Category: Architecture

BLUE ON BLEAU

Posted by – March 25, 2014

Morris Lapidus, architect of the Fontainebleau Hotel, the legendary icon located in the heart of Miami’s Millionaire’s Row, once famously quipped, “If you create a stage and it is grand, everyone will play their part.”

Play their parts they did. From the famous to the infamous — James Bond in Goldfinger, Sinatra in A Hole in the Head, The Sopranos, Elvis, Regis & Kelly — all were “in the house.” The Fontainebleau also had the dubious distinction of playing host to the infamous Black Tuna Gang and their burgeoning marijuana trade in the late 70’s.

I had the opportunity to shoot The Bleau Bar for a company that wanted to reflect the grander of the property in order to highlight it as a reward destination for its top performers. The photo was shot in a “camera raw” format that allows for maximum flexibility in post production and minimizes the need for auxiliary lighting.

By the way, the cast of characters in this particular venue at this particular time included Edras Elba (aka Stringer Bell, The Wire), Olympic record-holder, Michael Phelps, and myself.

THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS

Posted by – November 21, 2011

Danny Oceans would feel right at home under the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel on the Vegas Strip, the subject of this image, inadvertently shot as a jpeg, with very little post-exposure tweaking.

“The house always wins,” Danny would say in the casino-caper film, Ocean’s Eleven.  Danny (first played by Frank Sinatra, then by George Clooney in a more-recent remake) insisted the only way to beat the house was to cheat the house, or more to the point, to steal from it.  And who could argue with Danny in a city of sin built by the Mafia and paid for by gambling?

Along with its legendary fountain, the Bellagio ceiling has served as a backdrop for numerous feature films looking for iconic Vegas opulence.  It’s famous for being adorned with intensely colored blown glass created by the renowned artist, Dale Chihuly, and valued at over $2 million.  Chihuly is a Fulbright Scholar and RISD graduate who honed his craft in Venice and has since become a wildly successful entrepreneur.  Those of you from the St. Louis area may remember the recent exhibit of his work at the Missouri Botanical Gardens or the instillation in the atrium of the St. Louis Art Museum.  One thing you can bet on: you can’t afford art like this by playing a losing hand, but the house can afford it, because “the house always wins.”

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Posted by – October 14, 2011

This “portrait of light” was taken at of the Saint Louis Central Library.  It was originally shot on large-format transparency film and received no digital embellishment.  The enchanting “play of light” occurred naturally and was particularly enhanced by sunlight reflecting from a church across the street.

The Central Library was built around 1912 and is an excellent example of the stalwart work of renowned architect, Case Gilbert, who also designed the Art Museum and other installations for the 1904 World’s Fair.  Gilbert’s Central Library is one of hundreds funded by Andrew Carnegie, renowned philanthropist and funder of over 70% of the library communities throughout America.

As you may know, Carnegie was an entrepreneur who made his fortune in the steel industry.  Ironically, particularly with respect to this photograph, Carnegie inscribed the motto “Let There Be Light” on the first library he ever built, in his hometown of Dunfemline, Scotland.  Although Carnegie’s libraries were constructed in a variety of styles, they all had two unifying characteristics: a staircase symbolizing the elevation one gains through learning and a lamppost conveying enlightenment.

OLD DOME, NEW TRICK

Posted by – September 13, 2011

The ceiling of the rotunda of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis has hovered over events that shaped history since the Italian-Renaissance dome (modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican) was renovated in 1864.

It was in this very building in 1846 that the slave, Dred Scott, sued for his and his wife’s freedom on the grounds that they had previously lived in free states.  Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case in 1857 and ruled against Scott.  The decision polarized the nation and moved history one step closer to the first shots of the American Civil War.

I photographed the rotunda’s ceiling using a relatively new digital technique called High Dynamic Range (HDR) that combines a range of exposures of identically framed images (think Ansel Adams, only in color), so the resulting composite image more accurately represents all the tonal ranges the human eye can see at one time.  The technique is especially useful for photographing high-contrast, static subjects such as architectural interiors.

The Old Courthouse was standing long before digital manipulation even became possible and will endure way beyond the latest cover of Communication Arts.

