Monday, May 13, 2013

Lautner-Goldstein Prep

What's in the bag for the shoot?

There's so much to like about the Sheats-Goldstein (aka Lautner-Goldstein) residence. The fact that it has made numerous appearances in movies (e.g. Big Lebowski, etc.) and countless magazines make it a "well-shot" location. Meaning that the obvious shots have already been done before.

The house is chock-full of glass. One of my personal favorites at locations in general. With glass comes transparency and reflections. Depending on the shot, I'm happy to have the opportunity to leverage the transparency (and opacity) with some circular polarizers.

Transparency is an interesting thing. The residence is built on layers (3 if I count correctly for the main building) and has been remodeled since James Goldstein took ownership of it in 1972. And since John Lautner's death in 1994, the residence continues to expand (with Goldstein's guidance) with the same stylistic brushstroke since its inception. On one hand it's completely consistent with the original concept and on the other hand it has taken many revisions and iterations to get the property to where it is today.

Kudos to Goldstein for dedicating endless time and effort on this quest for perfection.

Back to transparency. It's both really simple and complex. Like layers and of glass there is significant transparency but there is also the complexity behind the reason for its existence. For example, the master bathroom's sink is made out of glass so that it does not obstruct the view. The ceiling in the living room is semi-transparent with 750 drinking glass skylights in the coffers. Throughout the house glass slides in and out on command, to remove what little stands between you and the rest of the world.


Perhaps this is what Frank Lloyd Wright (Lautner's mentor) had in mind when he coined the term "organic architecture":

Organic architecture is also translated into the all inclusive nature of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design process. Materials, motifs, and basic ordering principles continue to repeat themselves throughout the building as a whole. The idea of organic architecture refers not only to the buildings' literal relationship to the natural surroundings, but how the buildings' design is carefully thought about as if it were a unified organism. Geometries throughout Wright’s buildings build a central mood and theme. Essentially organic architecture is also the literal design of every element of a building: From the windows, to the floors, to the individual chairs intended to fill the space. Everything relates to one another, reflecting the symbiotic ordering systems of nature. -

One can't help but wonder whether with increased transparency one attains stronger bonds and relationships. Certainly with the themes and motifs throughout the house.

Usually it works with people too.

But this is not a commentary on architecture as I know very little (to nothing) about architecture. The point is instead to first deconstruct the themes and motifs that are consistent with the location, then compare and contrast with the imagery. Stylistically one must make many decisions with wardrobe, model selection, posing, makeup, photography, etc. to create a consistent story/theme/motif.

And in saying this I know I've lost half of you. Maybe even most of you. Because most people want to hear how I'm going to shoot the location specifically. Including which spots in the house I'm shooting, what angles, what lighting, what poses, what camera, what lens, etc. But I don't make my decisions like that. As well as I know the house, all I've got is what I'd consider "a good starting point". With the previous (existing) shoots, I know what not to recreate. In order to be original and to stay stylistically true to myself I have to do what makes sense to me and not go in there and try and repeat any existing setups at this location.

What I'm preaching is process. Because as well as I know this location, (and I know it well enough to walk through it blindfolded even though I've never set foot on the property), I want to experience the Lautner-Goldstein house for the first time as an "end-user" who appreciates it for what it is. I want to be surprised and go "ooh" and "ahh" as I actually walk through the house. I want to look at parts of the house and say, "What if we did [fill in the blank] here?" and be inspired in real-time to do something unique.

It's a fine line to balance the script with being "in the moment". Yes I know what the script says. I know all the lines backwards and forwards. But when the director yells, "Action!" I want to live the scene like it is happening in real life. I'm not here to just recite my lines. I want to experience the moment as if it were happening in real life.

Photographically that requires a little bit of naiveté. Seeing the house for the first time through your own eyes. But being prepared enough to have all the tools to do what you would then want to do. Without proper preparation, I'd be saying things like "Damn, I wish I had my reflector" or "I wish I had a circular polarizer to kill this reflection". Yes, I have more than an inkling about what tools I need to execute this shoot well. But the approach and the theme are still an organic self-assembling primordial soup in my head. I see glimpses of life but nothing that resembles a cohesive living and breathing organism.

I want the walkthrough to be that lightning strike that makes everything fuse together.

In the camera bag there are some "old faces" and some "unfamiliar faces". The D3, NEX-7, 50 f/1.4G, SB800, and NEX-7 lenses (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and 24mm f/1.8) make their usual appearances but the 12-24mm f/2.8G, 24-70mm f/2.8G, 50 f/1.8D, 85mm f/1.4D, 70-200mm f/2.8G, and even N90X film body are making rare appearances (or in some case first appearances) in the camera bag. I've pretty much brought the entire arsenal with me on this one.

Reflectors and a single strobe with an octabox grid (with gels) will round out the equipment list.

But it's really not about the equipment is it? It's about the vision. And for that I keep going back to the motif(s) of the house. Everything relates to one another, reflecting the symbiotic ordering systems of nature. With a house built with such consistent themes, there is no shortness of triangles, concrete, glass, and lights to make a case for uniting fashion, beauty, and photography. It all comes down to the whimsical nature of your artistry. Do you look for complements or do you look for contrast? Do you take things literally or figuratively? Do you use the elements present and go with the flow or juxtapose it with something completely opposite?

There is no wrong answer. All I can tell you is that I'm going to have fun at this location.

Other notes on the location:

- Tennis court no longer exists???

- Layouts have changed continuously. I suspect that the eastern-most development is no longer in effect.

- According to SunCalc, the master bedroom (and pool/patio) gets direct sunlight between 9:30AM-10:30AM.

- Long private (gated?) driveway extending from east to west that connects Angelo View to garage

- Must find the retractable spa/sauna/pool. Nevermind, found it.

- Figure out how to activate retractable glass in master bedroom.

- Shoot in sunscape (aka Observatory)? Figure out how to control colors inside. Scratch that, turns out we don't have permission to shoot in there without an extra fee.

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