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Photo Synthesis

Gamble House Entry

July 09, 2006|Colin Westerbeck

1998

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This famous entry to an even more famous house in Pasadena has been photographed many times from both inside and out. But by taking her picture with the door ajar, Karen Halverson makes a sly comment on the architecture that more mundane documentation misses.

The partnership of brothers Charles and Henry Greene was in top form in 1908 when they designed this retirement home for an heir to the Procter & Gamble fortune. Encouraged by the Arts and Crafts movement's emphasis on natural materials, Greene & Greene tried to make the transition from outdoors to indoors seamless. The effect was particularly subtle in the tripartite front doors of the Gamble House, which were framed in teak, set back on a wide porch with overhangs and finished in a two-layer laminate of iridescent glass that intensified the light coming through.

But as the gnarled oak design in the glass, influenced by Japanese painting, shows, the Greenes' idea of nature was highly stylized. There's a tussle going on between nature and art. To get the correct exposure for the indoor conditions, Halverson had to blow out the glimpse of nature itself that we get outdoors. Nature pales by comparison to the architects' conception of it. This isn't so much a limitation of the photography as an astute observation by the photographer.

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