If you’re a fan of architecture, you’ve probably heard of Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, CT. This famous modern architectural home has been photographed repeatedly over the past 50 years by the best photographers in the world. And just recently, it was my turn!
About five months ago, Hunter Douglas’ Creative Director Don Montgomery reached out to me with a uniquely challenging project. Hunter Douglas was releasing a new total-blackout shade system, which their creative team decided to promote by installing in the least likely of places: a famous all-glass house.
Because we only had 7 hours to document this entire project, I decided to shoot it on my Canon 5D Mk IV. It’s a very nimble camera with a lot of dynamic range. I also used Canon’s architectural lenses for their excellent sharpness and shift capabilities, both of which are necessary to properly shoot architecture. As for the lighting, it consisted of a mix of natural light, available lamps, and a set of Arri tungsten fresnels.
So how do you shoot something intended to eliminate light? Very carefully and thoughtfully! I employed every lighting technique I could think of to capture shots that favorably exhibit the product and its effect while still respecting the historical architecture. After all, this product really is amazing; when it’s entirely down, no light comes in whatsoever. Even when we opened certain shades, the room remained incredibly dark.
Alongside me were my digital tech Esteban Aladro and 1st assistant Mike Grippi. These guys worked extra hard due to some heavy late-morning rain and a lack of electricity in the house. We rented a gas-powered generator which Mike rigged up so it could function outside and be protected from the rain. Right before we’d shoot, Mike would run out and squeegee the windows clean. Overall, we had to work extremely diligently to get through each shot while proofing everything to art director Anna Yumul in Adobe Lightroom.
The final shots are some of my absolute favorites, and I feel tremendously honored that Hunter Douglas entrusted me to capture them. I don’t think we’ll ever see the Glass House look quite like this ever again. As such, it truly was a special shoot for me.