look at it, and miss the quiet intensity of the students I watched working in there. I look at it and think about the many wonderful buildings Wright and his apprentices and colleagues – and subsequent architects and students – designed here. I have photographed many of them. Now, there is silence. I invite you to study the photos, and reflect on the drafting room’s past and future.

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There is one photograph I saw in the drafting room last fall, which today I regret not taking. Remember that I am a photojournalist. While I have been granted (much appreciated) special permission for photography at Taliesin, I was helping lead a Road Scholar tour and the guests were not allowed to photograph the then-busy drafting room. I saw Aaron Betsky, then Dean of SoAT in a meeting in a conference room. The door was open. I had no inkling that in six months there would a split, but it felt like an important photograph to take. Today it would be an important one for this photo essay, but the photo exists only as a memory of something I saw.

Photographing Wright, redux

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

Note: My photos of Minerva and Charles Montooth are the post below this one.

This is the final installment of my 2019 quest to find new photos as I visit buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that are familiar to me. I visited them five times accompanying Road Scholar trips this year:

https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

I have posted earlier photos on the website since May. Have a look, and let me know what you think!!! The photos are in the order in which we visited these sites…not all the sites visited are represented on this post.

Wingspread, Wind Point (Racine):

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Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa:

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Jacobs 1, Madison:

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The Unitarian Meeting House, Madison:

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Wyoming Valley School, Spring Green:

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Taliesin 3:

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The original drafting studio at Taliesin:

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Midway Barns:

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Hillside Home and School:

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Michael DiPadova continues reconstruction of the Tea Circle:

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And, finally, my friends, I leave you with two more “selfies,” one at Wingspread and one at Taliesin!

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Tan-y-Deri Porch Restored

(c) Mark Hertzberg 2017

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Completion of the multi-year comprehensive restoration of Tan-y-Deri was celebrated last Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony as a start to Taliesin’s celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday. The three organizations charged with maintaining the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin celebrated their collaboration on this project: Taliesin Preservation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. The porch, perhaps better referred to as a terrace since it is only accessible from the interior, was the final piece of the project. It has been reconstructed to how it looked between 1939 – 1956. I had an opportunity Saturday to photograph the first floor of the house before the Wright birthday dinner. The Romeo and Juliet Windmill is nearby, and is in some photos. The early evening light, at the end a rainy day, was particularly welcome and lovely that day. We had driven to Taliesin under cloudy skies, and I had been pessimistic about having good light for photos.

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Wright designed the house in 1907 for Jane and Andrew Porter, his sister and brother-in-law, four years before designing Taliesin. The name of the house is Welsh for “under the oaks.” Andrew Porter was then the business manager for the nearby Hillside Home and School, run by Wright’s aunts. Tan-y-Deri 2017 010.jpgTan-y-Deri 2017 017.jpg

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