A CAPITAL LOSS

Posted by – July 5, 2011

I grew up in Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Shawneetown, Illinois.  At the time, the legal drinking age in Illinois was 18, but the local watering holes had a very liberal interpretation of that statute.  We misspent more than a few nights of our youth there, contributing to the local economy at places like Hog Daddy’s Saloon, which at that time were about all the remaining commerce the dying town had.

Among our many misconceptions was that Shawneetown was the first sate capital.  Actually, it was home to the first bank charted in Illinois.  In addition to other dubious distinctions from its municipal past, the town had refused to buy the first bonds issued by the City of Chicago, stating, “No city located that far from a navigable river could survive.”  This picture is actually of the town’s second bank, considered to be a fine example of Greek revival architecture.

At one time, this US Government center for the Northwest Territory was an integral link to the new frontier.  Lewis and Clark may (or may not) have slept here.  It was one of only two towns chartered by the Federal Government, the other being Washington, D.C.

Today, the river that was once the town’s ally has become the town’s enemy.  The series of locks, dams, levees and floodwalls that made our rivers commercially viable have made small towns like Shawneetown susceptible to flooding.  Think Cairo, IL.  Many have simply closed their City Halls and called it quits.

When I went back to shoot this photo, I discovered that even Hog Daddy’s Saloon had closed.  These are hard times for small towns.


DOO-DA, DOO-DA

Posted by – April 27, 2011

It was the first Saturday in May, 1973, and the sun was shining brightly when Secretariat made his glorious, record-breaking run for the roses. He broke last, made his move in the backstretch, then ran every successive quarter faster than the previous one. He was still “moving up” when he streaked across the wire, winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

Secretariat became the first Triple Crown Winner in 25 years, setting new race records in two of the three events in the series – the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, records that still stand today. What an athlete!

On that great day in May I had unfettered access to not only Secretariat, but to Jimmy Stuart and, oh yeah The Queen of England, thanks to a press pass from the State of Kentucky (my summer employer) and my Hilton Hotel windbreaker that just happened to match the windbreakers worn by the CBS TV Crew.

It was a nice gig for a little ol’ country-boy who had just come to the big city and was trying to get by. Looking back 38 years, Pilgrim and The Great Horse are gone, but Her Royal Highness and I are still in the race.

Rock Star

Posted by – March 7, 2011

We photographers often are lucky enough to get to take pictures of important, famous people and places, flashing our VIP passes to access the inner sanctums of celebrity, fame, elite business, science and technology, and cherished history.  I admit, it makes you feel special. But as photographers, we also have rewarding opportunities to get to know real people, people like Ronnie.  Ronnie works hard.  He’s doggedly tenacious.  He has dreams, and he busts his butt to make them come true for himself.  Ronnie is incredibly successful at our most-important job, being human.  He’s a rock star.

How Not To Bid A Photo Shoot

Posted by – October 5, 2010

This shot redefined the term “big photo shoot” for me — 20 miles underground via a labyrinth of meandering tunnels in a century-old mine owned by Mississippi Lime.  Sight unseen — make that SITE unseen — I bid the job by referencing the client’s existing brochure, but they neglected to mention one itty-bitty detail: the ambient lighting depicted in the photos had been removed years ago.

So my team had to schlepp in truckloads of equipment: diesel generators, miles of power cable, and every cinamagraphic light I could get my hands on.  But it wasn’t until we were all ready and “good to go” that I was reminded there was no need to hurry, because there were a whole two hours before the daily detonation of two tons of dynamite.

Silent Storyteller

Posted by – September 21, 2010

Another day slips into history as the old Kirkwood Train Station sentinels the passing of time and the lives passing through it.  How many joyous welcomes has it witnessed?  How many tearful farewells?  How many adventures have been launched from the humble, foot-worn bricks that hug its earth at track level?  Yet it still stands, a monument to the perennial notions that life itself is an adventure, and the train waits for no one.

Columns of Light

Posted by – June 29, 2010

I am ever mindful that the art and science of photography is essentially the art and science of capturing light.  Sometimes you create the light; sometimes you have to lie in wait for it; sometimes you have to go out and hunt it down.

I think those ideas are readily evident in this photo of shadows and light playing on stone columns.  Because this “found composition” is so unassumingly simple, so unlikely to be noticed by anyone walking by, I think it is one of the most striking visuals — to the appreciative eye — I’ve ever captured.