October 30th, 2019.
Last week, established Australian photographer Derek Swalwell launched his latest body of work, Farnsworth + Miller, at Melbourne’s Fini Frames. The collection documents the palpable context and heady ambience of two of the world’s most iconic mid-century houses, Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Miller House by Eero Saarinen.
It was the ethereal silence of both buildings that Derek was drawn to. As well as their unique alignment to his preference for large format photography. Both residences that make up his latest series evoke an emotional response. Both come with stories of intrigue that seem to have been absorbed into the architecture itself. The vast amount of times each of these world renowned houses has been photographed or filmed is staggering yet, time and time again they are presented from a purely architectural perspective that detracts from the intriguing sense of anticipation and ambivalent nostalgia that both elicit. It was this that Derek set out to capture. It is this pull, the allure of the images that comes down to the cumulative affect of not only the design of each house, but their contexts, environmental aspects and the specific shoot conditions on the day Derek visited both, that sets his images apart from any that have previously been produced.
Viewing Derek’s exhibition in a gallery context, thousands of miles from the houses themselves, is given justice but their large format presentation. These are works that adopt a voyeuristic perspective. The sheer size forces the viewer to stand back if only to absorb the images as a whole. This considered navigation of the works makes you feel almost like you are viewing the real thing through a window. A window that eschews the conventions of time and space to give the feeling you are seeing the houses as they exist in that moment. The leaves that litter the exterior concrete slabs of Farnsworth House almost seem to be on the verge of moving in the warm breeze that you are sure permeates the heavy mid-summer air. The abundance of foliage that presses in against the perimeter of the grounds of the house catch the light and seem to shift, just out of focus. While Farnsworth House is predominantly captured from the outside looking in, Miller House throws the perspective in the other direction. Like peeking inside, the memorial air of the domestic interior harbours secrets and the narartive of past lives. A sense of time standing still.
Farnsworth + Miller is one of those bodies of work that lingers long after viewing the works themselves. Derek has instilled a question in each of the photographs that sets the imagination on a path to conjuring moments and scenarios that may have once taken place within each for these formidable architectural icons, and the stories yet to come…
Images by Derek Swalwell.
Written by Tiffany Jade.
Purchase prints from the Farnsworth + Miller Series here.