As with everyone who is interested in Frank Lloyd Wright, I have my own “path of discovery” of how I became aware of Wright and came to admire his architecture. I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I visited Fallingwater in the rolling hills of the Laurel Highlands south of Pittsburgh at some point in my youth in the 1960s and from then on was fascinated with Wright’s work. For many years, this was a casual interest. Whenever I would be traveling, I would usually check if there were any Wright buildings in the area and stop by if it was convenient. This was limited to his more significant works.
A decision to accept a job in Chicago led to a hastily planned wedding before packing up to make the move away from Pittsburgh. After realizing that we now lived near many Wright-designed buildings, we made our first visit to Oak Park. Soon after we took a drive up to Spring Green to see Taliesin. There are only a few low-quality photos documenting what we saw. On our delayed honeymoon in 1978 to San Francisco, my wife and I walked by the V. C. Morris gift shop and made a brief stop at the Marin County Civic Center on the way to the Napa Valley. The more of Wright’s work that I saw, the more I came to appreciate the wide variety of homes, churches and public buildings he designed, each unique but somehow recognizably Wright.
Most of our travel as our children were growing up focused on visiting National Parks, but I did drag them to Fallingwater when visiting family back in Pittsburgh. I apparently instilled enough interest in Wright that our daughter chose to do a project about him for a grade school assignment on famous Illinoisans. We visited the Oak Park Home and Studio as research for that assignment.
I was always the family photographer and probably took more photos than most tourists, I was not making much of an effort to get the best shot. In my early adult years, I used a 35mm camera handed down from my father. I then went through a number of smaller, inexpensive film and digital cameras – something easy to carry and take a few shots of the scenery and the family. It was not until my wife and I became empty nesters that I took a more serious interest in photography and invested in a better 35mm camera.
Once the kids were off to college, my wife and I put a little more effort into seeing Wright architecture, including two visits to Taliesin West in the early 2000s while touring national parks in the southwest, and drives over the next few years to Springfield, Illinois to tour the Dana Thomas House and Racine, Wisconsin to see the Johnson Wax buildings and Wingspread. My retirement in 2012 allowed for more travel. A trip with friends to New York City to see Christmas decorations included our first visit to the Guggenheim. A tour of Florida Southern College was part of a trip to central Florida to visit family. Being able to spend time in these spaces allowed me to appreciate how light and shadow, as it varied with time and weather conditions, really brought them to life.
I began volunteering for the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in 2015, which led to even more immersion in all things Wright. Over the past six years, in addition to the Trust managed sites in the Chicago area, I have visited Fallingwater again, along with Kentuck Knob, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, the Burnham Block, the Darwin Martin House, Beth Sholom Temple, the Guggenheim again, Hollyhock House, Mayer May House, Bradley House, Murhead Farmhouse, Laurent House (twice), Samara, Zimmerman House, Taliesin West, Grady Gammage Auditorium, and spent a few nights in the Eppstein House in Galesburg, Michigan. I have also had the opportunity to tour a number of privately owned Wright-designed houses in the area during the Wright Plus annual house walks. A first visit to each building is always an adventure and another opportunity to practice taking photos that hopefully capture a bit of the magic.
During these recent years, I have worked on honing my photography skills and investing in a better camera, lenses and editing software. I think I have always had an eye for detail and won the Village of Arlington Heights photo contest twice and the Daily Herald photo competition a number of times, but I now take the time to really look around to find interesting perspectives. While I have no aspirations of being more than an amateur photographer, I really enjoy sharing my photos with others who appreciate Wright’s architecture. I share one of my photos daily as @franklloydwrightfan on Instagram.