Scott Frances is a self-taught, world-renowned architectural photographer. His work has appeared in such publications as Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair. Top architects make up his clientele, and he has shot homes of countless celebrities, from Claire Danes to Steve Jobs.
Last summer, Frances released a retrospective monograph entitled MonoVisioN. An exhibition of those works will open at Decorative Center Houston''s Spring Market on Wednesday, accompanied by a keynote address and a book signing from Frances.
CultureMap talked with the photographer in advance of his visit.
CultureMap: Tell me about your background, and how you got into photography — and specifically architectural photography?
Scott Frances: I named the exhibition and the book MonoVisioN because I grew up with only one good eye . . . A visual disturbance eliminated my psychological ability to see depth unless I closed my good eye. So I learned a sense of depth, intellectualized a sense of depth. . .
My mother was a magazine editor who wrote about interior design, so Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi, Arne Jacobsen, George Nelson, all of those modern designers, were figures in my life growing up . . . I was already drawn to the vocabulary, I already had a proclivity toward design and a native ability to understand it.
I have no formal training in photography, but my first job after university was an assistant to an architectural photographer, and I was a natural for it.
CM: The human form often appears in your architectural photographs, which seems both unusual and important. What makes you choose to include people?
SF: I'm most interested in the experience of a space. It's not just linear, it's about the smell, the atmosphere, the volume of a room, the depth of a landscape. It's designed to house people, and I'm looking to tell a narrative, not just show photographs of walls.
CM: What exactly is the focus of MonoVisioN?
SF: It's a culling of my favorite images from a 28-year career. I wrote this narrative to go along with the photographs that describes how and why I see the way I do, the highlights of my career, the figures that were important to me. It connects the photograph with when and where it was taken.
CM: After a career of that length, you're bound to have some favorites. Are there any specific architects or designers that you particularly enjoy photographing?
SF: Absolutely. I first photographed Richard Meier's work in 1988. He's a great hero among American architects. I realized, you are not just how you shoot but what you shoot, and Richard Meier has a really important body of work. I also enjoy working with Tom Phifer, who built the student center at Rice University and is the heir apparent of Modernism in America.
Steven Harris and his partner in life and in business, interior designer Lucien Rees Roberts, are also some of my favorites.
CM: Is there anything that you look forward to seeing or doing on your visit to Houston?
SF: Houston is my favorite art town, as high as New York City. The Menil Collection is amazing. Of course the Rothko Chapel is an important place, and I've been wanting to visit the Dan Flavin installation. The Cy Twombly Gallery, which was designed by Renzo Piano, is the greatest synthesis of art and architecture I've ever seen. The quality of light, the grade of the building, the plaster that picks up the color of the paintings and reflects it.
Frances' photography exhibition, MonoVisioN, will be on display at the Decorative Center Houston through June 18.