Rainy Day Post #3 – A Wright Potpourri

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg (2020)

I have promised you one more “rainy day post,” cleaning up pictures that have been waiting on my desktop for the right context to post them in. This is a smattering of photos of Frank Lloyd Wright sites I have visited in one context or another since July 2018. While I shoot literal photos of Wright buildings (“head shots” we called them in the newsroom), I also look for photos of details of Wright’s designs. I am generally not sharing interior photos of private homes. I try to avoid looking at other photographers’ interpretations of Wright buildings before I visit them so that I see the structures through my own eye and lens, rather than possibly copy another photographer’s vision.

The photos are in chronological order, beginning with a wonderful trip to the Detroit area that July two years ago. We were with our good friends Bob and Jeanne Maushammer from Virginia. Jeanne’s exposure to Wright began when she was a teenager, hired to babysit at the Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine for Schuyler and Peterkin Seward, stewards of the house between 1957 – 1963. The Maushammers dutifully chronicle their Wright adventures in a well worn copy of William Allin Storrer’s The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I will copy and paste Jeanne’s recollections of the Hardy House from my 2006 book about the house at the end of this blog post.

Our first stop was at the Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills, where Dale Gyure graciously gave us a private tour:

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We were fortunate to next get a private tour of the Melvin Smith House. The light was not as subtle as the architecture in the early afternoon:

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Then we were off to the Turkel House, lovingly restored by our good friends Norm Silk and Dale Morgan. Jeanne has wonderful stories of having seen the then-distressed house ca. 2004 right after a questionable tenant had been evicted. We had bid on a dinner at the house, to benefit the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. Norm went above and beyond shopping for us in a Middle Eastern market, and we had a lovely meal in the garden. The Maushammers, Cindy (Hertzberg), and Norm:

Turkel House Dinner 010.jpgWe planned to stay only a couple of hours and not overstay our welcome, but we were like family enjoying the house in the living room after dinner until past 11 p.m.! The light was harsh when we arrived at 5 p.m., and I wondered how it would change through the evening:

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Our next adventure was when Bob and Jeanne treated us to a stay at the Palmer House in Ann Arbor:

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I was then on tour in familiar territory in Wisconsin, helping lead tours for Road Scholar, first in Racine at SC Johnson and at Wingspread. I have visited and photographed these wonderful spaces umpteen times, and always look for a fresh way to see them:

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I climbed these stairs at Wingspread countless times before seeing this photo:

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I was then taken, again, by the fixtures at the Annunication Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa (suburban Milwaukee):

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After touring Racine and Milwaukee, we take our Road Scholar guests to Madison and Spring Green. First, a detail of the ceiling of Jacobs 1:

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Then, a light well in Anthony Puttnam’s interpretation of Monona Terrace:

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The trip culminates at Taliesin – of course – after seeing the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison and Wyoming Valley School, with lunch at Riverview Terrace. Our introduction to Taliesin is a pause at the dam:

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I finish with Jeanne’s recollection of babysitting at the Hardy House and a “selfie” there:

(From “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House,” written and photographed by Mark Hertzberg, Pomegranate: 2006):

Jeanne (Weins) Maushammer, who baby-sat for the Sewards, recalls growing up nearby. “The house was well-known to everyone in the neighborhood.  People would go to the 14th Street public beach there and see the house just a short distance away.  It did not look like a private residence.  Visitors from outside the area – even across town – would see two openings that could easily be mistaken for bath house entrances, and try to go in to change their clothes.

“Sometimes when you were driving around with out-of-town folks, they would ask ‘What is that?’  They did not recognize it as a house, because it was so different from the other homes around it, and because it was next to the beach.  Neighbors knew what it really was.  The Johnson Wax complex was down the street from us, so the Hardy House seemed to be appropriate.  My folks often told me of their witnessing the construction of the Administration Building and of seeing Frank Lloyd Wright.  The Johnson buildings were understood and accepted by visitors, but not the ‘beach house.’

“My friends and I used to go down to the beach all the time.  We could not get close enough to the property to get a good look at it.  We always had to look through the trees.  We could not see how it blended into the hill side.  That added to the mystery of it.  From the street, all that people could see was just that box.

