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  • Writer's pictureEmilene Leone

The McCartney House, Kalamazoo, Michigan

With absolutely no paying real estate jobs lined up, and no Frank Lloyd Wright related trips planned in the near future, I was feeling restless. Not an uncommon feeling for me, as I generally have more energy than any one person should be entitled to possess. I was itching to photograph some beautiful structures. I was considering a trip to Mason City, Iowa, to investigate some of Frank Lloyd Wright's works there, but hadn't gotten past the dreaming stages.

I logged into Facebook on a Saturday morning, and noticed a post (in a wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright related group called "The Wright Attitude") talking about the fact that a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Kalamazoo, Michigan, had just come on the market. In looking through the listing, I had a spark of "Hm, what if I offer to photograph this house" come into my mind, and before the thought had even fully formed, I was using my maps app to determine how far away Kalamazoo, Michigan was. About 4.5 hours away? Doable. I then found the listing agent's contact information, and sent her a text, explaining that I was a real estate photographer who loved photographing Frank Lloyd Wright homes. I asked if I could come photograph the property, and in exchange, offer up free interior and exterior photos, aerial images, and twilight photography.

In pre-pandemic times, I wouldn't have had the gall to reach out to someone I didn't know, and make such a request. But life has changed me in the last couple of years, and I feel a strong sense of urgency about life, a complete and utter loss of the fear of rejection, and a very strong motto of "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." The worst she could do was say no, right?

She didn't say no. She responded "When are you available?" We decided that I would come the following Thursday.

(I made it clear that I would still very much like to take photos even if the property sold before then, which it absolutely did. I'm not even sure if it was on the market for 24 hours before going under contract.)

I drove through four states that day to reach my destination, a beautiful home in a fantastic neighborhood called Parkwyn Village I was tempted to drive around and look at the other Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the area, but I've found that if I'm going to photograph a specific property, I don't want to be distracted by others. I was focused on the McCartney House.

I shot the exteriors first, starting with my Canon EOS R:

Like many Wright houses, it's hard for me to determine what would be considered the "front" or the "back" because all of the views are just so lovely. I personally felt that the side of the house that faced completely away from the street was the most beautiful angle

After I completed my first round of exterior photos, I sent my DJI Mavic Pro 2 drone up in the sky for some aerial photos

While I might have added my own artistic flair to the skies in editing, the fall foliage was absolutely all natural, showing off, in full Midwestern autumnal glory.

I headed back inside to shoot interior photos. I have recently learned a new-to-me technique of photographing and editing interiors, and was excited to give it my first official try.

While I waited for the sun to set so I could shoot my twilight photos, a small herd of deer (who had been watching me from the nearby woods the entire time) decided to make an official appearance and make their way through the yard

I truly felt like I had died and gone to heaven, to be in such a beautiful home, witnessing the beauty of nature. Organic architecture at its best.

Before coming out, I had misunderstood the sunset time, not taking into account the time zone change, so I had some time to just sit and wait. I sat on the floor, and found the red concrete floors to be surprisingly cozy and comfortable, with the radiant heating. I spent some time just enjoying my environment, happy that I had taken the initiative to reach out to the agent, filled with such a feeling of joy and creativity that comes to me any time I have the opportunity to photograph a piece of Frank Lloyd Wright's work. To me, walking into one of his creations feels like it would feel to walk into a Beatles song. Such a testament to prolific creativity, you can't help but feel inspired.

Finally, sunset. I made sure every light that could be turned on was on, and headed back outside for twilight photos.

It's a very Marie Kondo sort of thing, I guess, but I always like to thank a house for allowing me to photograph it, and always say goodbye to it. Houses have energy to me. I can feel it, I almost feel like I can see it. I feel like they work with me, and guide me towards their best angles. This home had a wonderfully warm and welcoming energy to it, and I hope the new owners love it as much as I did in the few short hours I was there.

Thanks to real estate agent Tori Hall for arranging access, and to the current owners for allowing me to come and photograph their beautiful home.

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