The Wright Home at the Right Time

If you want a house for a home that says something. I mean says something artistically, making folks look again when they walk or drive-by, then Dan Marshall is your man. Dan is a Saint Charles architect, his father was an architect, and so you might say architecture runs in his blood. I’m pretty sure it roils there because the stuff he builds is pretty amazing. I mainly do table top: product shots, electronic parts, heavy-duty industrial machinery, and very small part macro work. Photo of Wright Home I guess I do anything I can figure out. I also do some work just for the art of it, and sometimes the line between art and commercial work can get blurry. In any case Dan asked me to do some photographs of his work. The problem or rather the challenge of doing buildings for a studio guy like me is that they are not in the studio! They are, in fact, outside, yes the great outdoors. So what’s the big deal? You’ve got the sun; best light there is, look at a guy like Joe Turner, a great English Landscape painter. You can just feel the light in his landscapes. And then there is the great American painter John Singleton Copley, who said it’s always one great light, that is the soul of the work, and John wasn’t talking about a strobe light. He was referring to the primordial light, the fundamental light of our own star the sun. The trouble is the sun doesn’t take direction very well so it’s not like in the studio when I can just put a light where I need it. And buildings, for that matter, don’t take direction either, you can’t just say: “Move a little to the left, that’s right, a big smile now.” No, that will never do. Shelly my old Columbia College teacher used to tell us students, POOR PLANNING PRODUCES, PRETTY POOR PROJECTS. And so keeping Shelly’s old aphorism in mind, I knew that this project needed more than a drive by shooting. First thing I did was to call the owners and ask if I could see the house, walk around a bit. The owners said sure come on by. And so I did. Walking around the elegant structure, I got a feel for the angles, the light and tried to see the home the way they saw it, and how Dan designed it. I thought about how to translate the beauty of the home that might capture the frozen music that architecture is. The owners showed me all around, inside and out. At one point, a Red Shouldered hawk landed on the deck railing as we looked out over the view of the Fox River running through the woods off to the east. That hawk looked at us for what seemed like a long time. We stood transfixed, and then if flew away rising in lazy circles above the landscape. I walked around a bit more and saw the angle I wanted. I asked if they were early risers, “Yes, we get up at five every week day.” Perfect. I showed up the next morning at 4:30 a.m. It was very dark; the moon was rising behind me and I set my camera and tripod up waiting for the sun to show first light. When it did I started shooting. There is a point in the rising light of morning when the photons of light hit the chip inside the camera in just the right way, and like the old saying goes, you will know it when you see it. So that’s the story of the photograph. On the way home I started thinking however well you plan anything there is always an element of chance. You can plan every single detail as best you can and still it may not come together like you hope. Other times, like this time, the muse smiles, and you smile back. It certainly keeps things interesting. And. if you think about it, knowing exactly what will happen next would be well, not all that much fun. Uncertainty makes life terrifying and exciting all at the same time. I guess it makes us pay attention, savor the moment, seize the day, even if it means getting up before the sunrise.