“I knew it was a Frank Lloyd Wright house before I first went inside.  What I did not realize was how he proportioned houses to his small frame.  I remember thinking when inside for the first time:  ‘I am 5’4” but wow, these doorways are low.’  It was dark and raining that particular day, so I did not get to appreciate the house’s real beauty.  After I had been there several times and had a chance to explore it, to stand in that living room and on the balcony, and to take in the view, I realized it was incredible.

“My husband has never seen the inside of the house, except in photos, but in our wildest dreams we would like to buy it and come back to Racine.”

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What is in your basement?

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

In the case of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hillside Theatre at Taliesin, there are some Pyrex-glass window tubes and thousands of roof tiles. The window tubes are thought to be related to the SC Johnson Research Tower, designed in 1943/44 and constructed 1947-1950, according to Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The Tower has 17.5 miles of the tube windows (the Administration Building, designed in 1936 has 43 miles of the window tubes).

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Dockery says there are between 30,000-50,000 clay roof tiles which were made by Ludowici Roof Tiles for the Theatre.

Hillside Theater 2018 016.jpg“They were removed and replaced with the rolled rubber roofing in 1968 after a stack of extra tiles which had been set aside to repair the roof fell over and damaged a truck. The structure of the roof meant that the tiles needed constant maintenance and replacement so plenty of extras were kept on hand.” 

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I unexpectedly got to see these generally unseen artifacts in the basement when I was working with Dockery to photograph the newly-restored curtain in the Hillside Theatre in June. A shortcut to the dining room to photograph the curtain from the dining room balcony took us through the basement.

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Hillside’s Restored Theatre Curtain

All photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

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One of the most fascinating things to see at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin is the stunning curtain in Hillside Theatre. It is dazzling to see, but it really comes alive when docents like the incomparable Cate Boldt describe its intricacies and symbolism to tour guests. I had the privilege of photographing the newly-restored curtain a week ago, at the request of Stuart Graff, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. I worked with Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator for the Foundation, and Ryan Hewson, Director of Preservation. Dockery gets credit for lighting the curtain perfectly for me!

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I photographed the curtain over two hours, seemingly inside and out…even from the rear, a view few people see. I boiled the take down to 119 images, some of which are below. The description of the work is culled from information from Dockery.

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The curtain was designed by Wright in 1952 following the fire which destroyed the first Hillside Theatre and its own Wright-designed curtain. It was restored in early June by a team of three conservators led by Harold Mailand. The work included stabilizing the existing gold lamé and installing new lamé on top of it, restoring the original shimmering appearance while preserving the original material in place.

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The conservators also addressed such issues as detached felt sections, damaged yarn swags, and water stains. The entire curtain was also vacuumed, in front and back to remove built up dust and dirt, restoring its original coloration, which results in it looking much brighter. 

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Original pencil marks by the apprentices who made the curtain are still visible:

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The view from backstage: Some water stains are visible

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Although Wright designed the curtain, he did not know that apprentices were secretly making it. It was unveiled for his birthday in 1956. He made some alterations, most famously being seen atop a ladder dabbing the top of the white canvas with Nescafé instant coffee.  Mailand has worked with the curtain since 1988. Forthcoming restoration work in the theatre, through a Save America’s Treasures matching grant, will help reduce wear on the curtain, particularly on the left side where it has rubbed against the limestone wall on the side of the stage.

I was able to review photos as I shot them with Dockery, left, and Hewson:

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For more information and a video, visit the Foundation’s blog piece:

https://franklloydwright.org/hillside-theatre-curtain-restoration/

Finally, what’s a photo session at Taliesin without a “selfie,” this one in the mirror at the side of the stage?

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Technical information: Nikon D500 camera (crop sensor) with 17 – 55mm lens, and Nikon D850 (full frame) camera with 14 – 24mm and 70 – 200mm lenses.

 

 

Hillside Drafting Room, June 2020

(c) 2020 Mark Hertzberg

Hillside Home School 2018 Bike.jpgA student’s bicycle outside the Hillside Drafting Room, October, 2018

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.

School of Architecture at Taliesin Closing

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2020

The successor to Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1932 Fellowship program, the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SoAT) will close at the end of the spring semester, it was announced January 28, 2020. There have been efforts the last few years to find ways for the school to be accredited and to remain financially sustainable. Students spent spring and summer at Taliesin, and migrated to Taliesin West in Arizona in fall. This is a selection of related photos from my files.

