Happy Birthday Walter Gropius!
In honor of the birthday of Walter Gropius, I wanted to revisit a great project I photographed for New England Home Magazine and pay tribute to one of the worlds most famous architects and founder of the Bauhaus Movement.
Being a fan of innovative architecture and design, it was quite an honor and privilege to photograph the Gropius Home. Volumes have been written about the house and with good reason. It is one of the most historical and uniquely distinct architectural homes ever constructed.
However, not much has been written on photographing the house itself and this is where I’d like to include my impressions. Photographically speaking the house welcomes the camera. The large open windows allow for ample light, always a key ingredient when photographing interiors. The house’s dimensions are modest, which makes physically moving about the space easy, but photographing in small spaces can present it’s own challenges. It also has a very intimate and livable quality to it, which makes one think that living there must have been quite a treat.
As an architectural photographer, it’s important to capture the design and feel of the space as it appears naturally. You don’t want to exaggerate the size of the space by using wide-angle lenses, if at all possible. In this case, I chose to use a mid-range lens for much of the interior, which does compress the subject matter slightly, but allows for a more accurate representation of the original design.
Photographing this space was a real pleasure for me as I had free reign over where I wanted to compose my shots. Initially, I walked through the house a few times to get my bearings and overall feel for photographing the space. I feel it’s important to document the space in a series of photos that moves the viewer through the home as if they where actually there. A photo-essay if you will. In the Gropius House, this is made relatively easy by the smooth flowing and minimalist Bauhaus design principals Gropius mastered and implemented. There is a very definite flow to the rooms that guided me through the home when composing the shots. I also was very aware of the light coming through and this also played a role in the order of my shots.
Another unique aspect of the Gropius House is the styling and props throughout. Everything is left in the same exact place as the Gropius family left it way back when. Usually, the photographer is allowed to move stuff around a bit, all for the good of the final image. In this case, I did not have such liberties. However, because we are dealing with Gropius here and his family, they styling was pretty much right on anyway. There were a few instances in which I’d liked to have been able to move a couch or chair a few inches, or move a potted plant over a bit, but I was able to work around those small restrictions.
In the end I can say that good design translates to good photographs. The Gropius House’s efficient simplicity led to photographs that capture those Bauhaus design principals that Gropius founded and knew all too well.