Sunday, June 4, 2017

Reliving THE FIFTIES In Palm Springs, a Photographic Journey

One of the best books written about
an era I lived in but didn't understand
While I was born in October of 1945, the tale end of "The Silent Generation," I grew up in the Boomer Generation. My generation may have been quiet (because no President of the United States came from our generation), but those of us born at the end of one generation consider themselves Boomers.
   And what a time it was too. After a decade of the Depression and a world war, Americans were ready to live again. They did too! We were busy. Life changed dramatically after the war with more changes probably in my lifetime than in all of world history. While we watched the news everyday on TV it wasn't until I read Halberstam's book about the era that I realized just how much had changed. You don't realize things when you are living it, especially as a child.
All of the homes were one story
but as you can see, many were
dramatic in vision and design
   Everything we knew and used was going to change too. Radio and movies were almost replaced by TV. They went from black and white TV's to color. Tiny TV's became huge 100" 4K, Ultra LED monsters that fill an entire wall, not unlike Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451. We didn't burn books, we digitized them. Music went from scratchy 78 r.p.m. records to 33 1/3 LP's, to cassettes to digital first on CD's then streamed live. Email replaced a handwritten letter, cars had fins and lots of color nothing like the black, white, grey and maybe a touch of red now and then today. Cars were yellow, turquoise, vermillion, blinding red, blue, green even triple color versions of black, pink and white! Rockets launched satellites, we walked on the moon, there is a space station and shuttle flights. Black bakelite AT&T phones morphed into smart phones and we can talk and see each other on them. Everything we do has been changed and possibly not for the better. Only history will say for sure. There are often unintended consequences. We can all think about that, right?
Copper Leaf Door
   Palm Springs became the get away for many Hollywood movie stars. Regular people bought as well drawn by the wonderful winters. People from all over the nation wanted a vacation home in the desert. Sitting by the pool beat shoveling snow on sidewalks. Hundreds if not thousands of "Modern" homes were built by now famous architects that stood housing design on it head. Of course no one lived in these poorly insulated homes with thin flat roofs sitting on concrete slabs with tons of windows, long before double or triple panes came along during the summer with 115º temperatures. These homes however, definitely made a statement. A testimony  to this vision is the annual "Modernism Week" where people come from all over the world to tour the many 50's homes that still remain.
One of the most famous doors in
Palm Springs.
   When the new West Elm opened here recently, I walked in stunned. I felt that I had stepped back in time ... to our home and the homes of most of our friends. When the sales lady asked what I thought, I said I felt I was in our 50's home. She laughed and said many people that day had said the same thing.
   Beside painting, a hobby I have had since I was 5, was photography. That was when I got my first camera. I photographed  when I was high school yearbook editor where about 25% of the photos were mine as well as 50% of those used were printed by me in my photo class! I took thousands of photos in the Peace Corps, Europe and many of the photos used in my graphic design business were mine.
   When a new Meet Up group formed here in Palm Springs I joined. Our first group event, this past Saturday was to photograph famous "modern" doors in the Indian Canyon area of Palm Springs.
   This was an area I had never been to before and was amazed at all the 50's homes still remaining. I can remember my first visit in 1963. We came in July, it was hotter than hell (I lived in Portland, OR at the time so anything over about 80º was HOT), the streets were deserted ... of people, of cars and it seemed maybe life itself! The few denizens you saw wore nearly nothing and looked about the color of dried up old nuts. Brown and wrinkly.
   Whole neighborhoods were built aa the same time. Even today there are neighborhood associations that have banners and march in a variety of local parades.
Stately white, Chinese lions with pink and yellow inner tubes!
 There seems to be no accent that hasn't been tried. They are all fascinating and nearly all play off a blinding white house.
Black and orange drama
in a small space!
   You can drive block after block in this area and while the houses are often white, there is color in the doorway, the door or the entry. Pink is quite popular as is orange.
  I'm not sure I would want to own one. As an architectural major in high school and knowing about construction of homes today, unless they have redone their roof, especially the insulation of it, I would guess these places are pretty warm to live in. I know that I wouldn't want to live in an original house. Last summer it reached 122º and finally working, my A/C worked hard to keep my downstairs condo at 78º.
   I want to note that photography initially was snubbed by the great painters. As time went on though, many embraced it as a way to "freeze" a scene allowing them to paint it exactly as they saw or wanted to remember it. Its no surprise that painters and photographers share many of the same attributes. Color, lighting, adding and subtracting light are much the same though one paints with light, the other with pigment. As anyone who has ever printed a photograph knows, a good print can take as much time as a painting. Ask Ansel Adams. He refined his photograph "Moonrise Over Hernandez, NM" most of his career. To see the original print and the iconic vision of today, you would see it, like a painting, evolved over his lifetime.
   Keep your camera handy. You never know when you might see the image that begs to be printed or painted!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

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