Taliesin Architecture School Closing 001.jpgThe drafting room at Hillside School (at Taliesin).

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Student work is presented in the drafting room, September 2006.

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Aaron Betsky, President of SoAT, was a guest at the annual Wright birthday celebration at Taliesin. Here, in 2016 with Stuart Graff, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

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Aaron Betsky at the 2019 birthday celebration.

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A student’s bicycle rests outside the drafting studio at Hillside School, 2018.

Students presented the birthday cake for Wright at the annual celebration at Taliesin:

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Wright’s portrait hangs in the drafting room at Taliesin West, 2014.

Reading the only known Photograph of Julian Carlton

© Mark Hertzberg 2020

Look at the photo without reading the caption below it. It is a portrait of a young African-American man, seemingly deep in thought. He merited having his photo on the front page of the Dodgeville Chronicle on August 21, 1914, not a small accomplishment for an African-American man 106 years ago.

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Not a small accomplishment until one reads the caption below it: “Julian Carlton, Slayer of Seven.” This is not the photo of say, a self-effacing young man who the townspeople are rightfully proud of. It is a portrait of a man who has committed a monstrous act: he butchered seven people, including children, as he lay waste to Frank Lloyd Wright’s beloved home, Taliesin. It is surprising that the pejorative “Negro” as in “Negro Slayer of Seven” is missing from the photo caption, although he is described as “a negro chef” in the story, just above.

Various motives has been ascribed to his heinous act. Had he just been fired from his employ? Was he seeking revenge for racist statements leveled at him? We will never know, for he swallowed hydrochloric acid before he was found hiding in a boiler. He died 53 days later, before he could come to trial. He never revealed his motive.

I am a photojournalist, and I cannot look at the photo without thinking about the man – certainly not a woman, not in 1914 – who took the photo. I wonder about the circumstances under which it was taken. Carlton is seated in a high back chair. It looks like he is wearing a striped shirt: is it a jail uniform? We see someone over his right shoulder looking at him (or the photographer). This makes me think that Carlton is seated in the front of a courtroom in Dodgeville, the Iowa County seat, hearing the charges against him: seven murder charges, two of assault with intent to kill, and one of arson. Perhaps the courtroom was filled to capacity, and the crowd spilled into the hallway that summer day. Were there large ceiling fans whirring, were using handheld cardboard fans?

I wonder about what the photographer thought as he snapped the photo. Courtroom photography was my specialty in my 37-year newspaper career. I came face-to-face with probably more than 100 men and women accused of crimes serious enough to merit, like Carlton, a photo on the front page of the local newspaper. I photographed them at some of the most vulnerable times in their life. I knew some of them. It was not my place to speak to them. They generally ignored me. Only a handful tried to hide their face from me, usually unsuccessfully. One flipped me off. Another, a former co-worker, called me a “vulture.” I ignored him. His father told him to be quiet.

Who assigned the photograph of Carlton? What did the photographer think as he pressed the shutter? Who was he: Was he the editor of the newspaper? Was he an experienced photographer for whom this was another routine photo assignment, or was it a nervous cub reporter given an important assignment? Was he the owner of a local photo studio pressed into service for the newspaper, or was he a high school student known to own a camera and easily available on an August day? How many sheets of film or frames of roll film were exposed? Was this a one-shot-and-we’re-done photo, or was this the best of the lot? Did he realize the historic importance of this single image, that it would be important even a century later? Did Carlton try to evade the lens at any point? We will likely never know.

Photographic technology was quite different in 1914 than today. Many indoor photos were two dimensional, lit by the harsh light of flash powder (flash bulbs had yet to be invented). It is somewhat unusual to see an indoor photo from the time taken by natural light. The left side of Carlton’s face is lit, probably by window light. The films of the day were less suited for taking indoor pictures by natural light than they are today. The photographer who guessed what camera settings to use and the person who printed the photograph were skilled: the side of Carlton’s face is not washed out, and we have good detail in the shadow side, the front of his visage. We can read the face of the spectator over his shoulder.

A few weeks ago I was just a couple of feet away from a woman accused of a horrific murder in 1999, and then dumping her victim’s corpse on a rural road, as she was made her initial court appearance. We first encountered each other in the jail hallway. She looked at me, but did not react. We did not communicate. I did my job, to record this long-time fugitive, and went home to edit and send the pictures to my editors. It was over with – the waiting and the photography – in about a half hour. Is that how it was for a photographer for the Dodgeville Chronicle 106 years ago?

