Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alice in Gregory Ain Land

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - louis stoumen photo 1

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - louis stoumen photo 2

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - louis stoumen photo 3

These pictures were taken by one Louis Clyde Stoumen, better known as Lou Stoumen, who was a noted art photographer in the 1940s and 50s, and then, according to IMDb and Wikipedia, later became the nominee of three Academy Awards and winner of two (for documentary work in the late 1950s and early 1960s). He also taught at UCLA film school until passing in 1991.

I have not really found any mention of Stoumen's work as a commercial photographer. Bouncing around the web a bit and looking at his work, has lead me to the conclusion that these pictures don't fall into his style as an artistic photographer. However, after discovering that he was a cinematographer in the early 1950s, and that he is often credited with creating the still-photo, story-telling "Ken Burns effect" (by way of an invention that allowed cameras to track and pan over historic photos and paintings), I think it's safe to say he had a certain narrative approach to his images.

Fascinatingly to me, one of Stoumen's first film credits as a cinematographer was on a movie called Five that I remember reading about when I was a kid obsessed with science fiction and nuclear war movies from the 50s. I never got to see it, and, not until researching a bit for this post, did I even remember ever thinking about it. Now I really must see it, just based on this IMDb synopsis:

Five people are miraculously spared when the fall-out from a super-atomic bomb eventually kills all of the rest of humanity on earth. They are Roseanne Rogers, a pregnant woman who was in an ex-ray room; Michael, a sensitive young poet and philosopher; Eric, a black man; Mr. Barnstaple, a banker; and Charles, a cosmopolitan Alpinist who was saved from the radio-active dust because he was climbing Mt. Everest at the time of the explosion and fall-out. Eventually, they all wind up in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house on a California mountaintop. Oboler, whose movies sounded like his radio programs with added visual symbolism, tosses a lot of that around, especially with the mountain climber, who represents decadent and alien fascism and the banker who brings greed and arrogance to this new Eden on Earth. Soon, all that are left are the poet and the already-pregnant Rosanne, facing the sunset as the new Adam and Eve.

So bringing it back to Ain and the pictures a bit, Stoumen is the cinematographer on this somewhat everyman avant garde film that prominently features a great and rare Frank Lloyd Wright home in Southern California. So via his association with Oboler and Ain, he's clearly running with the progressive crowd. It's curious that there is no mention of Stoumen in any of the writings about Ain, but I venture that he may have been a visitor to one or two "progressive" gatherings held at other Ain homes so well documented in Anthony Denzler's recent book.

Of the photos, you might recognize a couple of them if you've followed the blog at all. Images one and three were originally published in the 1948 edition of American Builder, which I uploaded here. Photo number two was not used in the article... maybe too whimsical. I love these pictures, as they are such a welcome departure from the now-cannonical work of Julius Shulman, Ezra Stoller, etc. You can also catch a glimpse of the then-recently-completed plantings by Garrett Eckbo in two of the shots, although they are pretty non-descript. It would be great to discover more of Stoumen's work in architectural photography, if anyone knows more. I'll be tracking down a copy of 5ive very soon.

And what is pictured here? This set of images were taken at the top two houses on the street (each on the corner of Highview and Altadena drive). Sadly, the home pictured in images one and two is very sorry shape these days, having been altered and slightly added to over the years. The other home, depicted in the interior courtyard shot, is in much better shape and still retains much of it's original character. It recently sold, and is presently undergoing additional upgrading and restoration. Slowly but surely...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Restoration and Relaxation

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - back yard 1

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - back yard 2

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - interior 1

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - interior kitchen nook 1

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - interior 2

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - interior 3

gregory ain altadena - park planned homes - exterior back yard looking in

These pictures were taken by local architect and photographer, Conrado Lopez. At the request of Anthony Denzler, Conrado shot them back in the early spring of 2007. The intent was to possibly use an image or two in Anthony's book on Gregory Ain, planned to be pubished the next year. When the book finally came out in the fall of 2008, I think four or five finally wound up in the published edition. It totally blew us away. We were greatly humbled by both Conrado and Anthony's enthusiasm for our home, and can never thank them enough for being such great gentlemen.

All of the above photos are about three years old at this point, but still pretty much representative of what our home looks like today. Some of the furniture has moved around a bit of course (must keep it interesting...), and more significantly, the plantings have all grown in remarkably well. Our friend Kathleen Ferguson helped us with the landscaping, though I was such a pain in the butt with changing out things, I don't think she wanted to take real credit for it. Nevertheless, she is remarkable, and HIGHLY recommended. The picture from the Pasadena Heritage Tour back in May is more representative of the current growth. Oh, also... the Arrowhead dispenser is long gone, thank goodness.

I debated putting up images from our own house, but figured... why not. So... more to come, if I can ever find a minute to sit down at the computer at home, of course. Got some great shots of the Station Fire, as it blazed up above us in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains a couple of weeks ago. Didn't take any pictures of the ash that looked like snowfall or the pink sun, but it was pretty damned smokey for quite a while.