In case you were wondering, the most beautiful house in San Diego is in Mission Hills. It was designed by Safdie Rabines Architects and completed in late 2000. It’s a tiny contemporary home built on the footprint of the original house which was destroyed by fire the previous summer. Ricardo Rabines told me it was his favorite project. I photographed the house in February of 2001, while the architects were having a cocktail party on the roof deck. I used Fuji RDPIII 4×5 color transparency film and the tripod was positioned on the edge of the neighbor’s roof, shooting at the perfect time of day: about ninety seconds before sunset.
I mention these details not because color transparency film is beautiful and sharp – which it is. Not because Safdie Rabines is an amazing firm – which they are. I bring these details up because you should know there was time in the not too distant past when beautiful work was done entirely by hand. If you look carefully at the upper left and right corners of the photograph, you can see the black clip marks left by the film processor. If you look even more closely, you can see the cut-away slots of the film holder. Yes, each individual sheet of film was loaded by hand, in a darkroom. Light metering had to be right on the money and you waited a day or two for the photo-lab to process the transparencies (this is an archaic word meaning film).
The plans for the Tree House were drawn by hand, using pencil and paper. Cell phones were rare. There was no Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, but somehow it all got done – and it wasn’t that long ago.
John Durant – February 2015