(Note: I wondered if the photo was originally taken for the larger Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, or possibly shared between the two newspapers, no matter who assigned it. After a search of the grainy State Journal archives it seems that the photo appeared only in the Dodgeville Chronicle. It is perhaps surprising that the State Journal did not use a photo: its editor and president, Richard Lloyd Jones, was Wright’s first cousin. Jones, a virulent racist, met Wright at the train station in Spring Green when Wright and Edwin Cheney arrived from Chicago after learning of the massacre at Taliesin. The photograph, a meticulously researched biography of Carlton, and Jones’s story and connection to the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 are in Paul Hendrickson’s 2019 book about Wright, Plagued by Fire.)

Ron McCrea, 1943 – 2019

Photos (c) Mark Hertzberg 2019

2015 Wright Birthday Taliesin 038.jpgRon could not resist playing the piano in the living room at Taliesin each year when he helped celebrate Wright’s birthday in early June. This was in 2015.

My friend Ron McCrea died of cancer this afternoon – December 14, 2019. He was a great journalist – my profession – but I got to know him as a luminary in the world of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ron, the longtime survivor of a liver transplant, was in hospice care near his home in Madison. In late November he told his friends that he had decided to forego any further chemotherapy because of the low expectation of success. His goal was to finish his latest book about Wright in the 10 – 12 months he had been told was his life expectancy. The book would have been published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, publisher of his landmark 2012 study of Wright’s beloved home and his life with Mamah Borthwick, “Building Taliesin: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home of Love and Loss.”

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2008 at Taliesin garden.JPGI was honored that Ron included a photo I took of he and his beloved Elaine at Taliesin in 2008 in the book. I next photographed him when he presented his book in a talk at the Golden Rondelle at SC Johnson in Racine in December 2012:Ron McCrea SCJ 039.jpg

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Ron McCrea SCJ 060.jpgElaine’s son, Ben DeSmidt, center, joined us for dinner after.

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Ron returned to Racine in September 2014 to give a talk about the book at the Racine Public Library for the Wisconsin Historical Society and Racine Heritage Museum:McCrea Racine WHS 001.jpg

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Ron at the 2015 and 2016  Wright birthday celebrations at Taliesin:2015 Wright Birthday Taliesin 010.jpg

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Cindy and I returned to our car at the 2011 birthday celebration to find flowers that Ron and Elaine had left for us:

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A month ago I asked Dave Zweifel, who was Ron’s editor at the (Madison) Capital Times to summarize Ron’s career in journalism for me. A portion of Dave’s email follows:

“He had been a copy editor at the Boston Globe, I believe, when he came to Madison for grad school at the UW in the mid-60s. He secured a part-time job as a copy editor with us while in school and then after graduation decided to stay, soon becoming the “wire editor,” responsible for all the news wire content of the daily paper. He, of course, was an active member of the Newspaper Guild, which represented the newsroom of The Capital Times, and when the printers struck Madison Newspapers in 1977, he was among the Guild leaders to call for the union to honor the strike.  Within a few weeks, he helped organize the strike paper, the Press Connection, and was named its editor. The paper survived for roughly three years, but then folded. He wound up taking a job with the San Jose Mercury-News, but when Tony Earl was elected governor, he came back to Madison to serve as his press secretary. When Earl lost to Tommy four years later, Ron got a job with the Long Island edition of Newsday, editing luminaries like Jimmy Breslin.

“When Newsday folded the edition in 1995, I made it clear to Ron that we’d welcome him back in our newsroom. He accepted and I named him the city editor. He was a damn good one, but started having health problems, including cancer of the liver. Fortunately, he became the beneficiary of a transplant, recovered, and continued to work until he took retirement when we went from daily print to digital back in 2008.

“He’s a terrific journalist and extremely talented. He became a FLW enthusiast, as you know, and is currently working on a book about Wright’s women., those who made and unmade him during his lifetime.”

Ron, rest in piece, my friend.

