The first formal project of the independent study on styling was to critically analyze what catches my own eye. Everyone’s personal taste is different, though there are similarities, and knowing one’s own eye is a monumental step in being a creative person who can be confident in their ideas.
The first thing for my independent study was to create an inspiration blog on tumblr.com to gather evidence of what my eye is drawn to. I began grabbing exciting images from everywhere, and many of them reached into the realms of fashion and old urban photography. After making this blog, I discovered that there were similar patterns in my images that reflected the art deco style of architecture. This led to doing a photo shoot of my own to search out how to critically analyze my own designers eye.
Because there were similar elements in my selected photos and art deco architecture, my advisor Kevin Henry suggested to take my camera out into downtown Chicago and sketch my own images through architectural photography. We decided to target iconic art deco buildings in Chicago, because then the only remaining variable should be how I interpret the deco forms through my camera angles. On a cold February morning, I whisked my camera out to LaSalle street to get shutter happy in and around the Chicago Board of Trade building, The Bank of America Tower and the One North LaSalle Building.
The first thing I did was take photos of the buildings, targeting anything I liked looking at. This ranged from the overall shape of the building,
to decorative details inside the lobby.
After taking these photographs, I then set for home to pick out the good shots and edit them into a nice album. While on the train home, I realized part of what might be grabbing my attention are repeated parallel lines. Kevin mentioned that he realized that the organic curved lines of Mid-Century Modern has always grabbed his attention, and after taking photos of art deco architecture, I couldn’t help but realize the straightness of these all these lines.
Once I put the photos on my laptop, I dropped them into Adobe Lightroom and began to pick out the ones I liked the best. As soon as I got to the 2nd or 3rd round of decision making, I started to add filters and adjustments to photographs I decided were my favorites. Once I whittled down the photo selection to about 30 images, I then began to play with each image to enhance its dynamics. Some images looked best in fairly original condition, but others looked much more exciting when pushed to extremes of contrast and desaturation.
Photos went from this:
In photography, editing is used to enhance the emotion of a sight that has been captured through the photograph. In wedding photography this is especially effective because of how an aesthetic effect can impact the mood of a memory. Here, I used editing to bring out the dynamics of the forms in the image. Particularly in the third example, I worked with the depth of the blacks and vividness of the whites to bring emphasis to the art deco details. All of these photographs can be seen on the blog.
After editing, I then began to do the critical analysis of the images. Because I had edited the images to capture the essence of the building’s forms, the elements of the designs were more ready to interpret. In conjunction with reading about the fundamentals of design in Appearance and Reality by Stephen Hogbin, I began to see how vertical and diagonal lines began to create depth and dynamism in these images of art deco.
Here is an example of the analysis:
This particular sketch is of the Chicago Board of Trade building. This building is one of Chicago’s premiere examples of art deco architecture, and has been featured on many deco railway advertisements from the late ‘30s. A personal favorite of mine, I wanted to pull apart what made it so special. After editing the image, I saw the vertical stripes created by the window sills to become part of the building’s essence. The other elements I noticed were staggered tiers along the side of the building tapering towards the top. Both of these elements create decoration within the overall form. All of these seem to add visual depth to an otherwise huge flat wall. To me, that depth makes the building impressive, but not domineering, it pulls you more towards the sky than it would impose itself on top of you.
Deco has many interesting design cues that make it unique among other modern forms. Unlike high modernism, it is a format of ornament, but also has a progressive mentality to it. A common theme I’ve found when reading about art deco architecture is how the form emerged out of the depression as an expression of hope for a financially frustrated country in the midst of one of the most influential industrial turning points of our designed world. Understanding this history is also helpful in understanding why the form may be so interesting.
“In the 1920s and 1930s, with its urbanity, its sophistication, its wit, and above all, with its unabashed advocacy of beauty, Art Deco helped to make New York City and the lives of those who dwelt there a delight.” -Lowe, David Garrard. Art Deco New York, pg.11
More image studies to come...