Photography has always been interesting to me. When I was young, I was fascinated with Polaroid cameras. I think it was the instant gratification of capturing a moment with a simple click of a button. I saw it as a way to produce instant art.
Cameras have definitely come a long way since those days. And there are certainly a ton of decisions to be made before pressing that button (choosing a subject, selecting a lens, experimenting with camera angles, organizing the composition, deciding on exposure settings, etc.), not to mention the work that goes into processing a photo after it is shot. But there is still something I find appealing about the idea of creating art simply by pressing a button.
I’ve spent a bit of time over the last three months attempting to learn my way around a DSLR camera (a Canon EOS 7D). I’ve been experimenting with different lenses and exposure settings, trying to get a feel for shooting a variety of subjects. One of my favorite things to shoot so far has been architecture. Particularly, the mid-century architecture we’re so fortunate to have all around us here in The Valley.
White Gates by Al Beadle
Al Beadle was a modernist architect who set up shop in Arizona in the 1950s. Examples of his work can be found all over The Valley, including The Triad (an apartment complex that was part of the Case Study House program), Executive Towers (a 22-story apartment complex that was the tallest building in Phoenix at the time of its construction) and First Federal Savings and Loan (which is now Federal Pizza).
In 1954 he designed White Gates, an ultra-modern home built on the south side of Camelback Mountain. The stark geometry and clean lines of the house contrast sharply with the rocky desert landscape that surrounds it. It is known primarily for the white screen walls that run along the front face that feature a repeating elliptical pattern.
Frank Henry’s “Dendriform Column” Branch
Completed in 1968 on the corner of 44th Street and Camelback Road, this building was designed by the architectural firm of Weaver and Drover (who were also responsible for the Hayden Library at ASU). The primary architect was Frank Henry, who went on to teach at Taliesin West after working for Weaver and Drover for over 30 years. Originally a Valley National Bank, it is now a Chase branch.
This building seems to exist somewhere between a man-made structure and something found in nature. The look is achieved through the use of exposed rocks built into the desert-toned exterior walls and the generous use of dendriform (“tree-shaped”) columns found all around the site.
First Church Of Christ Scientist by T. S. Montgomery
S. Montgomery was an architect working in Arizona during the middle of the 20th century. In 1962, he designed this church on Indian School Road and 64th Street. This modern building features local materials from the southwest, including copper and adobe bricks.
The most dramatic feature of the structure is the concrete block screen wall on the front. The block pattern is used a bit more subtly along the side of the building, as well. In addition to the concrete blocks, Montgomery used copper with raised seams for the fascia and tower. The copper, which has oxidized to a greenish-teal color, contrasts beautifully with the burnt adobe bricks used for the solid walls.
This experience has provided me with a greater appreciation for architecture and photography. I really enjoyed learning a bit about the history of the buildings. And it was a lot of fun scouting the locations, shooting at different times of day, deciding what details to focus on and choosing the five photos per location that best told the story.