 

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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Photographing my Friend Minerva Montooth

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

Olgivanna Wright could not have picked a better and more congenial assistant for 25 years than Minerva Montooth, who I am privileged to call a friend. Make that “Friend” with a Capital F. We have been privileged to know Minerva Montooth since May 2003 when her late husband Charles invited me to give my “Wright in Racine” presentation in the theater at Hillside Home and School (that was indeed a heady invitation for a burgeoning journalist-student of Wright’s work!). Minerva has kindly invited us to the annual celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday at Taliesin every year since then.

I visit Minerva in her apartment at Taliesin whenever I am on campus helping lead Road Scholar explorations of Wright’s work in Wisconsin https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/22976/architectural-masterworks-of-frank-lloyd-wright

Last week Minerva told me how she came to join the Wright community at Taliesin West in 1952 (gosh, I was only 18 months old!). She has a keen photographic eye. I admired the magnificent lighting of a photo of Charles, who died in December 2014, in her living room, not knowing that she was the photographer. When it was time for me to leave, I couldn’t just leave; after all my camera first had to photograph Minerva and Fifi:

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Below are some of my earlier photos of Charles and Minerva:Evening at Taliesin 2004 008.jpg

Charles on the “Birdwalk” at Taliesin, Wright birthday celebration, 2004.

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Charles at The Prairie School in Wind Point (Racine), October 2003, with plans for the addition to the athletic center. Charles designed the original school building and each subsequent addition. He worked with Floyd Hamblen on the addition.

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Minerva and Charles at the dedication of the new facility, January 2005.

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Charles accepts accolades at the dedication.

By the way, if you email Minerva or write her something on Facebook, don’t expect a reply during your normal business hours: she is a confirmed computer night owl…1 a.m. is not an unusual time stamp for her.

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Minerva at the 2016 Wright birthday celebration.

We love you, Minerva!

 

Exploring Wright with My Cameras, 9.18.19

(c) Mark Hertzberg (2019)

This is a follow-up post to the one from two days ago and several from earlier this year, as I visit Frank Lloyd Wright sites that are familiar to me with guests traveling on Road Scholar tours. I have been with four tours this year, a fifth one is scheduled for next week. One of our guests this week was from Australia:

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My challenge to myself is to try to see (i.e. photograph) these sites in new ways on each visit. Earlier this summer Taliesin Preservation was kind enough to ask me to write about my photography for their blog:

https://www.taliesinpreservation.org/behind-the-lens/

I am dedicating this post to my friend Cate Boldt, docent and educator extraordinaire at Taliesin. First you see Cate, a Master Gardener, preparing for her role as a Taliesin Garden Fairy, and then with students in Taliesin’s summer architecture camp, as students prepare for their final presentations at Hillside Theater (the practice run was at Wyoming Valley School):

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Our first stop Wednesday morning was at Jacobs 1 in Madison:

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I was taken with the glint of morning sun on the side of the house:

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I have long admired James Dennis’s red Volvo P1800 sports coupe which sits under Wright’s first carport. Wednesday I challenged myself to photograph it in the context of the house:

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Then it was on to the Unitarian Meeting House where I concentrated on the new copper roof. There is just a hint of light on the left edge of the prow in the first photo, the usual angle from which the church is photographed:

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Then it was time to play with light and shapes:

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As I shot the next few photos I longed for the days I worked for a newspaper, when I likely would have been given access inside the fence and allowed to climb up with the craftsmen restoring the landmark building:

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Our next stop was Wyoming Valley School. I have posted geometric photos in the past, but I found new lines to photograph Wednesday as Mary Pohlman told our guests about the school:

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I found a new way to show one of the many mitered windows:

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After lunch at Riverview Terrace, it was on for a Cate-led tour of Taliesin. What could I see differently? The first two photographs are reflections in windows:

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Percy Jackson (Hamblen) thinks he rules the roost (Fifi Montooth sometimes loudly challenges Percy, but she can never catches him):

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Inside the original drafting studio:

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In Mrs. Wright’s bedroom:

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Outside Mr. Wright’s bedroom:

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I struck out at Hillside Home and School, but that is okay…I can’t force pictures that don’t present themselves to me. Earlier Cate had urged me not to miss photographing Kevin Dodds (white shirt) from Taliesin Preservation and Michael DiPadova from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation as they rebuild the Tea Circle:

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I leave you with one more “Selfie,” my reflection in the trim of the headlight of Jim’s Volvo:

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Thank you for joining me on my photo adventures!