One of my greatest joys as a photographer is seeing my pictures help clients succeed. Just last week, I learned that my clients at Dangermond Keane Architects (DKa) were recognized by the AIA DC with the 2018 Presidential Citation in Universal Design for their work on the Gallaudet University Model Secondary School for the Deaf Residence Hall.
I shot this project for DKa during an icy cold snap in January of 2017. When we started with the dusk exteriors, it was a frigid 10° outside and – to add insult to injury – my laptop battery died within 20 minutes of shooting. Thankfully, we managed to have just enough juice to capture the shots we needed.
I actually set up two cameras to capture simultaneous dusk exposures from distinct angles. Bringing two cameras to shoots is a staple of mine, particularly beneficial during timely shots like these. After all, we only have a few minutes to get the perfect dusk shot and there’s never enough time to reset the camera. With two cameras going at once, I can easily double the effort.
The most interesting thing we needed to capture on this shoot was the DeafSpace principles used in the hall’s design. In essence, the spaces are tailor-made for visual conversation. From Gallaudet’s website:
“When deaf people congregate the group customarily works together to rearrange furnishings into a ‘conversation circle’ to allow clear sightlines so everyone can participate in the visual conversation. Gatherings often begin with participants adjusting window shades, lighting and seating to optimize conditions for visual communication that minimize eyestrain. Deaf homeowners often cut new openings in walls, place mirrors and lights in strategic locations to extend their sensory awareness and maintain visual connection between family members.
These practical acts of making a DeafSpace are long-held cultural traditions that, while never-before formally recognized, are the basic elements of an architectural expression unique to deaf experiences. The study of DeafSpace offers valuable insights about the interrelationship between the senses, the ways we construct the built environment and cultural identity from which society at large has much to learn.”
DKa designed the common areas with clear lines of sight for visual communication (i.e. sign language). I worked with Chris Keane on the shoot to carefully set up the shots so that they would illustrate their technical understanding of DeafSpace. In addition, we had real students participating so there was an added challenge of communicating through an interpreter. I couldn’t just yell, “Hey – move over to left!” Instead, I was constantly running around set, doing my best to explain where I wanted them to be and what actions I wanted them to take. Through it all, the students were extremely cooperative, and working with them was a genuinely incredible experience.
Together, we produced some impressive work that I’m extremely proud of, and I’m elated to hear that DKa is (deservedly!) getting noticed for their efforts. Kudos to all!