Desert Modern


Since the 1920’s, visionary modernist architects have designed sleek, modern homes that have embraced the stark desert environment. Inspired by this arid landscape and modern schools like Bauhaus and the International Style, the architects of the 1950s created in Palm Springs what is now the highest concentration of mid-century modern architecture in the world.
At the end of World War II Palm Springs’ population almost tripled, and the city experienced a building boom. By the early 1960’s there was a great concentration of people who had worked hard in the country and wanted a place they could go that would provide them much warmth and an escape from the harsh winters. Most of these structures were second homes and buyers were more willing to let the architects have fun and  experiment with something different from their traditional or more conventional permanent homes.
Decades after movie stars and producers began relocating to Palm Springs, the modernist style that permeated the area and the desert landscape that inspired artists, architects, and designers alike, is still a booming trend and continues to thrive.

“I was born and raised in Bristol, England through the ’70s and ’80s in a typical middle-class suburb. As a child, television and movies were my favourite distraction, especially anything from the USA. The backdrop of the North American scenery felt like an exotic antidote to the humdrum of the English city suburbs and countryside.

I was a keen illustrator spending hours pouring over the minutia of the subject matter. I wanted my drawings to feel as close to reality as possible. This work saw me enrolled in college in at a young age where I studied Photography and Graphic Design.

Drawing on my childhood memories, the visuals of the American landscape has remained a major influence on my photography in my adult life. I’ve also been inspired by large format film photographers of the ’60s and ’70s from North America; their seemingly ordinary looking street scenes and vistas all captured with fastidious detail.

I discovered a more modern process in the form of a technical camera, digital back, and precision optics, then proceeded to cast my own journey.

I like my pictures aesthetically simple, clean and graphic, which resonates with my background in design. I also want them to retain an air of perplexity; so keeping them free of people and any notable present-day object helps leave the viewer guessing: could the picture have been taken now or forty years ago?

When I photograph a scene, I capture everything across the frame in complete focus to give a heightened sense of reality. Given each picture is deliberately simple and mundane; the detail of the capture is just as important to me as the subject matter and becomes a character of the image in itself.

I use the full size of the sensor and prefer not to crop. I like to restrict myself to these disciplines as an austere part of the image process – a digital reverence to the era of large format film if you will.

My creative vision is to capture a calm and melancholic disposition in the landscape and create a scene of discernible simplicity to evoke an emotional and response from within.”

Copyright © Matthew Portch, all rights reserved

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