When I think of photography I think of two concepts, one is the art form of light, composition, meaning or story telling and the other is documentation. I think there are few artists who actually are able to blend the two together. I’m convinced that author and photographer Leslie Williamson is able to pull off both quite well. While focusing on the genre of design history and photography her books share with us a rarely seen view of intimate portraiture.
The most personalized space a person can own is their home. The way we decorate, the books we read, the objects we collect, etc. I have been doing research on some of the great designers of the twentieth century and getting lost in wormholes of information. The historical context, who they were and their influences and especially how the designers lived intrigue me. One source of information typically leads me to another and so it would seem only a matter of time that I would come across the work of Leslie Williamson.
Williamson is the researcher, photographer and writer of two very important books on interior design portraiture and if the term doesn’t exist I am coining it now. Interior design portraiture is the ability to capture through interior design and lifestyle photography, characteristics of a personality. Williamson’s books began with a curiosity to view the interior of the homes of her favorite designers and architects. These books are now resources to understanding some of these designers lives who have, since the publication of the book, now passed away and their homes dismantled.
Handcrafted Modern, Williamson’s first book, focuses on mid-century designers. Detailed photos of the desk of Walter Gropius, Vladimir Kagan’s bathroom tile, Charles and Ray Eames kitchen among many others are priceless documentation, photography taken with the curiosity and dedication of a portrait artist. At the beginning of each chapter, Williamson briefly describes her experience with each home and the details that attracted her attention the most.
Modern Originals, Williamson’s second book, focuses on European mid-century designers. Alvar Aalto, Finn Juhl, Gae Aulenti and of course Le Corbusier are just some of the amazing homes Williamson visits. Life certainly is in the details of these photographs. This book was possible with the support from a successful Kickstarter campaign. Watch Williamson’s touching video where she talks about her passion for these homes and why it is a race against time to continue her mission.
Her website offers additional images, those that didn’t make it into the book as well as other photography projects presented as an archive. Her next books are based in South America and Asia, I can’t wait to take a look at them.
If you’d like to read more about the home of a modern design master check out our piece on George Nakashima´s home.